Meals and food are an important element of life in Montréal and dining is looked at as a social pastime and art form. Not that long ago, most Montréal and Québec City restaurants served only French food. The immigrants coming to the city slowly influenced the cuisine and there is now a vast array of food options from diners to low-cost ethnic restaurants to haute cuisine. Today, Montréal is a culinary hotspot within Canada with over 5,000 restos (colloquial term for restaurants), and a global foodie destination.
Many Montréal restaurants offer apportez votre vin (bring your own wine) which allows for customers save money. You may be able to bring in other forms of alcohol as well. Specialities like poutine are lusted after by locals and newcomers. Separate bills (l'addition or facture) are common and you may be asked "Ensemble ou séparément?" (together or separately).
Tap water is safe to drink and is usually offered at restaurants without asking. If you prefer, bottled water is cheap and plentiful.
Alcohol is widely accepted and it is drunk regularly in the home and when dining. Bars are a frequent meeting place for friends, colleagues and family. Alcohol is heavily taxed, especially imported varieties. SAQ (government liquor store) and dépanneur (convenience store) offer alcohol for purchase.
The legal drinking age is 18 years old in Montréal and Québec (legal drinking age is 19 for most of Canada). Bars and clubs will ask for ID. However, if alcohol is to be consumed with a meal or while the teenager is with their parents, the laws are more generous. Consumption in public places may result in a small fine. In addition, drunk driving can result in imprisonment and heavy fines. The legal limit is .08.
Beer - There are many regional breweries to choose from. Molson is a Montréal powerhouse. Smaller breweries include Belle Gueule and Boréal. Look for "bieres en fut" for "beers on draft". The Beer Advocate offers guide and reviews of local breweries.
Wine - Wine is drunk everywhere, but it is not produced in significant quantities in Canada due to the inhospitable climate. Local options include wines from the Cantons-de-l'Est region. Sweet "ice wines" and "ice ciders" are enjoyed after the first frost.
Montréal has three main strips for bar-hopping.
Rue Crescent - Located in the western part of downtown Montréal, this area caters mostly to Anglophones and tends to be trendy and expensive.
Boulevard Saint-Laurent - This area is full of students and a variety of bar atmospheres. Between rue Sherbrooke and avenue des Pins bars cater to a Francophone clientele. Farther up St-Laurent things are generally downscale and linguistically mixed.
Rue Saint-Denis - Between rue Sherbrooke and de Maisonneuve there is a strong Francophone feel. Moving away from the strip, things are less crowded.
5-à-7 (also known as happy hour) is one of the best times to hit the bar in Montréal. Generally it starts at 17:00, but many run much later than 19:00. Popular with the after-work crowd, there are usually significant food and drink specials. These specials may be aimed at a foodie crowd, beer-and-wings group, or even vernissage (art opening).
Montréal is a food lovers paradise. From the quintessential Canadian classics, to Montréal exclusives, to the growing field of international cuisine - Montréal has it all. The largest concentration of restaurants is along boul Saint-Laurent, rue Saint-Denis and ave du Mont-Royal in the Plateau. If you just need a cheap bite, try Jean-Talon market for a ethnic food options like an Indian buffet.
For the Québécois, an entrée is an appetizer, dîner (dinner) is the noon meal, and souper (supper) is the evening meal. Fancier places may offer a complementary pre-appetizer nibble called an amuse bouche.
Table d'hôte meals are fixed-price menus between three to four courses. These meals offer the ability to eat at even the best restaurants for an affordable price. Table d'hôte meals are often offered at lunch.
Canada's food specialties commonly include native ingredients like caribou, mussels, salmon, maple syrup, and root vegetables. Montréal's European influence merges with these homegrown elements to make truly unique dishes.
Vegetarian food isn't difficult to find as most restaurants have a vegetarian offering, and there are many places dedicated to vegetarian fare. As usual, vegan food is harder to find, but far from impossible. Ask nicely about your options as Canadians usually try to be accommodating. The sites, veganMontréal.com or vegemontreal.org, is a helpful resource to finding an acceptable option.
