Editor’s Note: Welcome to The Greats, a series on the restaurants that define their cities. Here now, a guide to the Montreal Greats.
Montreal is a world-class dining metropolis. A mix of influences from its French colonial past, the vast Canadian wilderness, Indigenous produce, and immigrant communities from the Caribbean to the Middle East and beyond merge to create one of the most unique food scenes in the world.
Renowned fine dining is on offer at a well-established haute Québécois cuisine icon. An innovative new guard is emerging as some spots move past Quebec’s meat-focused traditions to create stellar produce-focused menus. And while they’re definitely not fancy spots for multi-course meals, a guide to Montreal’s best restaurants wouldn’t be complete without places known for local specialties, such as poutine and Montreal-style bagels.
These beloved places are a key part of the city’s dining tapestry and include French fine-dining spots, solid steakhouses, a Syrian destination, and more. Read on for a guide to 19 restaurants that scream Montreal.
Bistro Nolah (Dollard-des-Ormeaux)
Bistro Nolah is a fantastic reason to head to Montreal’s western suburbs. It’s one of the few restaurants in town focusing on Cajun food and doubles as a slice of New Orleans. Chef Richard Taitt’s menu touches on many of Crescent City’s iconic dishes, such as saucy gumbo, well-spiced jambalaya, and blackened catfish. Cocktails are a highlight, with boozy Sazeracs and other classics on offer. Southern hospitality rounds out the warm and inviting experience.
Park Restaurant (Westmount)
This renowned fine-dining haunt in upscale Westmount takes full advantage of exquisite Canadian seafood. Chef (and the restaurant’s namesake) Antonio Park serves all kinds of nigiri, sashimi, maki, and more, mixing in some flourishes from his South American heritage, such as sauces including aji verde and chimichurri. It’s not all seafood, though: As the first Canadian chef to obtain a license to import and serve Kobe beef, Park has a way with meat, resulting in delicate beef tartare and more.
Ferreira Café (Downtown)
Montreal is home to a sizable Portuguese population, and this downtown dining star is a fine ambassador for that community’s cuisine. Ferreira Cafe’s menu is stacked with top-quality seafood, such as roasted sardines with a pepper coulis and the umami-loaded black cod crusted with porcini mushrooms and port sauce. Juicy rib eyes and other steak cuts are also served for those who prefer turf over surf. Bonus points for the private rooms, available for extra-special dinners or events.
Syrian fine-dining destination Damas continues to rule the city’s food scene. With mezzes such as fattouch salad and creamy hummus, plus mains centered around melt-in-your-mouth lamb with impeccably spiced sauces, chef and owner Fuad Alnirabie and his team usher Levantine cuisine to stunning new heights. Reservations are highly recommended, whether you sit in Damas’s plush dining room or grab a perch on its terrasse in leafy Outremont.
Maison Boulud (Downtown)
As one of several outposts in renowned chef Daniel Boulud’s vast empire, Maison Boulud occupies an exquisite space in Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Executive chef Romain Cagnat delivers a refined (mostly) French menu, with staples such as foie gras terrine and confit rabbit leg with olives, tomato, and potato mousseline, as well as a divine week
Chez Sophie (Griffintown)
This restaurant’s namesake chef, Sophie Tabet, cut her teeth at MICHELIN-starred restaurants such as L’Astrance in Paris and Dal Pascatore in Lombardy, Italy. A decade ago, she brought those best-in-class skills back to her hometown. This upscale neighborhood spot is the result of that. Expect French-leaning dishes that draw on Tabet’s impressive pedigree, some international twists, and plenty of nods to native Canadian products such as mushrooms and seafood.
Le Club Chasse et Pêche (Old Montreal)
Le Club Chasse et Pêche’s owners, Hubert Marsolais and Claude Pelletier, crafted a small kingdom consisting of several top Montreal restaurants, but this Old Montreal fine-dining spot is where it all began. The name translates to “the Hunting and Fishing Club” and gives a fairly clear idea of what to expect: The restaurant’s simple yet elegant dishes showcase main ingredients such as Gaspé char, guinea hen, and scallops, all served in a handsome space with just the right amount of log cabin-inspired decor.
Restaurant Toqué! (Quartier International)
Normand Laprise is one of the province’s most famed chefs, credited as an innovator who raised Québécois cuisine to new heights. His restaurant Toqué! is where much of this happened. Open since 1993, it’s still a seminal institution on the French-Canadian dining trail. Expect tasting and à la carte menus that spotlight fine meats, mushrooms, cheeses, and seasonal produce. Toqué! is a beloved special occasion restaurant, so consider splurging on the wine pairing option, too.
Joe Beef (Little Burgundy)
With a stamp of approval from the late great Anthony Bourdain, Joe Beef is arguably Montreal’s most internationally famous fine-dining restaurant—and it backs up that reputation with serious gastronomic chops. Co-owner Frédéric Morin delivers an ever-changing menu filled with dishes that are all about top-notch Québécois and Canadian produce, from horse meat to radishes. Don’t skip the iconic lobster spaghetti, and take advantage of the well-crafted and natural-leaning wine list.
