Between the Parisian architecture, cobblestone streets, and all the requisite ‘bonjours’ and ‘mercis,’ Montreal can sometimes feel like a European city. And while we highly suggest you try the smoked meat that makes this city so well known - you’ll find that for every place serving fresh seafood, natural wine, and obscene amounts of foie gras, there are plenty of other excellent restaurants serving everything from Thai to Syrian food.
There are more restaurants to recommend in Montreal than we could ever include in one guide, so consider this a cheat sheet for where to eat and drink the next time you’re in town. We’ve mixed high, low, new, old, and everything in between, so bon appétit and bon courage.
the new-ish spots
If you have limited time in Montreal, Elena should be one of the first reservations you make. This bright, colorful Italian spot is one of the best restaurants in the entire city and it’s a great place to celebrate an anniversary, or kick off a bachelor/bachelorette weekend. You come here for the wood-fired pizza - the margherita is near perfect - but the pastas are just as excellent and you’ll want to try a few, along with a bottle or two from their long natural wine list.
Mon Lapin in Little Italy is the latest restaurant from the people behind Joe Beef (more on that later). While it’s further away in Little Italy from its Little Burgundy predecessors, it’s still following in its older siblings’ footsteps by being incredibly good. The French-meets-Italian menu constantly changes, but it’s always full of vegetable-focused plates that are great for sharing, along with some of the best natural wines you’ll find anywhere in Montreal. They don’t accept reservations, but a pre-dinner glass (or two) of wine makes the wait go by pretty fast.
Everything on the menu at Arthur’s Nosh Bar is a little different than the deli classics you’re used to - and you’ll definitely appreciate the creativity once you see things like latke smorgasbords, a challah grilled cheese, and cottage cheese pancakes. While the brunch menu is shorter, it’s one of the best in the city (and the long weekend lines reflect that). Though once you have a stack of perfect pancakes in front of you, it’ll be worth the wait. Just don’t forget a sprinkle cookie on your way out.
Otto Bistro is a Japanese spot in the Plateau with a French bistro-feel. The food here all looks familiar, but it’s a little more interesting than what you’ll find elsewhere, with things like ramen and karaage served alongside bone marrow and uni. The space is small and cozy, and you’ll find yourself googling neon bicycle signs before you leave. They also have plenty of different seating options, which makes it one of the best places to stop for a bite while exploring the shops and cafes in the Plateau.
Plaza St-Hubert is a commercial strip of mostly bargain bridal shops and tanning salons. Along with buying a dress made entirely of pink taffeta or sitting inside an oblong box to look less like the ghost of winter, you can also come here to have a great French meal in one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city. Montreal Plaza serves food that’s both upscale and a little silly - think Smurf figurines showing up on plates of tartare and charcuterie, and your waiter dressing up as a T-Rex if it’s someone’s birthday. So if it’s unclear, it should always be someone’s birthday (just make sure you get your stories straight before you walk in).
When you hear the name Joe Beef, you wonder two things - was Joe Beef a real person and is this place as good as everyone says it is? We’re here to tell you that Joe Beef was a tavern owner in the 1800s, and that if you only have one meal in Montreal, it should be here. Clear an entire night for dinner because between ordering bottles from their expansive wine list and plates of French-Quebecois classics, you’ll lose track of time and be a little surprised that you have to leave and can’t just move in. Order the lobster spaghetti and then let the staff guide you through the specials, like foie gras Nanaimo bars and fiddlehead carbonara. From summer to early fall, try for a table under the string lights on their garden terrace.
When you were little, you dreamed about growing up and getting to eat whatever you wanted, like candy for every meal, unlimited soda, and zero broccoli. Au Pied de Cochon is like the grown-up version of that dream - it’s the restaurant that gave Montreal its reputation as a city of gluttony and excess and eating here is a necessary experience. The menu is full of unique dishes, like their duck-in-a-can and tartare temaki, and an entire section dedicated to foie gras, in addition to lobster tanks brimming with fresh local seafood in the summer. And, from mid-February until early May, their sugar shack 45 minutes north of the city serves the most decadent maple feast you can imagine.
There are a few ways to feel instantly classier. You could put a tuxedo jacket on over your pajamas or buy a porcelain gravy boat that costs more than your flight here. Our favorite, though, is ordering a croque monsieur and a bottle of Chablis at 1am, and there’s no better place to do it than L’Express. This Plateau spot is Montreal’s most loved bistro, which means a lot in a city with a majority francophone population and more steak frites than burgers. They’re open until 3am every night (except Sunday when doors close at a more reasonable 2am), so it’s great any time for comforting French classics, and one of the city’s most impressive and affordable wine lists.
