Urban Landscape

Montreal is a city that loves and respects food. We demand that it be fresh and well-prepared. Fortunately it's not a problem. Individuals and professional chefs alike have access to exceptional farmers' markets (such as Jean-Talon and Atwater) and a multiplicity of ethnic specialty stores, including stores on The Main—the fabled Boulevard St-Laurent—which bisects the city between East and West. Barry Lazar's Taste of Montreal: Tracking Down the Foods of the World is an eclectic annotated guide to over 200 Montreal shops and restaurants. A 'must-have' for food lovers.

Montreal has thousands of restaurants with new ones opening every day. The 2006 edition of Cheap Thrills Montreal: Great Montreal Meals for Under $15 by Nancy Marrelli & Simon Dardick features independent reviews that introduce us to Montreal's world of superb budget dining. Sarah Musgrave’s 2007 edition of Montreal Resto à Go-Go: 200 Cheap and Fun Places to Eat and Drink in Montreal
was published recently. A sampling of the reviews appear below.

Cheap Thrills Montreal: Great Montreal Meals for Under $15
New and Revised 5th Edition

Cheap Thrills
Montreal is one of those rare North American cities where you can eat out inexpensively without compromising taste or quality. We are fortunate to be able to share food cultures from around the world, and we have access to a staggering array of different kinds of foods. Here is a selection of wonderful restaurants where you can get a full, tasty and satisfying meal in the evening for under $15 (before taxes, tip, and wine).

Excerpted from: Cheap Thrills Montreal: Great Montreal Meals for Under $15 by Nancy Marrelli & Simon Dardick

More Cheap Thrills & Updates from Montréal, New York and Toronto can be found at www.cheapthrillsguides.com.

Café International
6714 St-Laurent (near St-Zotique)
Métro: Beaubien, then 18 bus; or 55 bus (St-Laurent)
Phone: 514.495.0067
Hours: 7am-3am daily; kitchen closes at midnight
Credit Cards: V, MC, Amex, Interac; Alcohol: all
Wheelchair access: entrance (one step); restroom no

Average daily special: $14

This authentic café in Little Italy serves great food, excellent coffee and it offers just the right atmosphere!

Bocconcini and tomato, and calamari fritti or grilled appetizers are terrific for grazing. Panini include tuna, chicken, prosciutto, and grilled house sausage. Pizzas are justly popular. Daily specials include pastas, meat, fish, and always a risotto. The kitchen prepares fresh pasta every day, ricotta cavatelli is a specialty. Food is fresh and good. Salads are impeccably fresh! Coffee is the specialty of the house and it’s freshly ground and expertly prepared using an extraordinarily fine house blend. The kitchen is now open until midnight.

Café International (opened 1968) was bought in 2001 by Edmondo Arcaro. Son Marco (Cordon Bleu-Ottawa) is the chef and son Michael is the manager. Unlike other coffee bars in the area, food is now front and centre, not an afterthought. You can stand for a quick coffee at the long counter, European- style, but tables and chairs are also available for eating and idling. Front windows slide open in summer. A big TV screen documents the sports scene for those interested. You could spend the whole day here, beginning with coffee and a news-paper in the morning, later meeting with family, friends, or lovers. Young and old, strangers and regulars, all feel comfort-able here, enjoying the atmosphere, wonderful food, and the fabulous coffee. One of the great pleasures of a Montreal summer evening is sitting at crowded outside tables late into the night, eating, sipping, viewing, and being part of the vibrant passing street scene of Little Italy. Café International is a convivial Italian-style café!

From: Cheap Thrills Montreal: Great Montreal Meals for Under $15 (2006 Edition). © Nancy Marrelli & Simon Dardick

Caraibe Delite
4816 Ave. du Parc
(near Villeneuve)
Bus: 80 (Parc)
Phone: 514.274.4509
Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-9pm; Sat noon-9pm; Sun 4pm-9pm
Credit cards: no; Alcohol: no
Wheelchair access: entrance, yes; restroom, no

Roti: $8.50; average main course: $10 (prices include tax.)

Caraibe Delite serves Guyanese and Caribbean specialties on Park Avenue.

