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Best Montreal Restaurants

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As soon as the sun thinks of melting that last snow bank in late April or May, Montréalers drag every available table and chair outdoors and the alfresco dining season is immediately in full swing. Locals really do eke out every appropriate moment of spring, summer and fall on restaurant and bar sidewalk terraces and patios. If you venture into a restaurant before 8, you’ll find it eerily quiet—everyone is busy chatting and mingling over drinks and appetizers at a nearby 5-à-7—the city’s happy hour equivalent. Montréal is, of course, the perfect place to sample French and Québecois cuisine, such as the many varieties of curd-laden poutine (fries blanketed with gravy and flecked with fresh cheese bits), tourtière (meat pies) and maple desserts. But you’ll find myriad other cuisines to sample. Montréal is also renowned for its smoked meats and bagels—and a host of Jewish delis are on hand to rustle up the perfect smoked-meat sandwich. You’ll stumble upon great eating areas all over town, but the Plateau is home to many of the best places to eat in Montréal; our favorites eating streets are St-Denis, St-Laurent (above Sherbrooke) and Mont-Royal.
Toqué! Michel Chicoine

Toqué!

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
Using locally sourced and artisanal ingredients, Montréal’s best-known restaurant conjures up mouthwatering marvels. There’s a reason Toqué tops the list of top Montréal restaurants; à la carte offerings range from the merely unique to downright outrageous. Try chanterelle mushrooms and salicornia salad with thyme whipped cream and melted Louis d’Or cheese, followed by a main of duck magret, polenta, spinach and fennel. Or how about blueberry mousse with tarragon syrup for dessert? The trusting (or the indecisive) can put themselves in the skilled hands of Chef Laprise and work their way through his sensational seven-course tasting menu.

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O’Thym Michel Chicoine

O’Thym

Neighborhood: Quartier Latin and The Gay Village Price: Expensive
A simple bistro with its name scribbled on a chalkboard menu, O’Thym is a beautiful, minimalist, intimate restaurant that you could blink and miss if you weren’t looking out for it. A short walk from Ste-Catherine, it’s worth seeking out for its charming staff and perfectly created dishes such as curry tuna and rack of lamb. Make sure to BYOW—O’Thym is an Apportez votre vin restaurant, and unless you grab a bottle from a wine shop or one of the ubiquitous corner depanneur markets, you’ll go thirsty. Save room for the tarte tatin—it’s sumptuous.

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Buona Notte Michel Chicoine

Buona Notte

Neighborhood: The Plateau, Mile End, and Little Italy Price: Expensive
A swanky little slice of Soho in the Plateau, where Buonanotte really soars is in atmosphere and swagger, with dependable yet unspectacular fare relegated to a more secondary role. Stick with tried-and-true favorites like antipasti—we particularly like the Sicilian caponata with raisins and pine nuts—de rigueur pizzas and pastas like the pizza bianca with sopressata and mozzarina, or tortelloni di bufala and basil pesto. More innovative mains like veal wrapped with speck and butternut squash puree are a unique twist on traditional Italian fare. The other feather in Buonanotte’s fashionable cap is the amazing wine selection, exclusively featuring wines from Italy’s 20 regions. The pretty, black-clad throngs flock here after 10PM, precipitating Buonanotte’s metamorphosis into a full-fledged bar/club (with changing menu items and prices geared accordingly). So get here early if you’re looking for a leisurely dinner with just a side smattering of cooler-than-thou attitude.

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Beauty’s Luncheonette Michel Chicoine

Beauty’s Luncheonette

Neighborhood: The Plateau, Mile End, and Little Italy Price: Moderate
A hunk o’ Montréal history, the venerable Beauty’s has been serving up breakfast and lunch feasts for almost seven decades now. A tiny Jewish diner with quaint blue booths and a popular lunch counter, Beauty’s is legendary for its bagels, its all-day breakfasts and, alas, for its line-ups. Count on waiting half an hour for a seat on weekends. While it’s torture to be so close to devouring a mish-mash salami and hot dog omelet and a gargantuan cookies-and-cream smoothie, the line moves fast enough and eavesdropping opportunities provide entertainment while you wait.