Walking into Moishes is like being transported back to the glory days of the steakhouse. At 80 years old, this place is an institution and the rumor that founder Moishe Lighter won the restaurant in a card game only adds to its charm. It’s pretty family-friendly on the earlier side and turns into a pre-clubbing destination for groups thanks to a late night prix-fixe menu ($29 for an appetizer and entree). Get the classics like their Monte Carlo potato, verenikas, chopped liver, and plenty of steak.
Bagels are a point of deep pride in this city, and it’s hard to find locals who won’t dig their heels in for the New York vs. Montreal bagel debate. But the city itself is split between Fairmount and St-Viateur, which might be an even more heated divide. And while we favor Fairmount slightly, regardless of where your allegiances lie, it’s basically a crime to visit this city and not try at least one (but preferably several) of these sesame-seed-covered, slightly sweet, doughy circles. Plus, if there’s a lineup spilling out onto the sidewalk (and there almost always is), you can pop next door to Drogheria Fine and snack on a takeout carton full of gnocchi while you wait.
When people ask us where they should eat in Montreal, we usually try to tailor our answer to their needs. But if there’s one thing we find ourselves repeating so often that we’ve debated printing it on a business card, it’s this: Try to get a table at Joe Beef and if you can’t, go to Liverpool House. It’s a neighborhood spot - more laid-back and less likely to knock you out for half a day than its predecessor. The middle child of the Joe Beef family serves things like a foie gras breakfast sandwich, the same lobster spaghetti, and much-loved brussels sprouts, along with plenty of fresh seafood during the warmer months.
Le Petit Alep in Villeray serves traditional Syrian food and gets pretty lively at night, though it’s always casual enough to come in whatever you’ve been wearing all day. Get the garlic labneh, kebbe naye (raw minced beef with bourghol, onions, and spices), or filet mignon Terbialy plate topped with spicy garlic pita. Their wine list has over 250 bottles, with plenty offered by the glass and many that are organic, natural, or biodynamic. And since they don’t take reservations, it’s an excellent place to go last-minute.
When you’re looking for a brunch spot that’ll impress, you don’t choose the place with a self-serve canteen of bottomless mimosas, you head to Maison Publique. The menu blends British, French, and Italian influences, which means things like pancakes with bacon and chili peppers, alongside boudin and eggs. Round out your morning with a few of the city’s best Caesars (Montreal’s version of a Bloody Mary) and then a nap.
After Grumman’s taco truck - the city’s very first - won over Montrealers, they opened up a brick and mortar in Saint-Henri. It’s set back from the street on an industrial block and easy to miss, but even if you have to resort to printing out directions from MapQuest like your parents have been for years, make sure you find it. It’s a fun, casual spot to eat some good tacos, and you won’t have to spend much money to do so.
Since Larry’s works for brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee, or a snack, it’s a spot we find ourselves recommending frequently. It’s small - only 24 seats - but is a go-to place for Mile End-ers with a frequently changing menu of small plates. The all-day breakfast menu has everything from creamy scrambled eggs and house-smoked salmon to a perfect breakfast sandwich, and the rest of the menu has dishes like eggplant with za’atar and nduja toast with anchovies. Add a bottle of wine and you have a pretty ideal dinner. Or lunch. Or midnight snack (they’re open until 1am everyday).
Located between the tourist traps and supper clubs that dominate Old Montreal, Le Bremner is a nice break and exactly where you should be eating when you’re in the area. The menu changes monthly, but the seafood platter and lamb neck cavatelli are classics, and if you don’t finish your meal with the stacked pancakes with maple sauce and whipped butter, you will have seriously missed out. They don’t have a sign and the entrance is hidden down a set of stairs, so make sure you have the address written down, or you might end up somewhere you can’t end your meal with pancakes.
You planned a trip to Montreal to celebrate something - maybe a birthday, an anniversary, or the fact that you’ve lived with another person for three months and still like them. And now you want to have a nice dinner where you don’t have to get overly dressed up and no one will shove a sparkler in your face. That’s when you make a reservation at Park. It’s a see-and-be-seen kind of place where it’s not unusual to spot the occasional Canadiens player, and it was the first spot in the city to serve Kobe beef. Go for the lunch omakase or the nigiri moriawase for dinner, and make sure to check out their long sake list.
