Montreal is famous for its creative — and expansive dining options. With more restaurants and bars per capita than any other city in Canada (including big city neighbours Toronto and Vancouver), it’s no secret that the largest city in La Belle Province loves to eat and drink.
Whether you’re in the mood for a glass of funky, natural wine to get your evening started, you’re in search of some authentic Quebecois fare, or you’d prefer to keep it casual with the kids at a fun, family-friendly venue, locals and tourists would agree that these are some of the top picks for dining in Montreal.
To say Joe Beef is a Montreal institution would be a severe understatement. Owners and chefs David McMillan and Fred Morin have been serving natural wine, seasonal fare, and a humble home for everyone from international chefs and celebrities to students and young families since opening their doors more than a decade ago. Ask any local and they’ll tell you, despite the near-impossible feat that is getting a reservation, Joe Beef feels decidedly more like stepping into a family friend’s home for a decadent — yet down-to-earth — meal, than it does an internationally renowned landmark.
Montreal has its fair share of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, but nothing comes close to the exceptionally innovative fare you’ll find at LOV. An acronym of Local, Organic, and Vegan, the cuisine is anything but granola. Chef Stéphanie Audet’s menu is packed with innovative dishes like smoked beet sandwiches (a riff on the iconic Montreal smoked meat), truffle and ‘caviar’ zucchini spaghetti, and sharing plates like vegan poutine and kimchi fries. Both the Old Montreal and downtown locations are almost always crowded with regulars and families, so be sure to make a reservation.
Au Pied de Cochon has become a staple for tourists and locals alike — and for good reason. The famously gluttonous staple by Chef Martin Picard serves up exaggerated Quebecois fare like foie gras poutine, “duck in a can,” and just about every pork dish you could imagine. Despite being a high-end institution, Au Pied de Cochon’s dining room, staff and overall ambience is uniquely warm, inviting and humble. A word to the wise: bring your eating pants.
Joe Beef’s baby sister opened its doors back in 2013 and has been a local darling ever since. At Le Vin Papillon, small vegetable-centric plates and funky, natural wine reigns supreme. Here, you’ll be welcomed into what feels like a cozy house party thrown by your coolest friend. Expect to sit nestled into a dimly lit nook, while eating and drinking more than you may have thought possible. While the menu is seasonal, expect to find playful dishes like smoked carrot eclair or sturgeon and celeriac.
While you may recognize Milos from its New York, Miami, or Las Vegas locations, it all started on Montreal’s — very modest — Park Avenue. Arguably one of Montreal’s most interesting high-end concept restaurants, Milos passionately serves some of the freshest seafood in the city — which is an impressive feat considering Quebec is nowhere near the ocean. Here you’ll find everything from live lobster and shrimp to snapper and swordfish. All fish are displayed on ice, sold by weight and cooked up upon request.
Largely due to its French influence, Montreal has some exceptional viennoiserie (croissants, pain aux chocolate, etc). For the best in the city? Head to Café Bazin on Victoria Avenue. The teeny tiny café and brunch spot is a real hot spot for families and couples on rainy weekend mornings. Try the pain aux chocolate (known as ‘chocolatine’ in Quebec) alongside an almond milk latte or macchiato. If you stick around long enough to see the lunch menu, opt for a slice of quiche, which manages to strike a wonderful balance between decadent and delicate.
Marley Sniatowsky, Ryan Gray and Emma Cardarelli’s latest restaurant offers a home for any occasion — from casual catch ups to family dinners — and that sort of inclusive hospitality was exactly what the trio wanted. Nestled into an iconic corner venue on Notre Dame Street West (it was previously a strip club, and then a steakhouse, back in the ‘70s), Elena has quickly become one of the best Italian spots in town. The big draw is the incredible selection of natural wines, curated by Gray, and the naturally leavened pizza dough, which takes perfectly to the wood fire oven.
Park first opened its doors in 2011 and has since become one of Montreal’s most cherished landmarks. Chef and owner Antonio Park prides himself on getting the freshest, sushi-grade fish straight from Japan, which has come as a welcomed addition to Montreal’s otherwise lukewarm sushi scene. Located on Westmount’s Victoria Avenue, this high-end Japanese restaurant presents beautifully presented and delicious dishes like seared scallops, sliced baby squid, and of course plenty of nigiri and sashimi.
Likely one of the cutest restaurants in the city, Petit Lapin caters to eaters with common food allergies. Everything in the cafe is gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and vegan — and somehow still entirely delicious. At Petit Lapin, you’ll be sitting in a pastel pink-and-blue dining room with everything from poptarts and doughnuts to avocado toast and apple pie.
One of Montreal’s most beloved restaurants, L’Express opened their doors all the way back in 1980 — and has had a steady flow of regulars ever since. Though the French-style brasserie skews on the higher end side of dining, dishes are available at many price ranges — with plates starting from $5. Along with a friendly staff and wine by the glass, locals and tourists head to L’Express for their chicken liver pâté, homemade raviolis and of course, their steak frites. Add the bustling, straight-out-of-Paris style dining space to the strength of this restaurant, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.
Best Breakfast: Beautys
This breakfast and lunch landmark is one of Montreal’s most beloved gems. The Mile End neighbourhood restaurant opened in 1942 and has since been home to many of its own well-loved classics such as the Mish-Mash omelette with salami or hot-dogs and the BBM (that’s the Beautys breakfast melt.) The no-frills breakfast joint fills up quickly, so you may want to go early if you’re not prepared to wait for a spot.
Tucked into an unassuming block on Notre Dame Street West in the St-Henri neighbourhood, this French-style bistro boasts a seasonal chalk board menu, a refined yet cozy dining room and friendly staff. If you’re especially hungry, opt for the tasting menu, which includes a handful of seasonal dishes, punctuated with le trou Normand — a palate cleanser made from brandy and sherbert. Also note: there is no corking fee in Quebec, which makes the bring your own wine option even more interesting.
You may have noticed a giant orange ball on the Montreal skyline. Ever wonder what it is? Welcome to the Orange Julep. Definitely one of the most unique venues in the city, Gibeau Orange Julep stands at 3 stories high and 40 feet wide and serves typical “casse-croute” classics like hot-dogs, hamburgers and pogos. Locals love the Julep for its namesake orange julep drink, which is essentially orange juice with a milkshake-like consistency (the actual ingredients are a long held secret). Head to the Julep in the summer, where picnic tables fill with locals and tourists alike enjoying a summer breeze and a pogo or two.
While there are plenty of fancier terraces in the city, Perché is very well loved by locals. Situated in Old Montreal, just off Jacques-Cartier Place, this fourth-floor rooftop venue is the ideal spot to escape the crowded tourist streets. Head down Saint Amable Road, through the unassuming Le Perché corridor and up the elevator for some of the best people watching in the city. Bites and sharing plates are available but their innovative cocktails reign supreme.
It can be surprisingly difficult to find good crepes in the city — but if you’re in the mood the a French-style pancake, look no further than Spanel, which specializes in the stuff. The charming cafe-bistro comes alive in the weekend, the atmosphere really shines during the summer, when the back of the restaurant opens into a tree-lined terrace.