MTLGuide

The Best Restaurants In Montreal

Our official thoughts on the Montreal bagel debate, a Japanese daytime cafe, and more of our favorite spots in Montreal.
The Best Restaurants In Montreal image

photo credit: Two Food Photographers

Montreal’s reputation as a food city is well-deserved: you’d be hard-pressed to find a local without an opinion about the best bagel, phở, poutine, or pizza. 

The city might be a movie stand-in for New York and Paris because of cobblestone streets and turn-of-the-century architecture in Old Montreal, but you should spend time here exploring neighborhoods like Little Italy, Villeray, Verdun, and St-Henri. You’ll find deeply rooted communities, dynamic and multi-influenced Québec farm-to-table restaurants, and a busy wine scene—and you’ll fall in love with all of it.

Below are our favorite places for quiet dates or special occasions, plus some lively spots for enjoying a slice of pizza or some excellent steak-frites. Bon appétit, et bon courage.


CASUAL SPOTS


Jewish

Le Plateau

$$$$Perfect For:Quick EatsClassic Establishment

Waiting in line for brunch at Beautys, the classic Montreal Jewish diner, is a local rite of passage. While there have been a few tweaks over the years (they've been open since 1942), this sunny spot in the Plateau still has a warm atmosphere, thanks to the original family still captaining the ship. They’ve been serving the original Beautys’ Mish Mash omelet with salami, hot dogs, and green peppers for 80 years, alongside chopped liver sandwiches and lox and cream cheese on St-Viateur bagels. Don’t miss their fresh-squeezed orange juice, signature smoothies, and bottomless cups of (very decent) diner coffee.


Chez Tousignant is one of our favorite versions of a casse-croûte, a traditional Québec snack bar. The retro-styled counter spot makes things like burgers and hot dogs on potato buns and all-beef poutine. Grab a burger and a housemade soda, and then check out the nearby Jean-Talon Market (or one of the city’s best Italian pastry shops, Alati Caserta) to make a day of it. Chez Tousignant’s owners have other places in the neighborhood that are also great, including the relaxed Neapolitan pizza spot Gema and the refined Italian bistro Impasto just around the corner. But when you want a quick burger, fries, and a hot dog, this is the place.


photo credit: Two Food Photographers

This mostly daytime cafe is run by the same people behind Fleurs et Cadeaux, a sushi and vinyl bar in Chinatown, but the focus here is on Japanese dishes, coffee, and drinks. The semi-basement, quasi-industrial space is the only place in town where you can dig into a curry bowl or happily unwrap a perfectly constructed katsu, karaage, egg, or avocado sando any time of day. You’ll find a mix of students, designers, musicians, start-up workers, and other creatives hanging out on the long banquette, especially if you drop in for one of their special DJ nights Thursday through Saturday.


photo credit: Two Food Photographers

Swing by this small coffee shop to hang out with the regulars while you snack on some Roman-style pizza al taglio. Come right after they open at 8am and order the signature breakfast pizza topped with a tiny egg and sun-dried tomato before they run out, or check out the all-day options like the caprese or caciocavallo with potatoes on that same crunchy crust. Save room for one of their very good cannoli, a hefty bomboloni filled with pistachio, or a lemon cookie. The same people own the restaurant Bottega next door, a fancier spot for classic Italian dishes and some of the most delicious meatballs in town.


photo credit: Two Food Photographers

Le Super Qualité’s Maharashtrian and South Indian street food hits the mark every time. We love their peppery Bloody Rasam cocktail, the masala dosas, the crunchy dahi batata puri, and the always-changing vegetarian and non-vegetarian thalis. This is a great dinner spot for solo and small group dining, with counter seating and tiny tables that quickly fill up with classic South Asian stainless steel plates and tumblers for beer and wine. There’s also a downtown outpost at the Le Central food court, where the emphasis is on Mumbai-style street food.


