The family and I have only been back from Montreal for 24 hours, and thanks to my Instagram stories, I have been getting a lot of restaurant and cafe recommendation requests. It seems that every Canadian is itching to escape domestically to the exquisite city of Montreal; and I don’t blame them. It is just as beautiful as I remembered.
This was my fourth time to Montreal: once I helped run a Molson bus trip with my friend Ashley, once I had gone to shoot some commercials for work, and once I planned my friend Erin’s bachelorette… every time was wild, colourful, lively and simply amazing. This 2021 trip was my first time heading back to Montreal in nine years, it was also my first time visiting the romantic city with my partner Ian, and my first time travelling there with kids. It was also our first trip out-of-province since the Pandemic began. It’s a lot of ‘firsts’ for a city I’ve loved for a long-while. It was exciting to even dream of going again.
I did worry, however, that it would only be a dream and never actually happen. I crossed my fingers and my toes; I booked our flights, dinner reservations and hotel, and then refused to think about the trip until it was about three days away. My experience during the Pandemic has encouraged me not get too excited about things incase they fall through; a newfound skill I don’t care for because it isn’t very ‘me.’ For those who know me (and those who know me through the blog) you know that I love planning trips, and I usually create my ‘flexible’ itineraries down to the second. I get so much joy out of researching restaurants and making room for friends recommendations that I try to make thoughtful, detailed decisions (with options to spare) any time I head somewhere.
And, as you can tell, we made it! The family and I jumped on a Porter flight (I love flying from Toronto Island so much more than Pearson!) and waved goodbye to Toronto for the weekend. My family and I got experience some of the best restaurants, coffee (croissants for the kids) and scenery in Montreal, and I am so grateful for the incredible list of recommendations we got from friends like Shane, Ravi, Eric, Sydney, Gabriel and Melissa. And I am beyond thrilled to be posting a travel blog post for the first time in a very long time and pass along the recommendations we received. Of course we couldn’t make it to all of recommendations, and there are lists out there much longer than this one, but I hope this post helps you narrow down your own Montreal “must visit” spots. So, here. we. GO!
Porter- It is so much easier to fly from the Island (especially with les enfants!) if you can make it work!
1- Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth- 900 Rene Levesque Blvd. W, Montreal. We had the best experience staying at the Fairmont-, which was a short walk from Rue de Sainte-Catherine right downtown. James at check-in was incredible, and the service was efficient and top-notch. There were little details like a teddy bear tucked into Finn’s crib, and small robes brought up for the kids that made this stay extra special. The hotel is historic and beautiful, and recently renovated with a beautiful pool and hot tube for those who have kids, or who feel like taking a dip! Big thanks to my sister who sent sparkling wine and macaroons to our room for us to celebrate and enjoy! And lastly, we got to check out the famous John Lennon and Yoko bed-in suite– and WOW. Just, wow.
2- Hotel Le Germain Montreal.- I stayed here for a week with some work colleagues; it is a stunning hotel with an afternoon turn-down service that offers chocolate truffles.
3- Sofitel Montreal– Note: I have never stayed here, but it was recommended to me and looks beautiful (and it is an Accor property, like The Fairmont listed above).
Mister Steer – My son said it was the best poutine he has ever had, and that’s saying something! Recommended to us by a Montreal local and friend named Eric, this spot was great with kids and an easy-to-find joint downtown.
St Hubert – I know it’s greasy and it’s fast food (I mean, it is poutine!), but it is just so yummy.
Dunn’s Famous- Our friend Eric advised us to try Dunn’s and it didn’t disappoint! We got their famous Montreal smoked meat sandwiches and smoked meat stuffed spring rolls. I think my older son found his new favourite sandwich,
Schwartz’s Deli- Everyone has heard of Schwartz’s! I didn’t go on this trip but have been at least twice in the past and the pickles alone were worth it!
Additionally, check out this list for some of the best smoked meat in the city.
Ginder- Make sure you make a reservation! This may have been my favourite meal of the trip- it is difficult to pick, but it was definitely up there! Big thanks to Ravi and Sydney for the recommendations, and to Ravi for setting us up with the reservation and his company. What a great spot this was. I got the filet mignon, and am still thinking about it. I did try the burger, cavatelli and salmon tartar as well- all incredibly delicious.
Joe Beef- The famous Joe Beef. I have been dreaming about Joe Beef for years (and apparently the restaurant – same owners- next door is just as good if not better!) and am so grateful to have gone with the family this trip! Everything from the oysters and scallops to duck + foie gras fried rice, to the jamon and the mains… it was all rich, French and oh-so-delicious. I also loved my cocktail and sparkling wine. (Hot tip: if you don’t have an insider, go online at midnight the night they release your reservations to get a spot!)