Address: 4050 avenue Coloniale, Montréal, QC, H2W 2C1
Tel: (514) 842-1232
Price: $10 for a main dish, a drink and a dessert
Within the Plateau neighborhood, this vintage grocery-café-boutique offers beauty products, pastries, and meals made from edible flowers.
Address: 1720 St-Denis Street, Montréal, QC
Tel: (514) 845-2627
A chain of self-serve vegetarian buffets that offers pay-by-weight system. Great for people who prefer to sample lots of different things instead of one big serving.
Address: 1748 Notre-Dame St West, Montréal, QC H3J 1M3
Tel: (514) 931-4136
This organic, primarily vegan restaurant provides Canadian-style cuisine of salads, burgers and more.
Address: 2055 rue Bishop, Montréal Québec H4A 2J2
Tel: 514 - 286 - 2776
Delicious, organic burritos with homemade salsa. Most ingredients are organic and the restaurant even has on-site composting. Local musicians perform in the evening.
Montréal has a strong kosher community and there are many options throughout the city. Look for specialties like smoked meat sandwiches (beef brisket) and small bagels. The best areas are around the Queen Mary road Snowdon Métro station, around Décarie near Villa-Maria-des-Neiges in Côte-des-Neiges, and around Bernard in Outremont.
The standard tip for acceptable restaurant service is 15% and is usually not included. 20% should be given for excelent service.
The city has a vibrant café culture and quality coffee blends.
The city of Montréal is unusual in that it has not permitted street food carts since 1947. Unlike other cities that offer fast street food, there are many small "greasy spoon" type (casse-croute) restaurants. Hot dogs, fresh-cut fries (patates frites, poutine, hamburgers, falafel, pogos (corn dogs), pizza, hamburger steaks, and Greek dishes (souvlaki and gyro) are all common. There are, of course, also international fast food stores such as Burger King, KFC, etc.
Montréal claims to have the most restaurants per capita in North America.
Address: 3927 Rue Saint-Denis
Tel: (514) 845-5333
This no-frills bistro is the perfect place to sample Montréal's French cuisine. A favorite of locals and tourists, try the steak tartare, pot au feu, or one of the rotating specials.
Au Pied de Cochon
Address: 536 Rue Duluth
This over the top restaurant take dishes like poutine to the next level by topping it with foie gras. Other colorful dishes include "Duck in a Can", and a "melting pot" of pork goodness. Here, pork is king.
Address: 60 Jean-Talon Est
Price: $35 prix fixe menu
The chef/owners act as maitre d', waiter, bartender, and cook at this bar-like open kitchen. Most meals are composed of ingredients from the nearby Marche Jean Talon. Specials change regularly.
Address: 5357 ave. du Parc
This restaurant has been serving modern Greek cuisine for over 30 years. Fresh ingredients and elegant entrees make it a destination.
Address: 2491 Notre Dame West
Tel: (514) 935-6504
This tiny restaurant serves old Montréal restaurant classics in the heart of Little Burgundy. Specializes in steaks and seafood.
Queue de Cheval
Address: 1234 Rue de la Montagne
Tel: (514) 390-0091
Meals at Queue de Cheval are extravagant in price and taste. Popular among the business set, reservations are a must....as well as a big wallet.
Address: 115 Rue Rachel Est
Tel: (514) 849-1803
Some of the best rotisserie chicken can be found here. Paired with grilled potatoes this makes for a basic, delightful meal. It is also known for its BBQ chicken.
Address: 298 Place d'Youville
Tel: (514) 282-1837
Price: $25+ up per entree
Located in Old Montréal, this place is legendary. Provides classics like rib steak (Gibby's cut), Onion soup, clam chowder, rib eye steaks, etc.
Address: 4075, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest
Tel: 514.70 78744
One of the few notable sushi restaurants in Montréal. Excellent service, fresh fish, and a view of St. Catherine.