New decade, same mission: eat the most delicious food this city has to offer. Although delicious seems to go beyond just taste in 2020. While drafting this list of must-try Montreal restaurants for the new year, it became quite apparent that our local food scene is not indifferent to the global movements towards healthier and sustainable foods.
Institutions and new players alike are making conscious efforts to showcase local produce and sustainable wine producers.
They also think of new business models to provide a better work-life balance for overworked staff and create fusion menus that highlight the melting pot of people that makes Montreal so quirky and special.
I hope this list inspires you with some memorable meals. Here’s to a delicious and festive 2020!
Where: 1290 Rue Beaubien E. (8-minute walk from Metro Beaubien)
The name says it all: this place lives and breathes for fermented grapes. On the wine list, you will find a handful of Quebec bubbles, a range of Western European numbers, and interestingly enough, a few uncommon bottles born from cold climates.
If you’ve never tasted a Czech or Slovakian wine, Vinvinvin will happily serve you a few glasses. But don’t you worry about getting too intoxicated, this bar à vins also serves a selection of seasonal plates to fill your stomach.
Whether you’re in a fancy mood (grilled endives with beets?) or more on the comfort food end of the spectrum (apparently their baloney sandwich is quite killer), all plates come in small sizes and meat to be shared, so you’ll end up eating everything.
2. Darna Bistroquet
Where: 1106 Rue Beaubien E. (6-minute walk from Metro Beaubien)
The only pickle with Vinvinvin is that they don’t take reservations. Should you walk into a full house, just walk back a few meters, where another gem will be waiting for you: Darna Bistroquet.
Darna means “our house” in Arabic and pretty much sums up the welcoming spirit of this charming little restaurant. The menu, imagined by a dynamic Moroccan couple and executed by a French chef, presents bistro-like items with a strong Mediterranean touch.
So for those cold winter nights, you’ll have plenty to choose from, whether it be the classic onion soup, or the roasted chicken tagine, mixed with turnips and a pinch of nutmeg.
Still have a few shivers? There’s a pretty good list of natural wines to warm you up.
3. Roch le Coq
Where: 1541 Ave. Van Horne (3-minute walk from Metro Outremont)
But say you’re in the mood for something really low-key. You know, somewhere you can head straight to from your bed, eat a real comforting meal, and then go back home without a single soul judging you.
Roch le Coq is your answer, and conveniently enough, one of the latest contenders for the best fried chicken in town. I’m not sure who Roch is, but his (her? its?) chicken comes from La Ferme des Voltigeurs, a farm that never freezes their meat to make sure everything stays as fresh as possible.
The result is staggering. Juicy meat covered in hyper crispy batter; every bite is a journey into your wildest fried chicken wonderland.
American-style, the fried chicken comes with a fun selection of international flavoured sauces. House barbecue sauce with hoisin sauce, anyone?
4. Provisions Bar à Vin
Where: 1142 Ave. Van Horne (5-minute walk from Metro Outremont)
Now, a bit more proper, but still pretty casual and fun, is the latest addition to the Provisions empire-in-the-making. From the same team behind the stellar-tasting-menu-only Provisions 1268, this wine bar is the more laid-back and affordable version of the main institution.
The entrance is through the butcher side of the business. After a thorough inspection of the sausages and meat cuts available, head behind the black curtains.
There, you will find a friendly room seating 25 people at most, with exposed brick and loosely attached strings of lights. While vegetables are part of the menu, this place is for meat lovers.
Whatever you order, make sure to ask for at least one or two brochettes. Lamb kofta or filet mignon, each of these meats on sticks comes with their own world of seasoning and grilling perfection.
5. Le Flamant
Where: 4043 Rue Ontario E. (16-minute walk from Metro Pie-IX, but you could run it in six)
In the same vein of fun, creative, yet unpretentious outlets, Le Flamant ranked high among food critics' favourites of last year. And by critics, I mean the usually unforgivable people of the Internet.
With a 4.8 Google rating (its 123 reviews appear pretty legit), Le Flamant succeeded at the impossible feat of pleasing most — a huge achievement, given that the restaurant dabbles with a cuisine generally accessible to a limited circle: upscale and refined.
Marinated guineafowl, agnolotti soaked in old gouda, and cannelloni à la cassoulet, Le Flamant will take you out of your comfort zone… without breaking the bank!
Here, you eat according to your hunger and your budget. There are four set menus available at $33, $55, $75, and $100 per person. We came in starving, opted for the second cheaper option ($55), and left rolling out of the restaurant holding our bellies.
If you’re planning a romantic date, ask for the bar seat by the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant.
Where: 406 Rue Saint-Jacques (1-minute walk from Metro Square Victoria-OACI)
If you have big business to close and happen to have an equally large expense account to rely on, Monarque should be on your radar. It’s grand (175 seats!), it's luxurious (huge semi-circle banquette seating), and it will make you feel like a boss.
The menu highlights a curated selection of French classics done right. Côte de boeuf or pan-seared sea bass, prepare yourself for a serious dose of butter, butter, and more delicious butter.
That being said, don’t be shy, treat yourself to a solo outing there. The brasserie side of the restaurant showcases a long countertop bar with futuristic lamps where you can order a drink (or two) and chat about life with the very fun staff. If you do, order the Gougeres.
