How to eat like a local in Montreal?

Eat like a local | Part 2

| Opinion

Want to Eat Like a Local? Here Are 5 Restaurants to Try!

If we tried to list all the restaurants Montrealers love, we’d probably run out of internet. Montreal has the second highest number of restaurants per capita in all of North America. The whole continent! The only city greater is New York (you win this round, NY).

So instead of making that futile attempt, we’ve narrowed our list down to 5 restaurants that really capture the food culture of Montreal.

picture of food in montreal

Here are our 5 picks to eat like a local.

Here is what Montreal Tips thinks are the best places to eat in Montreal:

1. Provisions

Although we hold onto old favourites and love a good Montreal legacy, Montrealers are just as passionate about trying fresh new ideas and trends. That’s why Provisions is a local favourite.

Provisions perfectly blend that essential nod to ‘Montreal of old’ with a fiercely forward-thinking menu. In fact, there is no set menu at all at Provisions, and that’s what makes it so unique.

Provisions opened in 2015, taking over the location of a recently closed old favourite, Restaurant Van Horne. They kept much of the charm and vibe of the location, so locals could reminisce and feel at home, but gave the place an edge by focusing on… inspiration!

The Provisions team works with local farmers and food producers to support sustainable practices and inspire constant experimentation. Every evening has a different menu based on whatever inspired the owner-chefs that day, which means they never settle into a specific trend. They are forever trying new things and delighting guests with their mouthwatering creations. As a guest, what you experience is the result of a pure joy for celebrating fresh ingredients, discovering new flavours and constantly taking ones passion to the next level.

Reservations are a must and although it is a set menu, they will accommodate vegetarian diets.

2. Romados

There’s a vibrant Portuguese community in Montreal’s Plateau borough, which means there is no shortage of incredible Portuguese restaurants and bakeries.

The best, as any local can tell you, is Romados. Famous for their rotisserie chicken, they also have a few other house specialties and a full bakery of deliciousness.

A few years ago the restaurant experienced a devastating fire that shut them down for over a year. When they reopened, the lineup of local fans went out the door for SEVERAL blocks. And everyone was happy to wait. That’s how much we love it!

There are only a few tables inside Romados, but eating in is not the local way. The proper experience is to get it to go and eat picnic style in one of the many surrounding parks. Grab a few cans of Sumol to wash it down and Natas to end your meal. If you’ve never had a Nata, you’re in for a treat. Natas are little custard pastries that look like they’ve been burnt (they haven’t) and taste like heaven.

3. L’Auberge St. Gabriel

Ask anyone where to eat in Montreal’s Old Port and you’ll get a huge list of restaurants that really are truly amazing and loved by locals and tourists alike. Few locals will mention L’Auberge St. Gabriel and given how wonderful the experience is and the fact that it is always filled with locals, we suspect the silence comes from wanting to keep this one for ourselves.

The Auberge was built in 1688 and has been the site of many historic events and establishments over the centuries. The thick stone walls, heavy wood and leather accents juxtapose brilliantly with contemporary fixtures and the recent addition of the uber-trendy Velvet Speakeasy.

There is something about the restaurant that is immediately cozy but decadent. It is simultaneously the perfect place for large joyful groups, a romantic dinner for two, a get together with good friends or even a business lunch. Maybe this state of perfection is due to the fact that they’ve been in the business of serving customers literally for centuries.

The dinner menu at St. Gabriel feels like a very welcome throwback to opulent old world feasts, the lunch menu screams “new and exciting” and if you hit the Velvet for drinks, you’ll find a bar menu that seems to know exactly what you want to go with your Manhattan.

Reservations at the restaurant are a good idea, especially on weekends, and while it is pricey (as are most Old Port restaurants), it is, without a doubt, worth it.

4. La Banquise

Although open 24/7, anyone who grew up in Montreal knows La Banquise shines after 3 am.

This is the spot for poutine and while most people go with the classic, there is a huge selection of poutine ‘twists’ to choose from, including vegan cheese and sauce substitutions. Banquise also does amazing burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and even breakfast, but make no mistake… locals love it for the poutine. And the memories.

This is the place we all went to in our younger days to swap stories, “shoot the shit” and keep the party going after a night out. Today, it’s where people younger than us still do that, and where the rest of us go to remember.

If you aren’t a local, you won’t have the memories, but if you’ve always wondered what the whole poutine fuss is about, this is where you’ll find out. And it’s just a really fun place to be.

5. Wilensky’s

Remember when we said Montrealers love a legacy? Wilensky’s is the perfect example. Originally opened in 1932, it has hardly changed since and is still owned and operated by the Wilensky family. They even use one of those old cash registers. And it’s not an affectation or some hipster trend. They just never upgraded it.

The menu is small and features the same “Wilensky Special” they’ve been making since 1932. Want a Coke with your special? Sorry, they didn’t serve Coke in ‘32. Instead, they made their own homemade cola in a proper soda machine, and still do today, along with cherry-cola, cherry, pineapple, chocolate, strawberry, cream soda, lemon-lime, orange, root beer… and egg creams.

It’s like stepping into a time machine, and locals just love it.

BONUS: The Big Orange

Have you ever noticed the big orange ball on the west end skyline of Montreal? That’s The Orange Julep, or “The Big Orange”.

Today it’s more landmark than a restaurant, but they still sell typical casse-croute food (hot dogs, burgers, fries, etc.) and their trademark Orange Julep drink, which you will either absolutely love or absolutely hate, but really should experience. Many locals also claim these are the best hot dogs in the city, so it’s a good choice for a quick lunch.

Built in 1932, that giant orange was originally a 2-storey concrete structure that some believe the founder intended to live in with his family. It was rebuilt in the 60’s out of wood and fibreglass when the structure had to be moved to accommodate the widening Decarie expressway. It once employed roller skating waitresses that brought your food to your car and while the waitresses are gone, they now host classic car and motorbike gatherings every Wednesday night during the spring and summer months.

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