Le Filet (Plateau/Mile End)
Although this chic spot (facing Jeanne-Mance Park) hails from the owners of Old Montreal’s Le Club Chasse et Pêche, it takes quite a different path. Even though it’s regularly featured on lists of the best meals in the city, it remains delightfully low-key. Le Filet delivers a lighter seafood-driven menu compared to its Old Montreal sibling in a sleek and modern dining room. Executive chef Yasu Okazaki draws on his Japanese heritage to craft unique and well-balanced dishes such as squid ink linguini with seafood and fried shallots and octopus with red pepper purée—and they’re usually quite photogenic, to boot.
Île Flottante (Mile End)
After owners Nada Abou Younes and Sean Murray Smith overhauled former restaurant Les Deux Singes de Montarvie and opened Île Flottante in its place, a new dining star was born. This tasting menu-only spot in the centre of the ever-cool Mile End prioritises Quebec’s harvests, stepping away from the meaty focus of many other local icons. The menu changes often but typically features thoughtful and complex concoctions: Past dishes, such as a savoury carrot cake or trou normand with cucumber sorbet, are prime examples of Île Flottante’s creative vegetable-forward ethos. Take note: the restaurant is super vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, but not strictly vegetarian.
Hoogan et Beaufort (Rosemont)
Chef Marc-André Jetté leads this stunning venue tucked in a quiet corner on the east side of Rosemont. The accomplished chef draws crowds by using the restaurant’s in-house fire pit to compose refined dishes that go beyond norms, such as local guinea fowl with morel mushrooms, Tokyo turnips, and poularde sauce. Jetté’s crew also knows when to put the flames aside. Case in point: the restaurant’s restrained but flavorful gnocchi alla arrabbiata with green tomato and zucchini. It all goes down in a trendy converted factory with a sprawling off-street terrasse in the warmer months.
Bagel St-Viateur (Mile End, various)
Montreal-style bagels are a breed of their own—thinner and denser than their New York counterparts, and a fraction sweeter by virtue of being boiled in honey water. This famed grab-and-go Mile End bakery (with dine-in outposts in Plateau, Laval, Anjou, and more) is a historic hub of Jewish Montreal and arguably the best place to get them, though some Montrealers hold a candle for Fairmount Bagel—luckily, it’s only a couple of blocks away, which means you can try both spots. Montreal bagel bakeries are a no-frills affair, so if you want anything on your bagel (lox, cream cheese), you’ll need to DIY it, although St-Viateur has a fridge loaded with the standard toppings.
La Banquise (Plateau)
This 24/7 diner is a round-the-clock hotspot for a classic Québécois poutine, as confirmed by the line out front at 3 am on a weekend. La Banquise perfects French-Canadian comfort food as any good casse-croûte (diner) should, with skin-on fries, squeaky cheese curds, and a housemade meat-based gravy—never from a can or a powder. Those looking to make their poutine even heavier can choose from toppings ranging from onions and peppers to bacon or sausage. A vegetarian gravy is also available, alongside other diner staples such as burgers. Note: reservations aren’t accepted.
La Chronique (Mile End)
Chefs Marc De Canck and Olivier de Montigny built this Laurier Avenue restaurant into one of the city’s go-to special occasion destinations. The pair approach their degustation menus with a firm French technique and a generous dollop of creativity. That means picture-perfect dishes rich with local ingredients, such as scallops and prime Quebec beef. A predominantly French wine list and attentive service seal the deal.
Le Chien Fumant (Plateau)
This French-inspired bistro is a neighborhood favorite, courtesy of chef-owner Maksim Morin’s meaty mains and cosmopolitan ethos, resulting in a menu that has both steak frites and sweet and sour rabbit. If you’re looking to splash out, there’s also quite the selection of caviar on the menu—or a wagyu beef sandwich for something heartier.
Mui Mui (Villeray)
With a minimalist dining room on a post-industrial stretch of Jean-Talon Street, the focus at Mui Mui is undoubtedly the food—and chef Minh Phat delivers. Expect innovative fusion dishes, such as duck confit dumplings and steamed buns with foie gras, tamarind sauce, condensed milk, mashed daikon, and caramelised onions. Phat doesn’t place any firm labels on his cuisine, but draws on Chinese, Vietnamese, and French influences, among others. Feast on vibrant textures and spice from a menu that’s rich with fresh vegetables and bold yet well-balanced flavors.
Chez Lévêque (Outremont)
For a slice of Paris without leaving Montreal, look no further than Chez Lévêque, which has dished out French brasserie classics since 1972. That means tartares, mussels, and sweetbreads (offal is a specialty here). It comes with friendly service in a classy yet eclectic dining room with a sidewalk terrasse in summer. If you arrive after 9 pm, there’s a special (and extra-affordable) late-night table d’hôte menu; it’s also available at lunch.
Gibbys – Old Montreal (Old Montreal)
This Old Montreal steakhouse is a bonafide Montreal staple. In addition to an array of beef cuts (some served with a delectable Cognac and green peppercorn sauce), the restaurant’s expansive menu includes a garlicky rack of lamb and buttery chicken Kiev. Seafood, particularly oysters and lobster, are another focus, for those who fancy surf and turf. The ambiance is fantastic, too: the converted 19th-century stable has stone walls, beamed ceilings, and a cozy yet upscale vibe. There’s also a location in the mountain town of Saint-Sauveur, about an hour north of Montreal.
Tim Forster is a freelance writer and editor focusing on food, culture, and technology.
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