Where: 1080 Rue de Bleury (8-minute walk from Metro Place-des-Arts)
A few buildings north of Monarque, you’ll find Chifa, the latest Chinese-Peruvian fusion restaurant in the city. Not sure what that means? Think arroz chaufa, the Peruvian version of chow fan, the famous Cantonese fried rice.
The menu holds no more than a dozen items, so order the whole shebang and make sure to share.
Cocktail-wise, the list is solid. You can either pick a pisco-with-a-twist (leche de Hunan + matcha?) or order a good old dry martini. Both will be well executed.
Finally, I have to highlight the fantastic service at Chifa. With its emerald tiles and velvety barstools, this place is undoubtedly new and modern. But unlike other trendy spots, the "new" factor comes with a natural and humble vibe. Ask the staff about the menu, they’ll take the necessary time to walk you through every detail of it.
8. Le Petit Vibe
Where: 5536A Rue Côte-des-Neiges (3-minute walk from Metro Côte-des-Neiges)
Speaking of vibe, here’s a spot you must check out if you’re around Université de Montréal. It’s a Filipino x Hawaiian counter-service affair, with generous portions and excellent ROI in terms of quality-price.
Fried is what makes them popular: try the fried chicken with banana waffles & ube butter (weekends only), or chicken furikake.
Also, there's a new evening menu coming out next month, tapas-style, which I was told will showcase a modern take on Filipino cuisine.
Full disclaimer: my friend Ryan Oabel is in charge of the kitchen here, which obviously makes me biased. But a quick search on Google and Facebook will prove to you that I’m not lying. This place is legit and will feed you well.
9. The New Food Halls In Downtown Montreal
Time Out Market, Le Central, and Le Cathcart
Say you just finished a team meeting and you’re all starving. Only caveat: you can’t agree on what you want to eat. Then, head to one of three big food halls downtown and everyone’s belly will be content.
These halls are food courts on steroids, with all of Montreal’s top dishes on display. For instance, at Time Out Market, you get to pick between Le Club Chasse et Pêche’s famous mushroom tart and Le Red Tiger’s Phở Dip Bánh Mì (aka take a Banh Mi sandwich, and dip it in a savoury pho broth).
Not only that, the atmosphere at these food markets is on point. Conveniently accessible without ever leaving the Montreal underground, these new food halls have been quickly adopted by the young wildlife working in the nearby skyscrapers.
The walk from the office to wine o’clock has never been more direct: elevator to ground floor PVM 1, direction Eaton Centre.
10. Archway Bar Santé
Where: 3683 Rue Wellington (5-minute walk from Metro Lasalle)
For my vegan friends in search of new headquarters, make sure to check out Archway. It opened right before Christmas and despite my fully asserted meat lover self, I’ve eaten there at least once a week already!
I first went in for a brunch, admittedly slightly skeptical, but then completely proven wrong by a fantastic vegetable chilli filled with tempeh and a kick of heat.
My friend ordered the morning burrito with aioli that gave me serious midnight cravings more than once. The space is clean, with tons of natural light coming through the floor-to-ceiling window storefront.
With a few natural wines available, Archway works great for a casual dinner, lunch break, or brunch destination. It's also family-friendly.
Where: 3900 Rue Éthel (6-minute walk from Metro de l’Église)
If you live by the #VerdunLove mantra, Beba is another gem for you. Intimate, painted in navy blue and with a room that holds no more than 30, Beba is a lively experience and perfect for your next date night.
Sit at the bar that ends at and enters the open kitchen and order one of the sulphite-free wines available at your fingertips. The menu changes according to seasons but always echoes the owners’ Argentinian childhood memories.
Empanadas appear to be a constant on the menu (with changing fillings), but if you’re lucky, you may get to taste the cider-infused clams on a bed of pork shoulder chops.
Make sure to RSVP a few days ahead, this place is always completely booked.
12. Le Diplomate
Where: 129 rue Beaubien O. (14-minute walk from Metro Beaubien)
By now, you’ve probably noticed that my favourite spots in a restaurant are the stools at the bar. If the seating allows a view of the kitchen, that’s definitely a bonus point in my book.
So please allow me to introduce you to the king of bar-on-open-kitchen: Le Diplomate. Quirkily located right across from a massive Home Depot, the restaurant is made of a single long wooden bar.
Behind it, you’ll find the staff chopping and grilling your dishes right under your eyes. They’re so close, you can ask them anything (but that also means that they can hear whatever rubbish thing you’ll tell your partner, so just be aware).
If you want something funky, order the beet gnocchi. They will blow your mind. Ah, and do ask for the staff’s opinion about the wines.
They have quite an exhaustive list of natural wines to choose from, and you’d be silly to not let them point you to the best pairings for your evening.
P.S.: There is a table in the far back if you're a group or absolutely don't want to talk to the fabulous staff.
Where: 6604 Rue Saint-Hubert (5-minute from Metro Beaubien)
Last but not least, La Conserva apparently has mouth-watering sandwiches one must eat in 2020. I have yet to try them myself, but an old friend of mine swears by their smoked meat sandwich.
Tucked behind a mountain of the city’s orange cones, La Conserva is actually a small grocery store started by two ex-Hoogan & Beaufort employees who were looking for a better way to balance their love for food and a normal life schedule.
The space is big and sober, with an emphasis on the quality of produce on display. At the front of the store, four small chairs for your midday snack.
And that’s a wrap for my 2020 must-try list, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it :) @mtlfoodsnob on Instagram.