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Maple Leaves and Fleur-de-Lys
Montreal has long been on my must-visit list. A metropolitan mix of Canada and France, the Quebec destination delivers an endless array of food, drink, history, and arts for visitors of every age and interest. A climb to the top of Mont-Royal offers a full city view for those willing to make the trek while local neighborhoods like the Quartier des Spectacles and the Village feature all the nightlife and entertainment you’ll need while visiting this beautiful city.
Who knew that a cash-only bagel joint could be so popular? Ask the locals, and they’ll all agree that St-Viateur is the way to go. Even with multiple locations throughout the city, the cafes are busy all day long. Salads and soups complement the main attraction, and the bagels – simple with a schmear or piled high with meat, cheeses, and vegetables – are available dine-in or take-away. Perfect for embarking on a day of sightseeing.
994 Rue Rachel East
Poutine is the name of the game in Montreal, of course, and La Banquise delivers on every poutine combination you can imagine. Highlighted by Anthony Bourdain during one of his many visits to Montreal, the wait at this 24-hour destination can be an hour-plus, particularly during standard meal times, but it’s well worth it. The staff is friendly and efficient, the prices are reasonable, and the patrons – a steady mix of college students and visitors – keep the atmosphere lively.
The extensive menu at the Deville Dinerbar blew my mind when I stopped in for dinner upon recommendation. At the downtown (Centre-ville) spot, you’ll find all of your favorite diner dishes, including burgers and milkshakes, elevated with unique ingredients. A play on the classics! The flavors are spot-on, from Kentucky fried steak to paella, and the service is just as comforting. Get your order in early for a fresh plate of house-made beignets. They’re well worth the wait!
2501 Notre-Dame St West
Liverpool House is the hip and happening sister restaurant to the famous Joe Beef, where reservations can be scarce even months in advance. Easier to reserve, the atmosphere is relaxed but still on the nose with both service and food. A hefty wine list is scribbled out on chalkboards above tables, and bits of seaside charm hangs from the walls and ceiling. While the menu provides a shortlist of meats, seafood, and pasta, it’s the lobster spaghetti that pulls in most patrons.
Atwater Cocktail Club
512 Atwater Ave
Recognized in 2019 by the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards as one of the Top 10 Best Cocktail Bars in the Americas, you’ll probably have to ask someone on the street to help you find the front door to this hidden gem. Tucked away in an alley, the Atwater Cocktail Club has a secretive, speakeasy vibe that keeps it packed and humming into the late hours. Soft banquettes and small tables line the walls of this compact bar, accented by the bar’s signature green and gold. The cocktails are fantastic with a small menu available from next door’s Foiegwa, another Montreal favorite.
Marches Jean-Talon and Atwater
These two markets are in different spots in the city, but both worthy of the expedition. Each holds a bevy of goods, from plants to produce, surrounded by food vendors and mom & pop shops, but each has its own charm. Marche Jean-Talon is a straight shot walk from left to right with a vast expanse of fresh vendors spanning out from the entryway. There’s a large booth full of handmade soaps and cheese available for souvenir gifts, and Les Jardins Sauvages, just a few stalls over, features an exquisite array of locally-foraged mushrooms and spices. Be sure to stop by the small bookshop before you depart to pick up a cookbook or two from local authors.
Marche Atwater is located near the Lachine Canal, and has more of a mall-type feel, with shops along the outside of the building and throughout the inside hall – great for inclement weather. The Fromagerie Atwater is a must while you’re there, featuring a dizzying selection of over 850 different kinds of cheeses, along with a full load of meats and imbiberies. You can pick up a few bites as you meander through the marche – or visit one of the food booths located to the right of the entrance.
More Montreal tips…
1. Though centered in French culture, you’ll find that most locals are bilingual and happy to speak with you in either English or French. Many will greet you with both – “Bonjour, hello!” However, this isn’t always the case, so make sure you have enough French to get by.
2. The Montreal Metro is a great way to get around the expansive city. The subway lines are easy to navigate and will deliver you your destination at a far more reasonable price than a standard taxi.
3. Even if you’re not a church person, the Notre-Dame Basilica is stunning to behold. Hop on the metro, take a quick tour, and spend some time wandering through the brick-lined streets of Old Montreal.
4. If you have extra space in your schedule, I recommend grabbing a train up to Quebec City to explore the old village feel of the province’s capital. While not quite as big as Montreal, you can comfortably explore much of the city through a day trip – and the train station is so well located that walking is the preferred mode of transport.
Photo credit: Jennifer Matthewson / Daily Blender