Oh Canada, how much I had missed you. I like to think I have a tradition of taking my siblings to Canada before they turn 21, and specifically Montreal since the legal drinking age in Quebec is 18 versus 19 like most other provinces. Besides that perk, Montreal is just really damn charming. It has the European feeling, that you just really can’t get in the U.S. but at the same time is so proudly Canadian. This was my second trip to Montreal and I like blogging about cities I have been to twice, because I feel at that point I have a real feel for the city. That being said, Montreal, has so many hidden treasures that I’m sure even two more trips would leave me with tons left to do, especially since I visited in Winter both times. Also it’s worth mentioning the people in Montreal are just straight up NICE and in my book that’s always a good thing when traveling. Read on for some of my favorite places so far.
Disclaimer: As usual, this post will be heavily food focused. I always like to think I’ll take pictures of the parks and scenery, but honestly I just get distracted by food and drink. What’s new?
I really enjoyed the Mile End area of Montreal. It has a slightly grunge vibe to it which I appreciated, but it is also the Jewish section of town which heavily influences the food in the area. Comptoir 21 is located there and is known for its fish and chips, but don’t sleep on the vegetarian poutine. I know it might seem blasphemous to some, but this shiz was good and not as heavy as the infamous smoked meat and poutine at Schwartz’s. (fun fact: apparantly the dreamy Justin Trudeau prefers Main Deli, across the street from Schwartz’s, for smoked meat)
While you are in the area it’s also crucial to get a bagel from St. Viateur. It’s cash only so come prepared, but it’s so cheap and the bagels are perfection– especially, if you can catch them while they’re warm,which is likely since it’s open 24/7 and consistently cranking them out. They are Montreal-style bagels and less doughy than NY style, and almost pretzel-like. I dream about those damn bagels. Get the “all dressed” kind i.e. “everything” and sit on a bench outside the hipster coffee shop a few doors down and you won’t be disappointed.
A trip to Montreal isn’t complete without visiting the Jean Talon Market. It’s huge, bustling, and tourist-heavy, but it’s great and there are tons of free samples and the above-pictured sugary snacks. What more could you want?
For lunch one day, meander over to Chinatown and stop in Qing Hua for some soup dumplings or xiao bao. Some people bitch about this place on yelp, but my sister and I still talk about these dumplings so take from that what you will. Also they have so many flavors! Like it’s actually insane how many there are, but stick with a classic, like pork, and you’ll be good to go. Afterwards you can pop in the fun stores with strange candies and eat things that you have no idea what they are.
I recommend staying in the Latin Quarter if you are looking to go out at night. It’s a fun area filled with tons of bars. HIGHLY recommend Le Red Tiger for amazing Korean food and cocktails. Le Lab is another great option for cocktails.
The first time my sister and I went to Montreal we went to Distillerie 1 (there are three locations, and all serve massive, overly sweet cocktails in mason jars with a side of goldfish crackers) and were asked if would be OK if we were seated with a table of guys. We agreed and those guys ended up showing us a locals-view of Montreal. I only wish we could get this lucky every time we travel, because locals make the best travel guides. (side note: they were also cool because they did digital special effects for movies like Harry Potter and X-Men!) They took us to various bars, including the sort of bizarre Le Mal Necessaire in Chinatown, where you can get tiki drinks. They also took us to L’Atelier D’Argentine and our waiter taught my sister how to saber a champagne bottle for our brunch mimosas. It was all at once absurd, frightening and boss.
Another option for brunch if you are in the touristy Old Town, is Maggie Oakes. It was delicious, had friendly service, and was conveniently located.
I really can’t recommend Montreal enough. I know I rave about most cities I go to, but Montreal really is special, so grab that passport and pass the border for a visit to our friendly neighbors.