THE CLASSICS


With over-the-top lobster spaghetti, a take on the Canadian Nanaimo bar with foie gras, fiddlehead carbonara, and an expansive wine list, you’ll want to spend an entire evening here to try Joe Beef’s take on Québecois classics. This is the restaurant a lot of people think of when they think about Montreal, and lots of people who worked here have gone on to open many of the places on this list. Aim for a table on their garden terrace if the weather’s right, and if you can’t get a reservation on short notice, try their sister restaurants nearby: the cozy Liverpool House and the vegetable-focused Vin Papillon.


L’Express, with its iconic black-and-white tiles spilling into the St-Denis sidewalk, is the ultimate bistro, and the perfectly cooked steak-frites with shallot butter are something everyone in Montreal should eat at least once. There's no sign in front, but there's no mistaking the classic French vibe of L'Express, with its long zinc bar and decades-old photographs of the staff lining the walls. 

The meal starts off with complimentary baguette and cornichons, so you should get some rillettes, bone marrow, or chicken liver pâté to go along, moving on to kidneys in mustard sauce or poached salmon. Finish off with their lemon tart or some house truffles, and definitely have your server recommend something off the vast, reasonably-priced wine list.


Montrealers are an opinionated bunch, specifically about bagels and phở. Family-run Phở Tây Hồ is known for their long-simmered chicken broth and special Hanoi-style flavor mix, with just the right amount of cinnamon, cardamom, and star anise in the aromatics. You can find that broth for lunch or dinner at this informal spot, where the bowls are big enough to share. 

We usually start off with a super-fresh gỏi cuốn rice roll with shrimp and move on to phở or the equally wonderful tomato- and crab-filled bún riêu. If you can’t make it here in the evening, try Tran Cantine in St-Henri, or Épicerie Tran in Little Italy for lunch. Run by Phở Tây Hồ’s second generation, these two neighborhood spots offer smaller menus, but the same chicken broth phở as well as bánh mì with grilled meats or tofu.


There’s a lot of smoked, marinated, and steamed beef brisket in Montreal, but the sandwich from Schwartz’s is a standout. It comes on rye with yellow mustard, and the meat is coated with black pepper and a secret mix of pickling salt and spices. We like the “medium fat” option best, washed down with a cherry coke and a half-sour pickle, just for nostalgia’s sake. 

Schwartz’s (now owned by a consortium that includes Celine Dion) is one of the last remnants of the Eastern European Jewish influence on St-Laurent Boulevard, otherwise known as “The Main.” This street divides the city from east to west and used to notionally separate the French and English parts of town. But Schwartz’s smoked meat is one sandwich that pretty much everyone, including Celine, agrees on.


Bagels are a point of deep pride and contention in this city, and we’ve got an entire list for most of them. For people who live here, it usually comes down to two places: St-Viateur and Fairmount. We prefer the St-Viateur version, which has a more savory flavor, a softer texture, and just the right amount of salt. If there’s a line spilling out onto the sidewalk, send somebody next door to The Standard for an excellent third-wave coffee, or to Café Olimpico across the street for an old-school Italian espresso to hold you over while you wait.


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MTL Guide

The Best Bagels In Montreal


RESERVE A TABLE

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In a city known for its current fine dining and farm-to-table obsession, Toqué was the first market-driven restaurant to list its producers right on the menu (and they’ve stayed with those same producers for the past thirty years) and their seasonal cocktails and dishes set a culinary standard for the city’s dining scene. 

The minimalist yet warm dining room opens onto Place Jean-Paul Riopelle, with a view either to the park outside or to the wine cellar inside. Lunch here is a nice option: a two-course table d’hôte with your choice of appetizer and main, like a classic red wine onion soup or foie gras, duck confit or a suckling pig for a main, and à la carte, beautifully presented desserts. Dinner offers similar classics that are always changing based on the season (we can’t wait for snow crab in the spring and lobster in summer) and always presented with finesse.


WINE BARS


When you’re traveling, it might be hard to find some Saturday night energy if your vacation is during the week. But that’s not the case at Bar St-Denis—they’re closed on the weekends, and there are always people celebrating something here Monday through Friday. 

The food is a mix of bistro classics like smoked sturgeon and crème fraîche, alongside Egyptian-inspired small plates like razor clams with tabbouleh and homemade labneh with pistachios. There’s a long bar, cozy tables, and high counters to suit any occasion with natural wines, great cocktails, and a stylish Art Deco ceiling. If you’ve never tried boudin, Québecois blood sausage, this is the place to do so.


