Montreal is another one of those foodie cities—like Austin, Portland and Chicago—that I’ve been eager to visit for a while. It seemed doable in a weekend, quaintly European, English-speaking, easily walkable and blessed with an exploding food and wine scene. So on a recent weekend, I decided to make the jaunt.
Unfortunately the city’s hot new neighborhood, Mile End, doesn’t boast any cute boutique hotels—paging the Ace Hotel guys or Andre Balazs!—so we opted to check into the Nelligan hotel in the old part of the city. Upon arriving, after an easy, short flight from New York City, we decided to unwind by enjoying a crisp French Burgundy with a selection of oysters at Philemon, just across the street on Rue Saint Paul. Next up, we headed to Les 400 Coups, where we enjoyed a delicious feast including boudin blanc with kohlrabi, tarragon and raspberry; Nova Scotia trout with yogurt foam, beets and basil; rabbit tagliatelle with shiitakes. A few Mile End bars, including Snacks N’Blues, capped off the night and introduced us to the late-night side of the city.
The next morning, we met up with our energetic and knowledgable tour guide Carrie McPherson. Together, and armed with coffee and croissants, we hopped around Griffintown, Mile End and Golden Square Mile to get a lay of the land on our first day. After devouring a box of insanely decadent cream-filled, fruit and maple glazed donuts at Léché Desserts, we took a high tea break at the charming Victorian Cardinal Tea Room in Mile End for an egg salad sandwich, sausage rolls and green tea.
Next up? Bagels, of course. Being New Yorkers, we were totally convinced that nothing would compare to NYC’s trademark carb bombs, but after trips to Montreal mainstays St-Viateur and Fairmount for scalding hot sesame bagels, we were sold. Montreal bagels are smaller baked confections (as opposed to NYC’s boiled versions) so they have a slight char to them and they’re less dense. The rest of the afternoon spent in Mile End included beer tasting at Dieu du Ciel (an old school brewery that changes its offerings daily), shopping (we loved Clark Mercantile, Citizen Vintage and Lowell) and, the requisite smoked meat and warm turkey sandwiches at Main Deli (the authentic sandwich spot just across the street from touristy mainstay Schwartz’s). After all that eating, we headed back to the hotel for a nap.
The evening began with an Easter concert by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, now housed in the gorgeous Zaha Hadid-designed Maison Symphonique. We headed to meat-centric bistro Lawrence in Mile End for a late dinner (house made charcuterie and paté, steak tartare, scrapple and lamb) before heading to Casa del Polpolo for a nightcap.
The next morning, Easter Sunday, we took in the Peter Doig retrospective at the Musee Des Beaux-Arts de Montreal to see the English painter’s work. Afterwards, a brisk hike around Parc du Mont-Royal, up the three peaks of the hill, was a great way to work up to another carby lunch. The park, designed by master planner Frederick Law Olmsted (of Central Park fame), features a small man-made lake, cross-country skiing trails, a sculpture garden and two Belvedere structures from which to enjoy the panoramic city views. After our four-mile walk, we decided that more bagels and beer were in order so we hightailed it back to Mile End for the rest of the afternoon.
We arrived at wine bar Buvette Chez Simone right as they opened at 4 p.m. to enjoy their pretty, sun-drenched terrace and a couple glasses of dry Muscadet before calling it a weekend. All in all, we’ll be back with open minds and empty stomachs.