Visitors to Fairmount Bagel will have a full view of the bakery’s classic wood-fire ovens. // © 2016 Emma Weissmann
Feature image (above): Satay Brothers offers Singaporean and Malaysian dishes. // © 2016 Emma Weissmann
With more than 5,500 restaurants to choose from in Montreal, visitors may feel overwhelmed by the culinary options in Canada’s largest city in Quebec province and bilingual jewel. And while it’s almost impossible to be led astray in this culinary playground, clients should be sure to save time — and room in their stomachs — for a few local favorites.
Chez Jerry is perfect for a quick bite and can be characterized as a diner of sorts. It is located on Cote du Beaver Hall, just a few blocks away from Place des Arts, the largest cultural and arts space in Canada and home to Montreal’s network of underground tunnels.
Diners can find traditional eats such as burgers and shakes, along with Montreal favorites such as poutine (French fries and cheese curds in a savory cream sauce). There is also an array of sandwiches, salads and desserts.
“Chez Jerry is quite new on the scene, although the man behind the concept is known within the city’s gastronomic scene, as Jerome Ferrer is the grand chef and owner of Europea, a Relais & Chateaux restaurant here in Montreal,” said Hugo LeClerc, manager of the media and leisure market for Tourism Montreal. “I have yet to meet someone who’s quick to turn down a good burger or poutine, and this place is a fun spot to grab one of each.”
Insider Tip: Montreal’s bilingual status shows at Chez Jerry, where the menu is in French. Although many servers will be well-versed in English, clients might want to familiarize themselves with the menu beforehand — or, better yet, impress the restaurant’s employees by attempting to order in their best French.
Although some may argue New York City takes the cake for the best bagels in the U.S. (I’m personally looking at you, Big Apple Bagels in Manhattan), Canada puts up quite a fight with its version of the delicious breakfast staple. A denser, sweeter version of its American counterpart, the bagels at Fairmount Bagel on Fairmount Avenue are rolled by hand and baked in a wood-fired oven.
Fairmount Bagel has been family-run since 1919 and serves classic bagels such as poppy seed, plain and “fully-dressed,” along with unique options such as the Power Bagel (made without eggs) and “Bozo” (three bagels twisted into one). There are no tables available, but those waiting in line will have a clear view of the bakery’s classic wood-burning ovens. Added bonus: Bagels are baked fresh at all hours of the day.
“Fairmount is open 24/7, and it always delivers top-notch bagels, no matter if you’re looking to get some for breakfast, lunch, dinner or in the middle of the night,” LeClerc said.
Insider Tip: According to my guide, to order in true Montreal fashion, clients should ask for a sesame-seed bagel topped with a slab of melted butter. They could also order their bagels with cream cheese, of course, but run the risk of outing themselves as a tourist.
Pho Thanh Long
It’s easy to pass by Pho Thanh Long while walking along Rue Sainte-Catherine. That would be a huge mistake, though, as this Vietnamese restaurant’s pho (noodle soup) draws crowds. No wonder — pho has a deep association with the French and is often compared to pot-au-feu, a popular French dish that uses beef in place of chicken and pork. The portion sizes are quite large here, but my companion and I had no problem making our way to the bottom of our bowls.
Insider Tip: If clients are looking for white tablecloth and fine china, they won’t find it here. But, the food speaks for itself. We were immediately seated at around 6 p.m., and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house by 7 p.m.
Clients who set foot into Satay Brothers will immediately feel as if they’ve been transported to Southeast Asia. The ambiance of this Singaporean restaurant is authentically Asian — red lanterns dance along the ceiling, bird cages float above the heads of hungry patrons and Asian-inspired art and wood accents cover the walls. A family-run business that began as a food stand at Montreal’s Atwater Market during the summer months, Satay Brothers follows the philosophy that dishes are meant to be shared.
“We serve comfort food that is homemade, healthy and delicious,” said co-owner Alex Winnicki, who originally started the business with his brother Mat. “Satay Brothers really started from a love of food, specifically Singaporean and Malaysian dishes. My mother was from Singapore, and we grew up eating the food, but it wasn’t always readily available in Montreal.”
Winnicki says he recommends visitors try the restaurant’s satays (marinated meat skewers with peanut sauce), along with pork-belly steamed buns, spicy shaved green papaya salad and, what later became my favorite dish of the evening, laksa soup — a delicious coconut curry broth with shrimp and quail egg that added the perfect amount of heat to a chilly Montreal night.
Insider Tip: Be aware that the restaurant may sit separate parties together. While this seating method breeds a strong sense of community, caution clients that it may not be the ideal situation for a date night. However, the restaurant is “baby-friendly” and will offer to customize special meals for little ones.
Ask any Quebecker for a culinary landmark that is authentically “Montreal,” and he or she will surely point in the direction of Schwartz’s, a Hebrew delicatessen that has been located on Saint-Laurent Boulevard for more than 80 years. The deli, famously known as the oldest in Canada, is an iconic attraction in Montreal that attracts smoked meat-lovers near and far.
“Schwartz’s holds a very special place for many locals who grew up eating smoked meat,” LeClerc said. “There are numerous restaurants in the city where you can eat a tasty smoked-meat sandwich, but Schwartz’s is certainly Montreal’s most iconic deli.”
LeClerc suggests that first-timers don’t spend too much time perusing the menu. Instead, they should head straight to the counter and order a smoked-meat sandwich, making sure to specify if the meat should be lean, medium or fatty.
Insider Tip: For an authentic “Schwartz’s experience,” clients should order their sandwich with mustard and a side of pickles. Dig in, but have a stack of napkins placed strategically nearby — it’s a delicious, but sometimes messy, experience.