McKiernan- Recommended to us by my friend and Toronto coffee shop owner (Nava! Check them out!), McKiernan is owned by the same team who owns Joe Beef. This hot brunch spot is tucked away in a more industrial part of the city, and inside was stunning. The wooden, expansive area was massive with high ceilings and gorgeous panelled floors. It is a great spot to bring kids (foosball table!), and felt very pandemic-safe as the tables were all quite far from one another. Every single one of us loved our meals, and I was able to take some brilliant food shots as seen in this post because the lighting indoors was phenomenal. A must visit! (PS AND THE DONUTS WERE AMAZING)
Vin Papillon– Again, same owners as Joe Beef but did not get to try it out on this trip!
<<<Here is a worthwhile read on the Joe Beef owners and their establishments in the New Yorker.>>>
Au Pied du Cochon: Unfortunately it is only open for dinner, and we already had our two other options booked but we really wanted to try this place out! Next time! It was recommended to us by two friends, and also is not the best Montreal poutine list here.
Foiegwa “French Diner” @foiegwa Brunch: (Recommended by Gabe). Unfortunately, even for brunch, this place is 18+ so we couldn’t make it this trip. They were very polite on the phone when I asked, though and it looks amazing for both brunch and an evening visit!
Barroco: Montreal 312 St Paul Street Ouest Montreal (This one was my friend Sydney’s recommendation) It looks like a beautiful, ambient spot!
Buvette Pastek: Open 10am -10 pm, 209 rue St-Paul O, Montreal (Sydney reco again!) 16-minute walk from our hotel and has the cutest website.
Marconi – Mercredi au Samedi 45 Avenue Mozart Ouest Montreal (Syd reco). Open mornings, noon and night.
Makro- Seafood restaurant that is attached to Grinder- an Eric and Sydney recommendation. I definitely want to check this place out next visit!
Ristorante Beatrice – An Italian Urban Oasis in the Heart of Montreal, 1504 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest Montreal, QC (Syd reco)
Olive and Gourmando– This place looked great and had quite the brunch lineup! Down by the Old Port, I would love to make a reservation here next time I am in town.
Le Bird Bar- Ravi pointed out this place as we left Grinder and I made a mental note. Their fried chicken lunch sounds delicious!
Messorem Bracitorium- we LOVED the vibe of this place and the beer and seltzer’s were fantastic too. We walked along the water for 2 km from McKiernan’s to come here (a recommendation by our server there) and it did not disappoint! And very kid and dogfriendly.
Crew Collective & Café: 360 Rue Saint-Jacques, G101 Montreal and a 13-minute walk from our hotel (and recommended by Gabe, who knows what he is talking about with coffee!). This was the most beautiful coffee shop I have ever seen in my life. In a historic building, this place is a must-see and visit. I loved my oat milk latte and croissant, and everyone was happy with what they ate and drank. Note: It was difficult to get into with a stroller due to the nature of the historic building and many stairs, but worth the trek.
Societe de Torrefaction- (recommended by Gabe) aka Canadian Roasting Society. 3780 Saint-Patrick Street, Montreal
Krema– Inside the Fairmont, my only complaint is that it doesn’t open earlier. (What is it with cafes in Montreal opening at 10 AM?!)
Take Out and Delivery:
Roaming and Activities:
Rue de Sainte-Catherine- We all know the famous street, and my older son and I had a great time strolling together along it. We even found a gaming store that he loved, with a ton of Pokemon paraphernalia. I will say that it felt extremely busy and congested on a November Saturday, and there was a lot construction as well. I also found it very difficult to find a solid cafe on Sainte-Catherine!
The Old Port- Many of the attractions were closed, but it made for a beautiful walk.
The Biodome- My five-year-old enjoyed the fish a ton! Purchase your tickets in advance, to any of the ESpace areas!
Aura- The lightship at the Notre Dame Basilica is a MUST. It is so stunning and eerie and beautiful- I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Make sure to purchase your tickets in advance. (And children are free!)
St. Joseph’s Oratory- Historical with its many stairs, we didn’t make it this trip with the stroller and mini’s with us- but thanks to Melissa for the reco (and all the other kids-friendly reco’s!)
Habs Game- We couldn’t fit it in this time, but we will be back!
Swans– My friend Kait did this and it looked so fun! Unfortunately it wasn’t open this time of year, so we will have to come back with he kids in the summer 🙂
Ubers take FOREVER in Montreal, and one of the gentleman at the Fairmont told us that it’s because during the Pandemic, many of the drivers shifted over to Uber Eats Delivery. Based on our experience, we recommend the metro or calling/hailing a cab. If you do order an Uber, order it about 10-15 minutes before you actually want to leave.
I hope this list is helpful! Feel free to drop me a line as I would love to add to it 🙂
Au Revior for now!