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Express (L') Michel Chicoine

Express (L')

Neighborhood: The Plateau, Mile End, and Little Italy Price: Moderate
When you’re trotting up and down St-Denis unable to find this classic French bistro, don't be surprised. Always buzzing, L’Express is so well known to locals that there is no need for a sign. From the black-and-white checkered floor to the soupe de poisson and croque-monsieur sandwiches, L’Express doesn’t so much scream Paris, as effortlessly murmur it. Reserve ahead if you can, but if you’re dining solo there’s usually room to squeeze in at the shiny mirrored bar without calling ahead. It’s not a spot to come to if you’re in a hurry—the servers are in no rush. So order up confit de canard or steak-frites with a glass of something elegant and French and savor each mouthful.

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Café Santropol

Neighborhood: The Plateau, Mile End, and Little Italy Price: Moderate
Once slated for demolition, this former apartment building has steadily evolved into one of the Plateau’s best lunch spots. It’s Santropol’s unpretentious service, decadent sandwiches and soups, and one of the lushest outdoor gardens in the city that has us loping back time and again. The café’s bustling bevy of students, artists and professional types belies its edgier beginnings as one of the city’s first alternative cafes. The bread and spread’s the thing to order here—Santropol is famed for its freshly baked, thick-cut pumpernickel, served up with an eclectic array of options. Try the No.13, a heady triple-decker mixture of cream cheese, bananas, honey and blackcurrant jam, or the aptly named Killer Tomato, featuring cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic spread and fresh tomato slices. Linger long after your meal is done over a fair-trade coffee or one of Santropol’s famous flavored sodas, and blend in with the locals.

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Chuchai Michel Chicoine

Chuchai

Neighborhood: The Plateau, Mile End, and Little Italy Price: Moderate
Serving fine vegetarian Thai food for those who like their vegetarian food to look and taste like meat, Chuchai—and its cheaper sibling next door, chuch—are the culinary domain of award-winning chef Lily Sirikittikul. It’s officially a fine-dining restaurant, but spotty service take it down to the level of a perfectly adequate restaurant. But we come for the perfectly executed food. Among all the faux creature concoctions, crispy mock duck with sweet soy glaze is a stand-out. Our favorite, though, is the tofu with crispy fried spinach on top. It doesn’t sound like much and really shouldn’t be so good, but it’s always the first thing we order.

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Mister Steer Michel Chicoine

Mister Steer

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
For five decades Mister Steer has been renowned for its food—rather than for its ambience. Polite, bilingual servers here bustle about with generous plates of carnivorous delicacies. Regulars return for what many have deemed not just the best burger in Montréal, but the best burger ever. Made from steak and served in balls rather than patties, Steer burgers come sided with one-of-a-kind Suzie Q curly fries. As the name might suggest, vegetarian options are limited, but veggie burgers are available.

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La Binerie

Neighborhood: The Plateau, Mile End, and Little Italy Price: Budget
For an authentic, heaping helping of traditional Québecois comfort fare and ambience, the cheap, charming and cash-only Binerie is one of the best. While the restaurant was originally established in 1940, current owners Jocelyn and Philippe Brunet have been cheerfully and faithfully carrying on the traditions of this venerable Montréal venue since 2005. The Brunets serve up old-school specialties like baked beans, tourtiere (meat pie), sugar pie and, yes, even pig’s feet ragout. Québecois to the core, right down to the famed Joseph-Edmond Massicotte illustrations adorning the walls, this diminutive den’s fresh-cooked classics and calorie-laden all-day breakfasts win us over from the first bite.

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Le Taj Michel Chicoine

Le Taj

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
Feast your eyes and appetite on an astounding array of delicately prepared Indian dishes at this acclaimed eatery, where the food risks being outshone only by the superb staff. Le Taj has gotten both just right over its 25 years of operation, and locals flock for the weekday nine-course lunch buffet ($14.95) and to enjoy the focal-point tandoori dishes, (try the tandoori chicken), marinated lamb chops or the startlingly good garlic naan. Vegetarian options abound, and Le Taj also offers up a few unconventional—and delicious—menu items like chicken Xacutti and fish Amritsari. Get here early to secure a seat, as Montréalers are passionate about languidly paced meals and are in no hurry to finish up even when the line-ups stretches way out the door.

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