With the most restaurants per capita of any city in Canada, Montreal’s exciting food scene extends across its diverse neighbourhoods and demands to be explored. But, for pure romance, the old town’s narrow, cobbled roads and grey stone buildings—preferably adorned with a dusting of newly fallen snow—can’t be beat. A little piece of Europe in the heart of a modern Canadian metropolis, Old Montreal is a quickly revitalizing region where horse-and-carriage tours meander past locked-up bikes (attesting to the presence of young, active residents), and restaurants serving classic tourist fare intermingle with hip patisseries and discreet cafés.
Here are a few can’t-miss spots.
Flyjin Café: For a flat white to go, a quick espresso at the bar or even a homemade soda or fresh-squeezed juice, head to Flyjin Café, a tiny spot that’s loved by the locals.
Tommy: In the mood to linger over your almond milk latte and a fresh-baked pastry? Head to Tommy and grab a seat under the pretty, decorative ceiling.
La Champagnerie: The focus at La Champagnerie is bubbles: cava, prosecco, crémant, Franciacorta and more by the glass or the bottle for every budget and taste.
L’Atelier d’Argentine: True to its name, L’Atelier d’Argentine brings Latin America north, serving up Argentinian wines alongside dishes such as tomato and bell pepper gazpacho, quinoa-crusted tiger shrimp and, of course, grilled steak with chimichurri.
Olive + Gourmando: Expect a lineup at perennially popular Olive + Gourmando, where breakfast and lunch items run the gamut: hot and cold sandwiches, über-virtuous salads and sweet or savoury house-made ricotta on toast. Don’t miss a visit to the pastry counter, too.
Helena: At the buzzing Helena, open for lunch and dinner, the namesake chef transforms Quebec ingredients into Portuguese pestiscos (small plates) such as grilled seafood with piri-piri sauce and pork tenderloin stuffed with figs and port.
Can’t-Miss Pastry Shops
Tarte passion framboise from Maison Christian Faure
Bakeries and pastry shops abound in Old Montreal, so knowing where to go (and what to try) is key. At Bar à beurre, it’s all about the boules de beurre, or butter balls—two tender, sugar-coated cookies sandwiching a soft, creamy filling. Try the ricotta, mascarpone, marsala and espresso option.
For gluten-free options, try Cookie Stéfanie, where the cookies, cakes and brownies win rave reviews, even from those without dietary restrictions.
Last but not least is Maison Christian Faure. Among the menu mainstays sous-chef Christophe Sportellini says he can never remove, lest the people revolt, is the single-serving tarte passion framboise, a round shell of crisp pastry filled with silky, sweet-tart passion fruit curd topped with ripe, flavourful raspberries.
Family Roots Run Deep at Montreal’s Chocolats Andrée
Owner Stéphanie Saint-Denis inherited Chocolats Andrée from her late grandmother who started the chocolatier in the 1940s in the city's Mile End neighbourhood. Today, it's still thriving, selling deliciously sweet, handmade treats made from generations-old recipes and techniques.
Five Licensed Cafés in Montreal
Sipping a cappuccino at a café in Montreal is a must-do experience. At these cafés, you can also stop in for late-night wine, beer, cocktails and delicious bites. Order sangria at Café Milano, share a bottle of bubbly at Tommy or enjoy foccaccia and open mic night at Kafein.