Sometimes you just need to save money in a little envelope, pack the car, drive seven hours to the best food city in Canada, and eat until you no longer fit into your clothes. If you like to eat, chances are… you’re going to like this post.
Montreal has more to offer than just poutine and bagels, two things for which it is most well known. The city itself, is likely one of the cutest places you’ll ever visit. The streets of Old Montreal will take you back in time or make you feel like your lost, wandering the streets of Europe. If you find Hotel Nelligan and make your way to the fifth floor where their rooftop patio bar is, you’ll definitely get a feel for the European culture and lifestyle that surrounds you. People slipping into little late night restaurants and bars feeling the buzz of their evening drinks wearing off, ready to consume more. Imagine sitting with the love of your life, cocktail in hand, around ten at night… overlooking the cobblestone city streets of Old Montreal that are lined with some of most beautiful buildings you have ever seen. This was a total travel folly for us. We would have never stumbled upon this gem had some locals not told us about it over dinner. Dinner… this brings me to my next point, food being the point of our whole trip and the reason my bra is a little tighter these days.
Let’s just start with Le Garde Manger. I feel that this is a good place to begin, even though this isn’t the first place we ate during our Gastro-Getaway in Montreal. Nestled away on a little side street in a very old building with one window, one door, and absolutely zero signage was one of the most incredible little restaurants either of us have ever eaten at. We called a couple of months in advance for reservations and all they had left for us was a spot at the bar in the back of the restaurant. As it turns out, there is no where else we would have wanted to sit. We loved watching the servers shuck oysters and put together the seafood platters, chat with them the entire time (which is how we found out about Hotel Nelligan), make friends with the chatty regular sitting next to us (who gave us a list of his favourite restaurants on the back of his bank statement), and really just take in the full experience of the food, wine, general atmosphere and impeccable service. We started with our very own seafood platter, which was filled with smoked trout, oysters, a white fish and caviar, a half lobster, and some shrimp. We knew after one bite that the rest of the meal was going to blow our minds, which it did. We then shared two more appetizers, the albacore tuna being one of the best bites we had all trip. It was so good we ordered one as our ‘dessert’ at the end. As our entree, we shared halibut, which was also incredible but I’ll be honest… the albacore tuna appetizer stole the show. Even the free bread and butter melted in your mouth, touching each and everyone one of your tastebuds in the most divine way possible. Okay, that sentence was weird but I felt passionate about the bread and butter so I am not deleting it. If you’re in Montreal, you absolutely must pop into Le Garde Manger for a meal, you will not regret it. In fact, you’ll probably find me and thank me.
Okay… so I know that breakfast doesn’t come after dinner but I need to explain something important to you now before you make the same wonderful mistake we did. On our first morning in Montreal, we decided to go out for a nice brunch-style breakfast. We did what most travellers do, jumped onto trusty Google and searched “best breakfast in Montreal”, which took us to a place called Restaurant L’Avenue. I then checked out Instagram and it looked pretty cool and close to where we were staying so we decided to go. Best or worst decision we have ever made? We still aren’t sure. We waited outside in a line for about ten minutes (keep in mind this is a Tuesday morning and also, have you ever waited in a line for breakfast before? because I haven’t). Google wasn’t lying when it told us this was the best breakfast in Montreal. This place was bumpin’ but the service didn’t lack whatsoever. We got our food in a timely manner, the portion sizes were jaw droppingly huge (yes I think I made that word up), and the food was totally drool worthy. I had the Huevos Rancheros and Adam had the Duck Confit Eggs Benedict. I definitely couldn’t finish my meal. Nope, not a chance. I don’t usually leave food on my plate either. Here is why we aren’t sure if finding this restaurant was a mistake or not… we couldn’t eat anything else for almost the entire day until dinner. We had all these life plans… grabbing Montreal smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz’s, snacking on a mid-day poutine… and then they just couldn’t really happen due to the breakfasts that weighed us down all day. I would definitely say you can’t miss this breakfast place but if you go, you must go early in order to save room for lunch. Also, check out their washrooms. This may sound like a weird thing that you have to do in a restaurant but trust me, you’ll understand when you get there.