Guyana’s history and geography contribute to the rich food traditions of this small northern South American country. It was a Dutch and later a British colony, and black African slaves and indentured Indian labourers were brought in to work the sugar plantations. Despite its location as part of South America, strong ties developed to the Caribbean, and the population is English-speaking, of East Indian, Black, native Indian, and Chinese origin. Rice is a main crop and is an important part of the diet. Curries, roti, seafood, and Creole influences are all part of the cuisine. Everything is made fresh in-house, includ-ing Rita’s absolutely stupendous hot sauce. It adds special flavour as well as your choice of spice level to anything on the menu. This hot sauce is worth a trip across town—or even further if you must. Roti and curries are fabulous and are avail-able with shrimp, goat, chicken, or tropical fish. The jerk chicken is outstanding, as are the addictive potato balls. Goat chow mein is uniquely Guyanese!

Bo and Rita Singh opened Jardin du Cari in 1997 introducing Rita’s dazzling hot sauce to many adoring customers. They left the St-Viateur eatery and headed for Ontario in 2001, but they have recently come back to what they consider “home,” opening this new place in February 2005. The space is simple, uncluttered, comfortable. The appetizing smells wafting from the kitchen are all the decoration one needs. Caraibe Delite’s cooking is a wonderful blend of all the diverse influences of Guyana. And of course, we can all rejoice that Rita’s hot sauce is back in town!

From: Cheap Thrills Montreal: Great Montreal Meals for Under $15 (2006 Edition)Nancy Marrelli & Simon Dardick

Resto à Go-Go
Montreal Resto à Go-Go—2007 Edition
200 Cheap and Fun Places to Eat and Drink

The 2007 edition of Montreal Resto à Go-Go is a comprehensive guide to Montreal’s most exciting and affordable food and drink. Opinionated and passionate, Montreal Gazette Casual Dining critic Sarah Musgrave, recommends well-known and undiscovered treasures: from classic diners, brew pubs, and vegetarian cafés to late night eats, French bistros, and Montreal’s intriguing variety of ethnic restaurants. Over 150 restaurants under $20; more than 40 great Montreal bars which serve good food; and an Urge to Splurge section, when you want to spend more

Excerpted from: Montreal Resto à Go-Go—2007 Edition by Sarah Musgrave

Halal 786
768 Jean-Talon W.
(near Champagneur)
Metro: Parc
Hours: Daily 11:30am–11:30pm
Alcohol: No
Credit cards: All major cards
Wheelchair access: No
Vegetarian friendly: Yes

Lahore on the second floor.

On the walls, sailing ships struggling through a choppy sea. Around the room, masts, rigging and fishing nets strung with shells, promising the catch of the day from the Aegean Sea. But this isn’t Greece anymore. Like a missing chapter in the Odyssey, our hero awakens to find he’s at Halal 786, a second-floor Pakistani restaurant that now occupies this Park Ex address.

Order a drink of mango lassi and sip it slowly while taking a look at the BBQ section of the menu, named more for the marinades than the method of cooking. Lahori chargha is a whole roasted chicken ($13) rubbed with yogurt, chilies, salt and lemon and dusted with spices for a dry, nutty taste. A whole brick-red tilapia, aka Lahori fry fish, releases earthy flavours strangely suited to a marine creature. Dark and dense, it’s not for fans of flaky, light fish.

Veggie selections ($4–$6) are fresh and well proportioned. Moist, bright teenda masala is made with baby pumpkins while sarsoon ka saag sees mustard greens cooked down with long red chilies, imparting an astringent, coppery taste. More trad offerings like butter chicken and biryani are listed as well, but the preparations named for Lahore, Pakistan’s capital city, are the most alluring.

From: Montreal Resto à Go-Go (2007 Edition)Sarah Musgrave

407 McGill
(near St-Paul)
Metro: Square-Victoria

Hours: Mon-Wed 11:30am-11pm; Thurs & Fri 11:30am-midnight; Sat–Sun 5:30pm–midnight
Alcohol: Yes
Credit cards: All major cards
Wheelchair access: Several steps
Vegetarian friendly: Limited

Hustling, bustling brasserie.

Holder is easy to recommend to out-of-towners and locals looking for a night out that’s “très Montréal.” The determinedly masculine bistro, set against high ceilings and a massive dark wood bar, is run by the eponymous Holder brothers, previously the force behind some of the city’s hottest nightspots. During the day, it hosts businesses lunches, movie stars on shoots in the area and a few well-heeled tourists. At sunset, it’s a buzz of chatter and clatter as the firms with offices in the area let out.

Against this corporate yet casual vibe, Holder’s menu of French food is suited to the upscale tavern setting, although a good chunk of the wine list is reasonably priced. Diners can expect the expected to be prepared and presented with poise by two-toned waiters. Divinely spiced beef tartare and salmon tartare ($9.50 or $17.50) can be had as apps or mains. Most dishes are around $20. The well-handled hanger steak or mussels in pastis sauce both come with excellent frites. If other regular menu items like rich bourguignon-style beef cheek or fish and chips don’t capture your fancy, turn to the daily specials, as they veer from classic into more creative territory. For dessert, crèmes brûlée is expanded from a single bestseller into a trilogy of vanilla, orange and coffee.