Sure, Larrys has a great wine list with lots of orange options and oysters to go with them, but they also serve breakfast all day and plenty of small plates and sandwiches in between. Larrys really has something for everybody, at any time of day, whether it’s their take on a Cuban sandwich and some lentils vinaigrette with a glass of local cider or mackerel spaghetti with a bottle of Grüner at night. 

Larrys doesn’t take reservations, so if waiting in line isn’t your thing, check out their slightly more formal but equally delicious sibling restaurant, Lawrence, just around the corner for an evening meal. Or, take home all the fixings for dinner from their butcher and deli-ish shop, Boucherie Lawrence, just up the street.


photo credit: Two Food Photographers

This elegant-but-relaxed Little Italy spot is both a wine and dessert bar that works great for drinks, a late afternoon snack, or for a nightcap after dinner. The decor has a hint of Art Deco: think rounded banquettes, hidden corners for sweet talk, and long counters around and behind the bar. 

The menu is always changing, with the recent introduction of a six-course tasting menu that includes vegan options. We love their arctic char pasta with tarragon pesto and pistachio crumble, and the dessert they call the Crunchy, a saffron and honey brik pastry with orange blossom ice cream. Choose whatever inspires you from late afternoon to late night, starting with savory and ending with sweets (or the other way around).


photo credit: Two Food Photographers

Grab a seat outside or at one of the cozy booths in this cafe, grocery, and bottle shop during the day and you’ll see everybody from high schoolers and large families with kids to long-standing residents going about their business on the leafy street in the Outremont district. The midday/brunch menu features bocadillo sandwiches on crusty bread, salads, Spanish conservas with patatas bravas, and carefully selected Spanish and Catalán wines. 

Some of the same elements remain at night, when the lights go down and you can hang at the bar or a barrel and revel in the Mexican-inspired crudos and tostadas of the chef’s home cuisine, like the Catalán-style roasted chicken and octopus, plus Basque cheesecake or homemade churros for dessert.


A former Joe Beef chef and his sommelier partner opened this Little Italy-adjacent restaurant that’s perfect for special occasions, especially if you love natural wine. The menu changes daily, but you can count on dishes that they’ve been thinking about months in advance with preserved local produce and proteins in their sauces and desserts. 

A crunchy scallop sandwich, smoked eel carbonara, fluke crudo with brown butter, and their classic salade rose and buckwheat shard cake are a few of the choices. The team at this chic yet informal bistro know exactly what to suggest when it comes to wine, and make you feel like they’ve saved the best bottles just for you.


BUZZY SPOTS


photo credit: Rashad Bedier

Inspired by Spanish and Italian migration to Argentina, the chefs at Beba continue to put their mark on seasonal local produce, playing with tradition (check out the caviar-topped knishes), and learning new things, especially as they get more into fish unique to Japan. They’re still making chard-wrapped involtini, golden brown empanadas, and a remarkable silky flan with dulce de leche, though, so don’t miss out on these. Beba is a place for a special meal with someone you love or a small group, where you can enjoy one of the best pisco sours in town before heading to the new- and old-world wine list.


Wandering around the Old Port is definitely more fun when your walk ends at Dandy for brunch or a little day drinking. The menu transitions seamlessly from brunch to the afternoon, with ricotta pancakes and maple brown butter, tahini yogurt toast with muhammara, and a super-charged buttermilk fried chicken on brioche. 

The high ceilings and huge windows flood the space with light, making it an ideal spot for a casual meetup—add on an espresso (or espresso martini) or a Canadian Bloody Caesar and settle in. You’ll probably have to wait for a table on the weekends, so we suggest stopping by on a weekday if you can.


Local condo residents and film crews working nearby have been flocking to Mano Cornuto since they opened pre-pandemic, and for good reason. Open all week, these fellows distinguish themselves with classic and new cocktails, oversized sandwiches, homemade pastas (their extrusion machine is mesmerizing for children and adults alike), and coffee that straddles old-school and third-wave. 