Montreal isn’t particularly known for Neapolitan-style pizza, but when you’re looking for a thin crust, made-to-order pie, Gema makes one of the best. This place uses top-quality ingredients and makes all their charcuterie in-house. You can also get frozen custard, and during the summer, there’s a little takeout window where you can grab dessert to eat while strolling around Little Italy, which is basically the perfect summer evening in Montreal.
You’ve probably read or been told about Schwartz’s, but with its perpetual line down the block, we’re going to divert you to the slightly less-known (but just as good, if not better) Snowdon Deli instead. This 1960s time capsule delivers on all the Jewish deli classics, like latkes, matzo ball soup, and blintzes, though you’re really here for the smoked meats. It’s located in the not-so-walkable Côte-des-Neiges, so you’ll want to drive if you can, but once you have one of their giant sandwiches in front of you, you’ll be glad you made the trip.
You specifically planned your Montreal trip for the warmer months, or you got lucky with an unseasonably warm day, and you want to spend as much time outside as possible. Head to Dinette Triple Crown for the best picnic set-up in the city. They serve things like brisket, pulled pork, and hush puppies, and you can head to the park across the street equipped with their fully-loaded picnic basket, including silverware, plates, and a tablecloth.
The lineups at this Portuguese rotisserie chicken spot tend to run long, but they move fast, so it’s a good option for a casual lunch or dinner when you’re exploring the Plateau. Their spicy sauce accompanies just about everything on the menu - from the whole and quarter chicken plates to the chouriço sandwiches - and it has the right balance of acid and heat to cut through the richer dishes like chicken poutine with chouriço and São Jorge cheese. Finish with a couple of their housemade natas, then head to nearby Parc Lafontaine for a long walk.
You can’t leave Montreal without having a steamé - French Canada’s take on a hot dog in a steamed bun - and there are few better places for one than Orange Julep. OJ has been serving casse-croûte classics since 1932, and since it stays open until 2am (3am on the weekends), you should head here after a night out and order the namesake drink - an old family recipe with orange juice, milk, and egg. Then plan to find a couch or bed immediately after.
When Pumpui opened in Little Italy in late 2017, it was a welcome addition to the limited Thai options in Montreal. The menu is fairly short, made up of dishes like red curry catfish, pad kaprao, and fried chicken with sweet chili sauce, and it’s one of the best spots in the area for a casual dinner. It’s quick and a great takeout spot, but it’s the most fun in the summer when you can sit at one of the picnic tables out front. The food here is spicy, so come ready to sweat a bit.
Like being forced to play fake baby games at baby showers, or splitting the check with a group of accountants, standing in line is something we avoid when we can. So when we do wait in line, we want it to be worthwhile, and Kazu is every time. This little spot only holds about 20 people and it’s constantly overrun with Concordia students, but they also make some of the best Japanese comfort food in the city, like ramen, a 48-hour pork bowl, and homemade shrimp burgers.
If it’s about -200 degrees outside and you can’t handle the lineup at Kazu, head across the street for soup dumplings instead. Owned by the Montreal dumpling specialists at Qing Hua, Sammi is home to some of the best soup dumplings in the city. The cozy space is just a roomful of tables with a glass wall at the back so you can look into the kitchen and watch dumplings being folded at warp speed. Look out for menu items prefaced by “juicy” for maximum broth-to-filling ratio.
You’re having vivid dreams about foie gras and your hands smell like butter no matter how many times you wash them - it might be time to remind your body what the color green tastes like. Head to Foodchain for one of their creative and healthy salads and soups. It’s located between two huge shopping malls (Place Ville Marie and Le Centre Eaton de Montréal), so it’s a perfect place to start your afternoon or refuel in between buying a scarf for your mom and a collection of “Welcome To Montreal!” coasters for your cousin. Just make sure you order some of the pain magique, literally “magic bread,” which is a cross between pizza and a croissant - because balance is important.
When Blackstrap BBQ first opened in Verdun in 2012, Montrealers headed here in droves. Years later, this smokehouse is as good as ever, and the neighbourhood - once a somewhat bleak part of the city - is thriving. You can’t go wrong with brisket, ribs, or chicken, but the burnt ends poutine is a must. Come with a few people even if you have to round up strangers on the street (it won’t be hard once you mention Blackstrap) and plan to share a bit of everything.