The Best Restaurants in Montreal
Listing Montreal’s best restaurants is nothing short of a feat; indeed, Montreal has the second largest number of restaurants per capita in all of North America, with a new establishment setting up shop every week or so. From Italian trattorias to izakayas, from hole-in-the-wall bagel shops to classic eateries and French brasseries, to trendy Nordic-inspired and hipster-run taco shops, there is no such thing as leaving Montreal hungry.
3895 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2W 1X9, Canada
While New York has its pastrami, Montréal is the home of smoked meat. (The preparation of both is similar: A beef brisket is cured in spices for a week, then hot-smoked and finally boiled before being served.) Though others may question the claim, Schwartz’s boasts that it is the original home of smoked meat, serving it since 1928. Regardless of who was first, Schwartz’s is the most popular smoked-meat option in town. Order a sandwich, on rye with only yellow mustard to accompany the meat, and you’ll soon understand why the citizens of Montréal are so passionate about the dish.
74 Avenue Fairmount O, Montréal, QC H2T 2M2, Canada
New York City vs Montreal. Oh, the debate. In the ongoing Great War of the Bagels between the two cities, Montreal has always been the favorite contender, both among the proud locals and the tourists. Let’s be honest here—Montreal wins, and there is no such thing as better bagels than Montreal bagels. If you agree with the premise of this highlight, then you might want to add this to your next Montreal trip: the Fairmount Bagel Bakery in the Mile End area. Founded by Jewish immigrant Isadore Shlafman in 1919, the knowledge was transmitted from generation to generation, and the family still uses the same methods even today. Everything is done by hand, and with love! It’s very rewarding, as a consumer, to buy things locally and encourage an almost-century-old family-owned business. And in this case, it’s double the reward: good conscience, and full stomach. What’s not to like?
1425 Rue Jeanne-Mance, Montréal, QC H2X 2J4, Canada
Ask any Montrealer the question “Which is the fanciest restaurant in town?” and chances are Toqué! will be a frequent answer. Indeed, quite fancy. But also quite expensive. Luckily, chef Charles-Antoine Crête, once mentored by Toqué's Normand Laprise, decided that a more accessible and younger version of the famous restaurant would fit perfectly well with the new Place des Festivals—in style, location, and ambience. And he wasn’t wrong. I always go for the beef tartare, and not once have I been disappointed. The menu changes according to the season, but there is a constancy in quality, regardless of the time of the year. This is definitely the best way to get a taste of Montreal‘s finest, sans the waiting list and the steep check.
1228 Rue Sherbrooke O, Montréal, QC H3G 1H6, Canada
The French chef Daniel Boulud made his name in New York, where he oversees seven restaurants and has since expanded his culinary empire to six other outposts around the globe. His venture in Montréal makes perfect sense, with Québecois cuisine combining French traditions and techniques with New World ingredients—not unlike Boulud himself. The space—by Super Potato, one of the hottest design firms today—is elegantly restrained, with smoked glass details, wooden floors, and a contemporary enclosed fireplace warming and lighting the room. Boulud uses the best of Québec’s produce in dishes centered on local foie gras, duck, and salmon. The result is refined yet soulful contemporary French dishes, prepared by Maison Boulud executive chef Riccardo Bertolino. In warmer months, guests can dine alfresco, while in the winter you can take in the snowy scene from the restaurant’s enclosed greenhouse. Image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Montreal.
3927 Rue Saint-Denis, Montréal, QC H2W 2M4, Canada
L’Express, on rue St-Denis in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, opened in 1980 and has about it the air of a beloved institution. Indeed, with its timeless style, it feels even older than it is. This popular spot serves classic renditions of bistro fare—steak tartare, bone marrow, onion soup—into the early morning hours (2 a.m. except for Sundays, when it closes at 1 a.m.). When the kitchen ventures into new territory, the results are impressive. The spaghetti with mushrooms is unconventional in its presentation (topped with a healthy serving of arugula)—one of those dishes you try on the road and then want to re-create at home. Reservations recommended.
351 Rue Saint-Paul O, Montréal, QC H2Y 2A7, Canada
This perennially popular bakery and sandwich spot can feel somewhat out of place. With its cozy atmosphere in a plant-filled space, and its menu of warm panini, delicious sandwiches on artisanal breads, generous salads, and perfectly executed pastries, it is the sort of restaurant you’d expect to find in one of Montréal’s cooler neighborhoods. Instead, it’s in the heart of Old Montréal. That is a definite plus for travelers visiting the city’s historic sights. It also means, however, that there is a lunch-hour rush when nearby office workers vie for tables. If you can plan on an early or late lunch—you’re on vacation, after all—you can avoid the worst of the crowd. Olive et Gourmando is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so if you are looking for a place for dinner, the same owners are behind the new Foxy (in the Griffintown neighborhood), which is quickly proving as popular as their first restaurant.
