Where to chow in the City of Saints
I can’t think of Montreal without salivating. Literally, I just salivated. A virtual long table of Louis XIV lengths, the restaurant count in Canada’s foodie city crests 5,600. If you do the math, that’s a different meal every day for 15+ years. Lured by a fusion of French Canadian and global fare (and the opportunity to practice my French!), I feasted en Francais about town. A baker’s dozen bistros later, here are the highlights of my Montreal menu.
Every time someone asks me for restaurant recommendations in the City of Saints, Le LocaL rolls off my tongue faster than you can say manger (eat in French). Le LocaL is my version of a travel jackpot find: style satiates every silo from decor to cuisine to cocktails. Even the outside is gorgeous – the former warehouse is camouflaged in ivy. Inside, exposed brick, concrete floors, and high ceilings provide the backdrop for art-smart dishes like goat cheese tartlet, Atlantic salmon tartar, and petit pot de caramel crémeux. Accompanied by cucumber-topped gin cocktails, this trio was so good, my dress ripped a smidgeon. (I’m telling myself this event is the ultimate expression of restaurant love…)
The next morning, my wardrobe malfunction compelled me to cycle away the calories, so I pedaled the city limits with a local expert from Ca Roule Montreal. Biking as high as the tip of Mount Royal and as low as Atwater Market – where artisan cheese and maple syrup stalls fill one of Montreal’s oldest public markets – our guide took us slightly off-course to his favorite bakery. Thankfully, I was wearing stretchy clothes.
Sweet Lee’s is surrounded by row homes in a local hood. Set back from the road with a gravel approach, you might pass it by if you didn’t know it was there. During the ride, my guide gushed about his love for the maple-cinnamon brioche; once there, he implored me to try a bite. I obviously conceded. His taste buds were bang-on. I loved it so much I took a grab-bag of pastries and scones and more brioche bites to-go.
Filled to the brim with baked goods, I found myself wishing I could import Spain’s siesta tradition – a midday rest – into North America. It would make foodie travel itineraries (and life in general) so much easier on the palate. Borrowing a page out of Spain’s playbook, I took a breather at my boutique hotel in Old Montreal. Falling onto my pillowy, white bed in a snow angel position, I dosed the afternoon away. The sun streaming through my sheer, floor-to-ceiling curtains at Le Petit Hotel, woke me up. Perfect timing; it was 5 p.m. and my next stop, only two blocks away, closed in an hour.
Viewfinder Tip: You can’t bite into Montreal without tasting poutine: fries doused in gravy and cheese curds. I like the posh poutine at Au Pied de Cochon.
My final foray into French Canada’s fare took me to Olive+Gourmando, an A-list bake shop frequented by everyone from Montreal’s chic chow crowd to Bono; yes that Bono (when he’s in town). Opened by a dynamic duo who met baking bread at Toqué!, Montreal’s haut-est bistro, dining at O+G is a study in maximum taste and minimum fluff. Case in point, one of the most simple yet sublime dishes to land on my taste buds was the housemade ricotta on toast, topped in honey and orange zest. Now I’m salivating again (and wondering if I should hop on a plane tout suite)! Are you?
Do you arrange your trip itineraries around restaurants?
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