Of course, there are many things to try in Montreal, but these three are the must eats if you ever visit! They top several lists!
- Smoked Meat Sandwich
This post will go into details on what each one is, why you must try them and where to get them! I also cover vegan options if you prefer to do without meat.
If you haven’t heard of poutine, it is chips (or in North America, fries!) with brown gravy and cheese curds. There are many variations on this including vegan alternatives and the addition of extra ingredients such as chicken and peppers. It is popular in Quebecois culture, that’s the French-speaking part of Canada. There is no consensus on why it is called poutine, but one I quite like is that it came various French dialects meaning a bad stew or a mess.
You can find it at various outlets, including McDonald’s. The most famous of these is La Banquise, which started serving poutine in the 1970s. This is a tourist hot spot and there are almost always queues out the door. The queue moves fairly quickly, having said that. Portions are sizeable, but you can take the extras home if you can’t finish it. You will need to pay with cash, as the place does not accept card payments. Vegan options are available here!
There are other places which serve good poutine if you don’t fancy queueing. Of these, Poutineville is a chain that you can find all over Quebec. Check Eater Montreal for an up-to-date list of good poutine in Montreal.
Bagels were brought to North America by Jewish immigrants in Poland, where they originate. Montreal bagels are very different from New York-style ones, with the former being sweeter, chewier and always baked in a wood-fired oven. Because they are poached in honey-sweetened water and given an egg-wash, most Montreal bagels are not vegan. There is one place you can go to to get your vegan bagels, though! Beaubien Bagels have a range of vegan options, both filled and unfilled.
For traditional Montreal-style bagels, there are 2 well-known brands, St-Viateur and Fairmount Bagel. Both are named for the street in which the first shop was set up. There is debate on which bagels are better, and much like football teams in the UK, the one you ally with is usually passed down from family. As both bakeries use traditional methods of hand rolling, you can even say the best ones differ on a day-to-day basis. Both places are located in the Mile End area of Montreal, so you could try both and decide for yourself. The bagels are plain and meant to be bought and then taken away as there is no seating in the flagship bakeries. They accept cash only, so make sure you have some with you.
If for some reason you can’t make it to Mile End, it is possible to purchase both bagels from the shops. Having said that, I found St-Viateur easier to locate than Fairmount.
If you want filled bagels, St-Viateur has a few cafes in which they provide this. In addition, different places also serve bagels and they each have their own allegiances. Once again, Eater Montreal lists some places and which brand of bagels they use. I ended up buying Fairmount from the shops and sampling St-Viateur from Hinnawi Bros and I honestly can’t choose which I like more. Whichever place you go to, make sure you try a Montreal bagel.
Smoked Meat Sandwich
This is another thing that Jewish immigrants brought over to Montreal.
The smoked-meat sandwich contains kosher salted and cured beef which is then spiced, yellow mustard and served between two slices of rye. The flavour is similar to that of pastrami.
Schwartz’s Deli has made many top lists, so there may be a queue when you arrive. Celine Dion is one of the current co-owners of this well-established shop. It is yet another place which accepts cash only.
Main Deli, which is located across the road from Schwartz, is reportedly their main rival. Celine Dion used to frequent here until she co-owned Schwartz.
If you are vegan, head to all-vegan eaterie Go Antidote, for their Smoked Meat sandwich made from soy protein.
That’s all for this post! For a summary and useful travelling information of my Canadian holiday, please check my post on Montreal, Toronto and Niagara Falls.