The desire for a visit to Montreal began in 2013 when I first heard of duck served from a can at Au Pied Du Cochon. The next big ping was discovering the selection of Dieu Du Ciel on tap at (now closed) BarVolo. Arthur surprised me with Montreal as our 1-year trip (the previous year was Kitchener, where we had a marvelous time mind you – yes you can laugh at this).
If I’m in a new city for a limited number of days, I’m all about living the “Carpe Diem” motto. I am not the sort to simply go out and walk through the city hoping to come across a gem. I will research the city’s highlights and make a path to it, then those other sighted gems can come along the way.
Our stay was from Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon. We stayed by St. Laurier Station, very comfortably within 13-minute walking distance from our favourites! We purchased a Friday – Sunday pass for the Metropolitian which gave us unlimited access for $13.50 each at the time. The pass started from 6PM on the Friday night.
I would love to go into elaborate detail with a blogpost on each place I visited and loved, but I think it would be most efficient skimming-wise with a paragraph + photos of each instead. I’ve also provided external links to Zomato to see more details + other reviewer’s feedback at the end of this post.
Here’s what we did over a course of 3.5 days in Montreal:
(1) Devour a medium-fat smoked meat sammie.
When in Montreal… You eat a smoked meat sandwich for lunch! A smoked meat sammie can be enjoyed from two places in Montreal, Schwartz or Main Deli Steakhouse. There’s a battle between the city-folk deciding which is the best, but I say, just head to the one which is on the way to your next destination.
We tried a sandwich at Schwartz but we made the mistake of not asking for the fatty meat. Who would have known there was an option between fatty or lean? We got the lean without questioning and by default. The recommended combo from passing servers is a smoked meat sandwich ($9), housemade pickles ($2), coleslaw ($3) and a black cherry cola. Fairly pricey, but it only makes sense to be since it’s a top tourist destination and the best-acclaimed spot for a bite of smoked meat in Montreal.
(2) Get up early and have the best breakfast ever.
A top suggestion on a visit to Montreal would be… brunch at L’Avenue! But, brunch? You really believe that I would wait in line for 45 minutes to get a seat for brunch? We changed it up, it was going to be breakfast. L’Avenue opens at 9:00 am and once we rocked up at 9:07 am, there was already a solid line of 15 people ahead of us. Then, an additional 10 minutes to be seated – Wow! This place really does brunch well, if you want meaty, fruit, healthy, sweet… They have it all. And at very good prices!
The perfect pick for me: Chorizo II Eggs Benedict. One bite changed the game of eggs benny for me.
(3) Cocktails, and games!
There was a decision to be made. Go home after dinner or go on to explore the cocktails of Montreal? …Then I remembered me starting off this trip with the motto of Carpe Diem” and knew that the answer was obvious. So here we were at La Distillerie. Rated by strength, cocktails range from $10 with 3 pages to pick and choose from. Arthur went for a Manhattan, and I had some combination of angostura, rum and pineapple. Here we experienced a wonderful night over Ghost Blitz recommended for ages 8 up.
(4) Pop your head into a thrift store.
There are so many along the way, and each one had it’s own feel and quirks. Go on in!
(5) Go to the markets, try the seafood and go home with some post-drinking snacks.
Aqua Mare Poissonnerie for my ideal form of rings: calamari rings. Our bar snack favourite, we had to try this out after seeing the endless line-up to grab a tray of these breaded beauties.
“Exploration Degustation” at La Boite Aux Huitres Oyster Bar – there’s plentiful to choose from, sweet, briny or meaty… We selected the salty & meaty oyster pick (6 pieces) from PEI and the U.S. for $30. We had three of four varieties and a taste of their red / white vinaigrette to pair. Oyster dozens range from $18 anywho.
(6) Realize the underground city is really just a Montreal version of “The Path”
But yeah. don’t do it.
(7) Take a picture of every graffiti piece you see.
Don’t you even dare blink once. Montreal is full of them! Spotted within alleyways, adorned all over a loading dock, at the side of buildings and even infront of houses. Here’s some of our favourites:
(8) Montreal’s oldest sandwich shop. It’s there. With the exact same sandwich and fixings.
At the darling Pop Tates-like shop, Wilensky’s Light Lunch. It’s definitely not worth going out of your way for. Their “classic” is a two slice bologna with cheese and some mustard… you taste exactly what you see. With no service to praise, they’re use to the passerbyers:
(9) Treat yourself to a BYOB and lovely French dinner.
I’ve heard that Montreal is plentiful of free BYOB restaurants! We made our special dinner visit at the quaint Le P’tit Plateau for an appetizer and main each and one bottle of wine from the SAQ (equivalent to LCBO). We saw a fella run out and come back with a bottle of wine – what a genius. This place encourages you to bring your own wine as they are not liquor licensed, encouraging all to stay longer and order delicious accompaniments to your glass of wine. The food was excellent, the space is small, cozy and gets very loud very quickly. Definitely a gem worth visiting.
(10) Prepare your stomach for the meatiest meal you’ll ever have.
We were not ready for this. Two appetizers in and we were already full… See my blogpost here of Au Pied Du Cochon.
(11) Have a banh mi. Don’t forget to pick up a nem chua at the checkout, you may just love it!