Okay, so where to next? Imadake? Okay, fine. If you like Japanese food then you can’t miss this hip, busy, and loud Japanese restaraunt. A couple of years ago I stumbled upon Imadake through some locals when I was visiting and I knew I would be back. I didn’t know that taking Adam here would lead to him falling completely in love with the oyster mushrooms and ponzu, to the point that all he talks about is trying to recreate the dish at home. By the way, it was so good we ended up going back for lunch another day (a day we didn’t eat a heavy L’Avenue breakfast). Lunch was equally as impressive, especially with the ‘lunch special’ salad that came with our ramen. It was impressive for one of those classic ‘lunch special’ salads that just automatically come with your order. If you go to Imadake, which you should, the Atwater Cocktail Club is about a ten minute walk down the street, if you can find it that is. Our server at Imadake told us about it so we ventured down the street and walked right past it. What do you know? Another hidden, unsigned establishment. It’s like these places don’t want your business or something. I guess the mystery adds to the experience. The Atwater Cocktail Club is down a dark little alleyway filled with garbage cans. Their door is a big brown industrial door with some graffiti on it. If you’re into hip hop music and cool cocktails in a dark little bar then you’ve found your oasis. Conveniently located beside the Atwater Cocktail Club is our next restaurant of discussion, a little diner-style, trendy place called Foiegwa. Keep on reading…
Have you ever gone out for dinner and ordered a second entree? Like, I mean… have you ever had two appetizers, a couple of glasses of wine, your entree, and then had a bite of your partners entree and decided you couldn’t leave without having all of it to yourself? I can officially say that I have successfully done this, all in the name of pasta. So I kind of feel like fate brought us to Foiegwa on our last night in Montreal. We left Thursday night (our last night) open to suggestions for dinner. We ended up booking two reservations at other restaurants and then cancelling them because we couldn’t make up our minds. We then tried to get into a third restaurant but it was fully booked so we couldn’t. This brings us to Foiegwa, which was recommended by our server at Imadake as well as Adam’s foodie friend from back home. We managed to snag a last minute reservation, which ultimately changed our lives forever. Adam decided his official ‘best bite in Montreal’ award went to the $4.75 Chicken Liver Pate. I decided the best bite went to the spaghetti, which makes sense since I ordered it as my second entree. I am going to post a photo of the dish and recommend you check out their menu on their website so I don’t have to go into detail because I am a) lazy… and b) tempted to buy a one-way plane ticket to Montreal to live off of spaghetti for the rest of my life. I can’t even believe Adam let me have a bite of his spaghetti… if I had ordered it as my original entree, I likely wouldn’t have been willing to share with him and I love him a lot, like a lot a lot. In the end, Adam had a good way to describe Foiegwa. Foiegwa doesn’t realize how good they are yet. They’re not pretentious, they’re not hard to get a table at, and they’re not overly expensive. They’re just a chill restaurant doing some really cool things in their kitchen and giving their guests of all income brackets an unforgettable dining experience.
I think for the most part that summarizes the important details of our trip in regards to food, which is the point of this whole blog anyways. The only tips I have for travellers are to use Airbnb, try to stay in the Mont-Royal/Plateau neighbourhood, eat at all of the above restaurants, do not waste your time at Joe Beef (ew), hangout in Old Montreal, and get a subway pass for the time that you are there. Airbnb allowed us to stay in a cool area and have everything we could have ever needed, including a full kitchen, washing machine/dryer, and a little balcony to sit outside and drink wine on at night (also significantly cheaper than a hotel). The subway system can get you anywhere in a matter of seconds and is very easy to use. A three day pass was $18.00, which was totally worth it. Uber was also awesome for getting rides to and from restaurants at night when we were dressed up and didn’t feel like taking the subway. There is a ton of exploring to be done within the city so be prepared to walk a lot, eat a lot, and take a lot of photos.
Oh, and don’t forget to pack your stretchy pants and a muumuu.
See below for more photos…