For decades, Montreal’s culinary scene was all French, all the time. But, says chef Chuck Hughes, owner of the restaurants Garde Manger and Le Bremner (and host of the television shows Chuck’s Day Off, Chuck’s Week Off: Mexico and Chuck’s Eat the Street), over the last 15 years that’s changed. A new crop of ambitious young chefs has drawn on the gastronomic influences of a half-century’s worth of immigrants, embraced the abundance of fantastic local ingredients and created a dynamic food scene that centres on experimentation and collaboration. “It’s a no-holds-barred, full-on, flavour-rich, not-afraid-to-go-there scene,” he says. “We’re cooking with joie de vivre.”
Chef’s Hughes’ Specials
There are a few iconic dishes at Garde Manger. We always have a short-rib dish, whether it’s braised in red wine or sous-vide for 60 hours. There’s also jerk crab, which is something we started as late-night snacks for ourselves in the kitchen. But I encourage people to not have the signature dishes. Think outside the box. And share everything.
There are the usual suspects, like Maison Publique, Le Vin Papillon and Bouillon Bilk. But Pastaga does new twists on Montreal classics like bagels and chopped liver. And Park is a Japanese restaurant that has great daily sashimi specials.
Don’t Leave Town Without Tasting…
Bagels. People don’t realize Montreal has the best bagels in the world. They think it’s New York.
There are so many. One of the best in the city is Club Chasse et Pêche in Old Montreal. There’s also Dinette Triple Crown, Taverne Monkland, Tuck Shop, Blackstrap BBQ, Restaurant Nora Gray and Impasto.
Ultimate Food Day Itinerary
Morning: Start with a coffee at Caffé San Simeon and some pastries at Pâtisserie Harmonie (try the coconut or pineapple bun).
Afternoon: For lunch, hit Snowdon Deli and check out the chopped liver, matzoh ball soup or strudel, then have an afternoon coffee at Café Myriade.
Night: Sample a sushi appetizer at Park, then head to Le Chien Fumant. Then, if you need a late-night snack, check out Chez Claudette for a poutine.
Go-to spot for
Lunch: Olive & Gourmando in Old Montreal.
Cheap Eats: Rotisserie Portugalia for a bifana.
Dessert: The pain perdu at Leméac on Laurier Avenue.
Midnight Snacking: MonNan Restaurant in Chinatown.
Neighbourhoods to Nosh In
Little Burgundy, Old Montreal, Mile End and Little Italy. Those areas are really popping right now. And we now also have food trucks!
We have two great markets, Atwater and Jean-Talon. At Atwater, Les Douceurs du Marche is a good stop for gourmet products and Quincaillerie Dante is good for all kitchen-related items.
Chef Insider: Normand Laprise
These days, chef Normand Laprise of Montreal’s lauded Toqué! restaurant is a familiar figure on the international culinary scene. In the past two years alone his cookbook won a James Beard Award, he was a guest judge on Top Chef Canada, he received the Order of Canada, and he was invited to join Les Grandes Tables Du Monde, France’s elite circle of international chefs.