Montreal has an amazing food scene, but make sure to explore beyond the trendy and fancy restaurants to really get a taste of Quebecois food culture
Appetite for Books
A cookbook collection is an enviable pursuit, and Appetite for Books is here to help you curate your own lust-worthy collection. Running your hands along the spins, reading the titles at Appetite for Books, you’re instantly aware of the intention that has gone into selecting each book. The bookstore is owned by Chef Jonathan Cheung, and he’s zeroed in on the best books and curtailed the fluff. It’s a treasure trove of the classics, the current trends, and a sprinkling of the rare oh-my-gosh finds. When planning your trip, you’ll want to check the store’s calendar, making sure not to miss book signing, or a cooking night where the menu is crafted from favorite and new cookbooks.
Everyone says the same thing: come to Atwater for the meats, and go to Jean Talon for the cheeses. And it’s easy to see why, the butcher’s cases overflow at Atwater, although the selection is limited to mainly conventionally raised meats. Find the few purveyors offering cuts raised without antibiotics or hormones.
Pick up some pates, along with a few legs of duck confit (it’ll last forever, so might as well stock up) and indulge in some pastries from Premiere Moison. Their selection is bountifully vast, all baked without any preservatives.
In the summertime, the Atwater is ringed by fresh produce stalls, some showing up with only a flatbed truck full of that morning’s pickings.
Visit during the weekday, and share the market only with the butchers and the little old ladies drinking their tea. After 11 am on the weekends the market turns into a buzz, but isn’t that also a bit of fun?
For a caffeine fix with a bit of beatnik atmosphere, stop at Darlings right on the St. Laurent. It’s the perfect spot to rest your feet on some plush worn leather couches while catching up on emails or maybe finally starting that book you packed but haven’t yet once glanced at since arriving. Darling’s vibe is forested jungalow meets your eccentric great aunt; the one that traveled too much and filled her home with her wanderings. Velvet flora drapes shroud you from the cold while strands of ivy dangle next to neat rows of pink china cups.
Natural wines are my newest budding obsession, and I’m still figuring out the boozy world or orange, unfiltered, biodynamic wines. The SAC at Atwater makes it easy for beginners, featuring an entire section labeled as organic and natural wines. Follow @thebeaujoe on IG for tips on natural wines at SAC and don’t be afraid to buy a bottle or two to take back home!
You should go to Fletchers for many reasons; for their humble but still moving museum of Jewish culture, for the homemade gefilte, or for their insider scoop on all the food history of the community (Jewish food tours are scheduled daily). But really, I go to Fletchers because you can get an amazing bagel that was baked at St-Viateur that morning with a preserved lemon schmear for $4 and no waiting in line required. Fletchers is the perfect spot to taste a bite of true Montreal food without having to fight the tourists.
If you’re looking for a Montreal meat smoked sandwich, but don’t want to go full tourist at Schwartz’s deli (although debatably you should), then trek up a few blocks on St. Laurent to Hof Kelsten’s cafe. It’s trendy and pastel-filled, with a menu sparse and focused. Get the brisket, and a croissant, or maybe a couple, because you might otherwise regret it.
Épices de Cru
Jean Talon market is a delight to pursue. The market is nestled in Little Italy and is a trove of local produce, cheeses and speciality shops. Year round the market operates, but the summer months it explodes to the outdoors and pulses with raw freshness.
Make sure to visit the little spice shop, Épices de Cru located on the south side of the market. Épices de Cru’s owners have criss crossed the planet, in pursuit of spice. Stock up on classics, or venture out into unknown territories, you’ll find everything a spice cupboard could ever want in this shop, including many Quebecois specialties.
Go full hog and drive out of the city to find a sugar shack, where you’ll get to see the maple syrup making process while also filling your tummy with a smorgasbord of maple breakfasty delights. Sugar shacks are usually set in a sugar brush, aka a forest of maple trees. The sap is harvested, and then heated in a big vat until enough water evaporates for it to become syrupy. To celebrate the harvest, many sugar shacks offer a brunch complete with pitchers of maple syrup and maple taffy.