Photo cred - wesbran
One of the greatest aspects of living in Montreal is the incredibly diverse and ever-evolving food scene. Montreal is home to the most restaurants per citizen than any other city in Canada which is another way of saying there are a LOT of restos to try out in the city. The vast number of restaurants in Montreal is a blessing to residents, as we have time to try 'em all, but can be a curse to tourists, as the sheer volume of eateries can be very intimidating.
A tourist thrust onto the Montreal restaurant scene will find every type of cuisine and all forms of food, which is amazing, while also being a bit much to handle. Without any prior knowledge of the city's iconic cuisines or best restos, a first-time tourist may just go eat at McDonalds solely for the comfort it provides. God help you if you do, and that won't happen, because we've got your back.
In the creation of our must-try restos for tourists, we didn't include the "best" restaurants hailed by critics, nor the most famous. Instead, we chose spots that embody a certain branch of Montreal's food culture, restos that serve food that can't be found in other cities. All major metropolises have legit Asian offerings, though few have as many smoked meat spots as Montreal, so that's why you'll find certain cuisines missing. We also omitted some of the more obvious Montreal food staples, like bagels, because come on, everyone knows to get a bagel when they visit.
Read on and see if we got it right with our list of 12 Montreal Restaurants A First Time Visitor Needs To Eat At
Breakfast/Brunch: Beauty's Luncheonette
93 Mont-Royal W
Brunch is a major part of every Montrealers weekend, and all tourists should experience the one meal any of us really eat on a Saturday or Sunday. Deciding on a single brunch spot was a little tough, because many are amazing, but we gave the spot to Beauty's simply for its long history of providing delicious morning/late afternoon eats to Montrealers since 1942. You also can't beat their milkshakes, which aren't very brunch-y, but still delectably delicious.
Upscale/Fancy: Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth E
A tourist list without a fancy Montreal eatery would be silly, because while we may not have the dollars to drop at an upscale resto, visitors probably do. We gave our fancy spot to one of the most world-renowned restaurants in Montreal that still manages to keep things simple, as Au Pied De Cochon does classic dishes with a refined flair. When you can order a foie gras hamburger or foie gras poutine, you know you're eating somewhere special. Then there's the Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon which takes the sugar shack concept to new heights of flavour.
Shawarma/Middle Eastern: Boustan
2020 Crescent St + 19 Ste‑Catherine E
Montrealers love their middle eastern meat in a pita and the king of the shawarma will forever remain Boustan. Go to the Crescent or St. Catherine location and you'll always find a variety of hungry folks just waiting to devour a beautifully greasy, awesomely affordable, and straight up delicious shawarma. The classic is a good option, but you're best bet is to go with "the creation," which is both the meat and veggie warps combined. Boustan also stays open really late and delivers 'til 4am, for the tourist who likes to stay out late.
Poutine & Burgers: Patati Patata
4177 St. Laurent
When you need simple and delicious food really quick, no resto beats Patati Patata. Despite being a bit small on the interior, the resto makes for a charming eating experience if you get a spot, mostly to watch the guys behind the counter do their thing and cook up a storm. For real, watching them go is like seeing art in motion. Aside from the ambiance, the food is everything you could ever want from classic Montreal diner eats, just without a lot of the grease. Everything is incredibly affordable too, and dare I say this place has the best poutine gravy in the city. There I said it. La Banquise lovers go now respond in pure hatred.
Portuguese Chicken: Romados
123 Rachel E
Somewhere along the road of Montreal's food culture history, Portuguese chicken became a staple in the city. Not that we're complaining, because the succulent roasted chicken served along side corn breads, piri piri sauce and natas (for dessert) is oh-so-tasty, with Romados being at the top of the Portuguese chicken game. There's a reason people call Romados "chicken crack." TO clarify, it's because the chicken is magically moist and tender, and not because any crack is actually in there. Always ask for extra sauce on everything (even your fries) and you'll be one happy tourist.
Photo cred - * zoute
French Canadian Cuisine: La Binerie Mont-Royal
367 Mont-Royal E
Since 1938, La Binerie Mont-Royal has been an institution on Quebec cuisine. Serving all of the classic Quebecois dishes (pâté chinois, tourtière, pork sausages in gravy) a tourist must come here to get a taste of the historical flavours of the region. As the name would suggest, the resto also specializes in "fèves au lard" aka baked beans, which isn't something many eateries can boast in any city. First timers should go with the "Quebec plate" which will give you all the foods you need to eat at a reasonable $13.50.
Vegan: Aux Vivres
4631 St. Laurent
More and more vegan joints have been popping up in Montreal, all of which give Aux Vivres a run for its money, but the AV still remains the best in our opinion, mainly for the wide array of options. Every meal is offered at Aux Vivres, from brunch to dinner to dessert, meaning you can get a vegan meal anytime you hit up the restaurant. Vegan tourists should definitely check out Aux Vivres, though I personally want to give a shout out to Resonance, which has the greatest BLT (that happened to be vegan) I've ever eaten.
Comfort Food: Dinette Triple Crown
American tourists (at least those from the south) will fine Dinette Triple Crown's menu familiar, with some added Montreal flair. DTC's fried chicken is among the best in the city, as is any of their southern dishes, though in truth, it's not solely for the food tourists should visit this resto. What sets DTC apart from other comfort food joints is how they give you your meal in a picnic basket and actually let you enjoy your food in the nearby park. Nothing beats a meal of fried chicken on the grass and in the sun with your travel buddy.
If you're from Montreal, you know Dagwoods, as the Montreal-based sandwich chain is pretty iconic. Essentially the Subway of Montreal (although much better, IMO) tourists who visit Montreal should go to Dagwoods simply because it is so much a part of the city's food culture. Sure, you can say that about many restaurants, but being one of the only food franchises native to Montreal, we think a trip to Dagwoods is essential to a tourist who wants a quick bite on the cheap.
Smoked Meat: Smoked Meat Pete's
283, 1st ave
Oh, what's that, all of your travel blogs told you to go to Schwartz's to get smoked meat? Ya well, take it from us, while Schwartz's may be good, there's a lot wrong with the place, and there are plenty of other smoked meat options in the city that we think are far better, such as Smoked Meat Pete's. Authentically delicious, there's a reason this place won the MTL Award for Best Smoked Meat in Montreal. I'd also like to give a shout out to Rueben's deli (not the fancy resto one) that also makes an amazing smoked meat and liver sandwich.
Photo cred - Juliette et Chocolat
Dessert & Chocolate: Juliette et Chocolat
377 Laurier W + 1615 St-Denis + 3600 St-Laurent
No culinary tour of Montreal would be complete without some sweet treats and decadent chocolates, which Juliet et Chocolat has in spades. You can get a solid assortment of savoury options at J&C, but if you're coming here you know you're going to be getting your chocolate on. All types of cocoa-rich treats can be ordered, along with indulgent desserts, and hot chocolates that border on the consistency of puddings, in a great way. You also can't beat the adorable red hats the staff wear either.
Bonus - 3am Drunk Food: $2 Chow Mein
Tourists, this is more of a warning than a legit suggestion. If you are out late on a party night, walking up or down St. Laurent, your senses will be bombarded with the greasy aroma of $2 chow mein, more affectionately known as toonie chow. This dish is made up of fried chow mein noodles which are then covered in melted peanut butter...and that's it. To truly experience Montreal's food culture, you need to get to the bottom of the barrel and try some toonie chow, because as strange as it sounds, when you're wasted at 3am craving food, it seriously hits the spot. Do not, I repeat, do not eat this sober, it's just not how toonie chow is done. Feel free to douse in sriracha.