From: Montreal Resto à Go-Go (2007 Edition)Sarah Musgrave

Ten of
Montreal's Best Food Finds
by Barry Lazar

Barry Lazar's Taste of Montreal
When it comes to food, Barry Lazar is Montreal's Lewis without the Clark. Our Champlain; our Lasalle. An intrepid adventurer of all things culinary. For decades he has introduced us to the foods and cultures of the world he has found in the neighbourhoods and strip malls of Montreal. If it is a spice, flavouring, or food we are not familiar with, he describes what it tastes like, how it is used or eaten and its origins. More importantly he tells us where to find it.

For a number of years Barry Lazar has written on food for the Montreal Gazette. His most recent column was called "Taste of the World." He is a regular contributor, as the "Flavourguy," for the popular montrealfood.com. When he is not writing about food or teaching public affairs journalism at Concordia University, Barry Lazar makes films with Garry Beitel.

The following is an excerpt from Barry Lazar's Taste of Montreal published by Véhicule Press.

Ten of the Best

To start with, here is a highly personal list of ten great "tastes of Montreal" which make eating in this town an on-going feast.

Beans at La Binerie

This snack bar hasn't changed in decades. Traditional Qué-becois staples such as tourtière, gras-de-rotis (jellied pork roast drippings...mmm) and fèves au lard fill the menu. The beans are baked for a long time, and sold by the pint or quart to take home. The breakfasts are hearty, cheap and filling. Great before a wintry walk down rue Saint-Denis.


Coffee (as in Tim Horton's) is what you use when you need something to wash down a doughnut. But for purists there is only Italian espresso--rich and delectable, with a layer of foam called crema. Bets are off for the best in the city but here are three standouts, all with their own discerning clientele: Olympico (aka Open da Night) in Mile End, Café Italia in the heart of Little Italy, and in the north end of town, Café Guildone, which is more popularly known as the Restaurant Without a Name or Restaurant Sans Nom.

Papas rellenas at La Peregrina

This Latino grocery store has a lunch counter wedged into the back and cooks a variety of South American goodies every day. Papas rellenas is one of their best: cook a potato, mash it and then form it into a ball. Stuff this with hard-boiled egg and ground meat and then deep fry it. This is a common snack in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, where it may be stuffed with cheese. Reheats well in the microwave or toaster oven.

Smoked-meat hotdogs

Take great smoked meat and stuff it into casings. Knocks an ordinary hotdog out of the ball park. Get these locally made beauties at Quebec Smoked Meat in Pointe St-Charles.

Licorice at Euro-Plus

This small, bustling West Island café has a superb selection of imported Dutch products. Licorice is a favourite treat in the Netherlands and the selection here is stunning.

Pizza at Roma in Little Italy

Buy it by the slab and take it home. A large variety of vegetarian toppings such as eggplant and zucchini make Boulangerie Roma a Little Italy favourite. Also great home-made gelati for dessert.

Sausage subs at Momesso

Fresh Italian sausage seared on the griddle, stuffed into a sub roll with lettuce and tomato. Add a drizzle of hot sauce. Heaven on a bun.

Chinese barbecue at Sun Sing Lung, in Chinatown

This is a small shop with a friendly, knowledgeable staff. There is usually a whole hog roasting in the back and another being carved in the front window.

Barry Fleischer's home-made spruce beer

This was once a common drink in corner stores. Now there is only one place that makes spruce beer and serves it fresh--Restaurant Émilie Bertrand on Notre-Dame Street. The recipe is secret. The taste is piney but much more subtle than the commercial bottled varieties. Goes great with an all-dressed steamie.

Quebec "ice wine"

It is similar to ice wine, but this is a vinophile's apple cider with a wonderful syrupy kick. Serve very chilled as an apéritif. Here is a world-class drink that is only just getting the attention it deserves. Similarly, Michel Jodoin's 82 proof Granny Smith-based "Pom de vie" is as worthy an end-of-the-meal digestif as a fine Italian grappa. The SAQ outlet in the Atwater Market has a large selection. Ice ciders are also sold in speciality shops such as Le Marché des saveurs du Québec at the Jean-Talon Market.

From: Taste of Montreal
© Barry Lazar

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