Haven’t you heard? All great days are started with a Vietnamese sandwich. Banh mi, I will have it in any city, at every store that serves it. This one chump is at Vua, a walk away from Berri-UQAM Station. You’ll find Vietnamese snacks such as rice rolls and banh cuon, all things in a banh mi (French baguette) and che (Vietnamese desserts) at good prices. The space and menu style reminded me of a Coffee Time (not sure if that would be offensive, but I guess it looks a lot like a franchise to me). We have the Saigon Banh Mi for $3.75 for a 10 inch (others are 7″ $3.75, 10″ $4.25) which has pate, cha lua (Vietnamese-style pork luncheon meat) & ham, I can only describe this as… Juicy!
Later note: Vua has multiple locations throughout Quebec. It’s incredible, and I was very impressed as a walked by one after the other.
(12) If you love beers…
Montreal will be your haven. From the fruity to hoppy to dark to tart (hello, Saisons), talk to the servers and they will match you with your best boozy bet.
Dieu Du Ciel. I would go there every day if I could. Their food makes fun nibbles, and their chalkboard drink menu is off chops. In Toronto, I only knew DDC as coffee stouts and deep, bitter yet aromatic IPAs. From the chalkboard, I discovered flowers, ciders and even berry flavours that I’ve never held before. It did not surpass my favourite Aphrodite, but they each made a blissful patio day companion.
Saint Le Bock. Great beer options and awesome fries ($5) if you’re in the area.
L’Amere A Boire. It’s a yes from me! Although the antsy server would not let us simply sit on the patio 3 minutes before opening, and gave us questionable service, their beer flights had me cheering. 8 x 5oz classes came to $17 with tax. We were very happy.
(13) You have cat to be kitten me.
I was convinced that the squirrels in Montreal were prettier. But, so are the cats. On our way to L’Amere A Boire, we saw a cat cafe, Le Cafe Des Chats! I am very allergic to cats. 20 minutes around the fur and my throat gets scratchy and my nose doesn’t stop running. We each ordered a drink and followed around cats for my 20-minute limit. They were so beautiful, almost chubby and each had different types of hairs.
(14) Ride the Bixi for free on Sunday
Montreal has a bike system where you can grab and go and return to park the bike at one of their many stops. Everyone in Montreal was riding a Bixi, only three times did I see someone ride their own bike! Can we just pretend we did this? With much regret, I didn’t do it. I wasn’t prepared for a bike-riding kind of a day! I wasn’t wearing pants or shorts! Until the next time, Montreal.
(15) Whisky and Cigars
If you appreciate a good whiskey and a cigar every now and then, you’d love Whisky Cafe. The first room you enter, you’re braced with an extensive array of whiskeys, and the second room is behind two doors which lead you to the intimate and classic cigar room. The atmosphere and service were impressively set. I felt like I was in a part of the Titanic ship with how immersive the setting was. Order a flight or a single whisky – tasting sheets are provided with each flight guiding you through the taste and fragrance.
(16) The best bagels ever.
There are two places from where the Montreal folk get their bagels from:
St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel – both located in Mile End and not too far away from each other. There’s much speculation of which one is the best, but it all comes down to preference I suppose. Both are handmade and made in a special wood fire oven. My plan was to walk to Fairmount, then the next stop at St-Viateur for a comparison. But after seeing Fairmount, I quickly admired the small space, smell, and first bite of the crisp unique bagels and decided that this was the one for me. Maybe next time!
(17) The holy combination of fries, gravy and curds… Poutine!
There is nothing like poutine in Montreal. Smoke’s Poutinerie, yes I’m calling you out, you can step aside. I knew there was something up with the poutine scene here, there was no way that people would like this out-of-a-can tasting rubbish. Poutine should be simple. In my case, simple with pork lard and loads of curds. That’s all I need.
Other things I haven’t done but were on my list…
- Amusement 2000 plus – games, games galore!
- Benelux has got you for chocolates and beer
- La Diperie for a gorgeous ice cream (also now available on the Danforth in Toronto)
- Hinnawi Bros Bagel & Cafe – salmon bagel of your dreams
- Pizza II Focolaio – to choose from over 70 varieties of pizza
- Kaze – did you come here for an izakaya?
- Le Painnamou – cooling off with shaved ice
- Le Lab – lovingly made cocktails
- Le Saint-Elizabeth – if you can get yourself a spot on the back patio, there’s a gigantic garden wall that awaits your selfies
- Atwater Market – boy do you love markets
- Mont Royal Park – get your comfy shoes on and a lot of hours to spare to walk to the peak of the park
- Biodome + Insectarium – if you like your critters
- Lots of churches
Observations in Montreal:
- Look for the beautiful cobblestone pathways of Old Montreal
- There are beers sold at the grocers!
- Dog parks aren’t a thing (there must be a cat-bias going on)
- Streets are very narrow, bikes are a must!
- The squirrels are prettier
- It seems that Montreal’s “best” is always a battle between two locations – i.e. Smoked meat sammie, Poutine and Bagels?!
Have you been to Montreal? I’d love to know your favourite experiences!
More information on hours, location and reviews from other go-ers in the order shown: