Montreal is nothing if not a foodie city; in fact, rumour has it has the second highest rate of restaurants per capita after New York City. Call it gourmet, call it glutton, call it whatever you like, but the truth is that a trip to Montreal will require eating pants whether you like it or not.
In fact, I might never speak to you again if you make it all the way to my hometown and stick to hotel food.
In no particular order, here are my top 18 restaurants in Montreal. Some are recent favourites; others are classics I’ve been frequenting for over a decade with friends and family.
4105 boulevard St-Laurent
The jury’s still out on whether it’s a restaurant or a wine bar, but the photogenic locale with a U-shaped central bar and a thing for oysters sure aims to please.
5326 boulevard St-Laurent
If it wasn’t for the trendy young clientele, you’d think that time had stood still at Salon de thé Cardinal, where you can find a good old-fashioned afternoon tea served with dainty mismatched tableware and in a Victorian-style space filled with antiques, thick runner rugs, and carved wood.
Food-wise, the menu varies between sweet (blueberry scones, bourbon cookies, various English cakes) and savoury (ploughman’s plate, cucumber sandwiches), both complemented by a plethora of fragrant teas.
257 rue Prince
The expertise and irreproachable service truly make it an essential stop on any Montreal foodie itinerary. It’s no surprise, then, to know that Le Serpent is often cited as the very best amongst the best restaurants in Montreal.
The industrial-looking space caters to trendy diners, and almost paradoxically, serves sublime Italianate plates that could be mistaken for comfort food if they weren’t so elegantly presented.
1243 rue Metcalfe
Antique chairs and a 40-foot brass bar, along with original floors, lamps, and walls from 1927, set the tone at this atmospheric British tavern. Everything on the menu is made from scratch. Known for: bangers and mash; atmospheric British tavern; prix-fixe dish of the day.
If it’s full, pop in next door at Balsam Inn, their sister establishment that, albeit slightly less English, is not in any way inferior in quality.
1232 rue De la Montagne
With its all-white, plant-heavy décor and sustainable approach to food, fashionable and botanical LOV is the kind of vegan restaurant that even die-hard carnivores will line up for.
Stéphanie Audet, one of the rare women chefs in Montreal, works tirelessly with local farmers to limit the restaurant’s footprint and does wonders with veggies that go well beyond the avocado toast.
1216 rue Union
Whimsical – lots of flamingos and tongue-in-cheek neon signs! – Cuban café and bar with cocktails served in vintage pineapple glasses and original, flavourful tapas. Expect a cheeky, lively atmosphere but get there early to snag one of the just 20-or-so seats.
An all-too-rare Cuban entry in an otherwise heavily European list.
1045 avenue Laurier Ouest
This sophisticated French bistro pleases Montrealers with its flawless classics and its heated wraparound outdoor terrace; not to mention the late-night two-course table d’hôte menu at just C$27.
Regulars gravitate toward dishes such as the calf liver, salmon, or beef tartare, grilled Cornish hen, and hanger steak—all served with ceremonial aplomb on white linen tablecloths.
1832 rue William
Equal parts whimsy and polish, Le Fantôme—widely touted as one of the best restaurants in Montreal but also more widely across Canada—offers an exciting dining experience.
Rather than a typical à-la-carte menu, diners will find a prix-fixe 6-to-9 course gastronomic odyssey fueled by the chef’s weekly inspiration, be it wild boar and mushroom spaghetti or black bass with fennel compote.
6704 rue Clark
Dinette Triple Crown is one of the best-kept secrets as far as Montreal restaurants go: it’s relatively small (a counter with just eight stools) but the real draw here is not indoors; rather, locals know to ask for a picnic basket (fully equipped with cutlery, dishes, and a tablecloth) that will be enjoyed in Little Italy Park across the street.
Fried chicken with fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy, braised greens, and biscuits, along with pulled pork sandwiches and brisket, will have you speaking with a southern drawl in no time.
782 rue Wellington
This is one of my favourite recent discoveries. Slightly tucked away from the tourist path, Monopole is what we, French speakers, refer to as a buvette: a laid-back place where wine flows abundantly (and since one of the co-owners is in the private wine import business, you know it’s good stuff) and where the variety of market-fresh dishes comes in sharable portions.
The manager, Gabriel, is always keen to strike up a conversation.
I know the struggle: picking a handful of restaurants ―nevermind just one― in Montreal can be a real challenge. Why not let yourself be led around the city by some of the most knowledgeable foodies in search of authentic gems in tourist-trap-ridden Old-Montreal, but also further afield in places locals cherish like Plateau Mont-Royal and historic Mile-End.
Chez Tousignant (6956 rue Drolet): for a proper Québécois greasy spoon that’s both cute and entirely locally-sourced. Their hot-dog Tousignant and their poutine are the BEST.
Fairmount Bagels (74 avenue Fairmount Ouest): Whatever you do, ask for a bagel fresh out of the oven. Your life will never be the same.
Mademoiselle Dumplings (6391 rue St-Hubert): Doesn’t look like much from the outside but don’t be fooled; dumplings are made by hand and are the best in town. Ridiculously inexpensive.
Vieux Vélo (59 rue Beaubien Est): Overrun with hipsters of the normcore confession but OH MY the eggs benedict. Order coffee, too; it’s from next door Odessa.
Café Parvis (433 rue Mayor): Half-stripped paint, hanging plants, relaxed vibes in Montreal’s historic fur district; serves wood-fired pizzas on wooden boards, ideal for sharing.
Lester’s Deli (1057 avenue Bernard Ouest): Skip Schwartz’s permanent queues and go to Lester’s for Montreal smoked meat. Neither the menu nor the decor have changed in 50 years.