536 Avenue Duluth E, Montréal, QC H2L 1A9, Canada
Chef Martin Picard is one of the leaders of Montréal’s restaurant scene, introducing diners—and other chefs—to a new appreciation of the bounty of local ingredients grown and produced in Québec. (He is also a television celebrity both as the host of The Wild Chef on the Food Network in Canada and thanks to a visit by Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations.) His restaurant, Au Pied de Cochon, opened in 2001 in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, and it continues to be an exceedingly popular and lively place. As its name implies, the eatery has a menu that’s heavy on pork, as well as foie gras. While it may not be the place to start a diet, you’ll finish your meal satisfied.
423 Rue Saint-Claude
Though the name translates as “hunting and fishing club” and clubby decor (inherited from the previous restaurant) prevails, Le Club was never, in fact, a private club. The menu also pays a nod to the restaurant’s name with its local fish and game dishes that are served in the dark, intimate, somewhat stuffy rooms. (The same group has three more casual options if that sounds more appealing: Le Serpent, the buzzy Le Filet, and the family’s Italian cousin, Il Miglio.) In the winter, Le Club is open for dinner only, while in the summer a terrace provides the perfect setting for a long, leisurely lunch of chef Claude Pelletier’s sophisticated take on Québecois cuisine.
1595 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2X 2S9, Canada
When Bouillon Bilk first opened in 2011, Montréal’s restaurant critics were intrigued. The chef, François Nadon, had worked at several of the city’s top restaurants but was largely unknown, and the restaurant was located on an undistinguished stretch of boulevard St-Laurent. But it soon became both a critical and popular favorite. The contemporary, minimal space is decidedly unstuffy compared with many of Montréal’s leading restaurants. Similarly, the menu may be gourmet but it’s also daring, with ingredients and preparations from Asia complementing French dishes and techniques. You can start with Japanese yellowtail, move on to a pasta dish, and end with a selection of Québecois cheeses, if you choose. There are also fresh oysters on the menu at both lunch and dinner.
200 Rue Saint-Paul O, Montréal, QC H2Y 1Z9, Canada
If you grow tired of tasting your way around menus of typical Québecois dishes, Stash Café is an appealing alternative in Old Montréal. This budget-friendly Polish restaurant has the feel of an inviting tavern, with seating in old church pews. The menu consists of Polish favorites: perfectly prepared pierogis, kielbasa, and hearty borscht. If you are in Montréal on a gray winter day, it’s a menu that will warm you up before you bundle up again to continue your sightseeing.
6230 Rue St-Hubert, Montréal, QC H2S 2M2, Canada
Chef Normand Laprise’s impact on Montréal’s culinary scene starts with the dishes served at Toqué, but it extends to the many restaurants headed by young chefs who honed their skills in his kitchens. Among the most notable is Montréal Plaza, opened in 2015. Charles-Antoine Crête, who worked with Laprise for 14 years, presides over this contemporary brasserie along with Cheryl Johnson, a former sous-chef at Toqué. The choice of location—on the Plaza St-Hubert, an outdoor shopping street with 400 businesses linked by a trademark green canopy—surprised some given that it’s a high-end gourmet restaurant, but the 70-seat Montréal Plaza includes a number of small rooms that create a sense of intimacy in what could be a cavernous space. The menu consists of small plates intended to be shared, with dishes like baloney cannelloni and a Caesar salad with chicken livers embodying Crête’s approach to cooking: irreverent, fearless, and (almost) always surprisingly delicious.
1201 Avenue Van Horne, Outremont, QC H2V 1K4, Canada
Some Americans may think of Montréal’s anglophone, francophone, and Indigenous communities when they think about the city’s diversity, but it is also remarkably international. Case in point, almost 20,000 Syrians live in Québec, and more than 90 percent of them are in Montréal—a number that will likely increase in coming years given the province’s commitment to resettling refugees from the country. Fuad Alnirabie, the chef and owner of Damas in Outremont, is a Syrian-Canadian who is introducing Montréal to his native country’s cuisine. The best strategy is to order an abundance of hot and cold mezes—hummus, baba ghanoush, octopus salad, fried dumplings—or leave the work of choosing to the kitchen and opt for the five- or six-course tasting menu.