The menu varies slightly from lunch to dinner, with meaty or veg schiacciate on homemade focaccia midday, and fish and meat mains in the evening. Their bustling Sugo Sunday deal features a traditional pasta, salad, and dessert with a decidedly family dinner vibe.


photo credit: Two Food Photographers

Moccione means “brat” in Italian, but there's nothing self-centered about the food and service in this airy space on a quiet strip of northern rue Saint-Denis. The team welcomes you like you’re a long-lost friend, and you can expect seasonal Italian dishes like trout tartare with clementines and radishes, homemade gnocchi with morels and arugula, and halibut on a bed of pureed spinach sweetened with local corn. Desserts here are the best part, including the lightest of cannoli topped with pistachio and velvety orange rind and their homemade gelato.


This Thai restaurant from the owners of curry shop Pumpui focuses on foods from the Isaan region, so expect a lot of sour, pungent, and spicy dishes. There’s a great drinks list full of natural wines, local microbrews, and Québec ciders that can stand up to all the chilies, garlic, and shallots. The sleek space has tavern glass carving up nooks for cozy date nights and booths big enough for groups, with a long bar for solo diners and couples.

There’s definitely a grill focus, including pork neck and yu choy greens and a whole trout slathered in herbs, but don’t miss any seasonal twist on som tam—their summer version with corn is something we dream about all year. End your meal with Pichai’s delicious Thai tea tiramisu that comes with layers of sponge cake soaked in milky tea and coated in crunchy toasted coconut.


GOOD FOR GROUPS


Montreal has sizable Syrian and Armenian communities, so you’ll find some pretty great Middle Eastern food around town. Damas is perfect for a special night out filled with hand-rolled vine leaves, lemony grilled octopus salad, and whole sea bass stuffed with walnuts and vegetables. Both Québec and Alberta lamb are on the menu, too, with the preparations—grilled or braised—tailored to the uniqueness of each type of meat. For groups, consider going with either the omnivore or fish tasting menu that leaves all the decisions to the chef. Just make sure to save room for their homemade baklava and ice cream.


The folks at Elena label themselves as “inside/outside/upstairs/downstairs/coffee/ pizza/wine,” and while that’s a confusing way to describe a restaurant, it’s also all true. This colorful spot has a multi-level backyard terrace, a long natural wine list, coffee, wood-fired pizzas, and happens to be one of the most fun restaurants in the entire city. Pizzas such as the Funguy, loaded with all kinds of mushrooms, are great, but their rendition of a kale caesar, piled high with parmesan, and the red wine pasta are excellent choices, too. The same owners run the new grill-focused GiaGiaGia and classic trattoria Nora Gray.


Old Montreal's Monarque is a great destination to explore French bistro fare in a classic setting. Start with gruyere gougères or smoked cod fritters and move on to bouillabaisse, cornish hen, or their remarkable steak-frites—or even a burger served with those same frites, proffered in a paper cone, just for fun. 

Desserts are terrific here, including a mile-high pavlova. Service is smooth and professional at the bar, small tables, banquettes, or in the more formal restaurant section, which offers a weekday table d’hôte lunch. The middle brasserie section has a view of the bustling kitchen, so you can see all the action behind the scenes.


photo credit: Alison Slattery

There’s an excellent quality/value proposition at Bar Mamie: modestly-priced, hyperlocal charcuterie and cheese boards, hearty small plates of comfort food like raclette and cheese fondue in winter, great house wine of every color, and a welcoming atmosphere that makes it perfect for an apéro and a bite (big or small) at any time. Decorated with items from the owner’s Mamie’s kitchen, it’s cozy here, with both hightops and big and small table seating. 

The summertime terrasse hugging the restaurant is a convivial spot to see what’s happening in the Little Italy-adjacent neighborhood. If there’s no room, check out La Cave de Mamie next door, a wine shop with tapas, and La Boucherie de Mamie, a butcher shop by day and an all-meat restaurant at night (all the proteins come from less than two hours away). No reservations here, so arrive early or be prepared to connect with the folks next in line while you’re waiting at the iconic Bruno Sport Bar across the way.


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