From smoked meat to poutine, Montreal could easily be considered Canada’s most indulgent food city. And with more than 6,000 restaurants, it also packs in the most eateries per capita for all of North America (nearly 65 per square kilometre).
So, ditch the juice cleanse and pack your most stylish stretchy pants – and don’t even think about heading home before you’ve sampled each and every item in our definitive guide to eating your way through Montreal:
1. Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich
The sandwich place by which you will judge all delis for the rest of your life, Schwartz’s has been serving up their standard-setting juicy smoked brisket for nearly 90 years. Yes, 90.
2. Acupuncture sushi
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) July 15, 2014
You might be familiar with acupuncture already: It involves inserting fine needles into various points on the body. At Park, Chef Antonio Park uses snapper treated with acupuncture, which calms the fish for transport and results in exceptionally fresh, tender cuts. Katy Perry and Neil Patrick Harris are fans, as you will be.
3. Poutine: Round 1
Duh. Try it at local favourite La Banquise, open around the clock.
4. …and Round 2
Once you’ve tried the classic, kick it up a notch. At Au Pied de Cochon, Chef Martin Picard takes his fries and gravy to a supersonic level with the addition of seared foie gras.
5. Not your average plate of spaghetti
Foie gras poutine not decadent enough for ya? Then try the over-the-top lobster spaghetti at Joe Beef. David McMillan and Frédéric Morin’s unpretentious, boozy, foodie boite in Little Burgundy recently cracked the Pellegrino Best Restaurants in the World list, the first Canadian restaurant to do so since 2010.
6. and 7. The new classics
While you’re dining chez Joe, make sure to order the notorious Foie Gras Double Down and a plate of crisp smoked meat croquettes (pictured above). If these indulgent updates are wrong — well, you didn’t come all this way to be right.
8. A pie (or six)
Two-bite treats in an assortment of seasonal and classic flavours (our favourite, the Bonfire, is a s’more in pie form) at Rustique Pie Kitchen.
9. Veggie break
Montreal: not just for carnivores! In fact, even meat-eaters have been known to line up for the falafel at The Green Panther. Served in a whole wheat pita filled with cabbage, carrots, pickles, sauerkraut, sprouts and tahini, Green Panther’s version is equal parts tangy and savoury, and frequently appears on best-of-the-city lists (beating out most of Montreal’s plentiful Middle Eastern restaurants).
10. Sweet scoops
Owned by a French-Vietnamese husband-and-wife team, Kem Coba serves up a slim list of traditional and highly unusual ice cream flavours, which pair beautifully. Go half-and-half on salted-butter ice cream with raspberry, lychee and rose sorbet or try the soft serve: two complementary varieties change every couple of weeks.
11. Don’t mess with tradition
Consisting of beef salami, bologna and yellow mustard on a grilled roll, the Wilensky Special hasn’t changed one bit in all the years this lunch counter has been in operation. Don’t dream of asking for a modification.
12. and 13. Tiki drinks at Le Mal Necessaire and Chinese food
Montreal may not seem like the kind of city for getting your umbrella drink on (Le Mal Necessaire‘s décor and downstairs location evoke “basement rec room” more than “Polynesian lounge”), but this subterranean joint proves this city even does a Mai Tai served inside a fresh-cut pineapple well. As an added bonus, you can sample Montreal’s excellent Chinese food – pork dumplings and General Tso’s chicken – delivered hot from the snack bar upstairs right to your table. Yes, that’s two items off your list in one go.
14. Lobster roll
Move over food trucks. Montreal’s Old Port is being taken over by food stands housed in old shipping containers, such as Muvbox, where you can get your lobster roll fix while enjoying the breeze of the St. Lawrence.
15. Bagels, bagels, bagels
16. The world is yours, at market price
Get your slurp on at La Boite aux Huitres in Jean Talon Market, where oysters are buck a shuck every Tuesday.
17. Perfect pastry
How do you stand out in a city of perfect croissants? With a Kouign (pronounced queen) Amann: Made from buttery puff pastry, famed baker Patrice Demers‘ version of this traditional butter cake is similar to those iconic crescents but with just enough sugar for a crunchy, caramelized outer shell.
18. Cheese, please
Load up on everything gooey, creamy and stinky at La Fromagerie Hamel, an epic cheese store in Jean Talon market that stocks more than 500 different cheeses, both from Quebec and further afield.
19. and 20. Battle of the breakfasts
Offering what might be the city’s two most iconic breakfast dishes, Beauty’s, a luncheonette in Mile End, has been turning out its special and the mishmash since it opened in 1942. The special is smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato and onion on a bagel, while the mishmash is a rather unorthodox omelette featuring hot dogs, salami, green pepper and fried onion. Can’t decide? We say bring a friend and go halfsies on both – breakfast is, after all, the most important meal of the day.
21. Buttery brioche
Here’s one last artery-clogger for the road: chocolaty, buttery brioche as big as your head from Olive & Gourmando in Old Montreal. While flavours like chocolate banana and maple pecan are tempting, purists will favour the simple brioche au chocolat, made from deep, dark Valrhona.
Poutine photo, Flickr Creative Commons; all other photos by Alyssa Schwartz