A Taste of Montreal

BY MATT ESSERT

Montreal, or Mont-Royal, is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second largest in Canada, and one of the best culinary destinations in all of North America. Foreign, and especially European, immigrants have heavily influenced this primarily French-speaking city and brought with them a variety of delicious foods. Having lived in this city for four years during university, I can firmly say that this city has some of the best food around.

One of Montreal's most popular foods is the smoked meat sandwich. Restaurants like Dunn's, the Main Deli, and Reuben's Deli claim to have the best salted and cured beef brisket sandwiches, but most locals agree that Schwartz's is the place to go. The walls of this 80-year-old "Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen" are lined with photos of the staff posing with the countless celebrities who have waited in the sometimes hour-long lines to get a taste of the delicious Montreal tradition. The sandwiches come in lean, medium, and, if you're daring enough, fatty varieties. But don't ask for lettuce or cheese, otherwise your waiter will probably lecture you on why mustard is the only acceptable condiment for these delicious sandwiches.

You can't really talk about Montreal cuisine without talking about poutine. Essentially French fries covered with cheese curds and gravy, poutine is a staple of Montreal and Quebec. Having been around Montreal for over 60 years, it's often considered the quintessential Montreal food. Although the gravy and cheese curds toppings comprise the original version, poutine's popularity has given rise to all sorts of variations with toppings like hotdogs, hamburger meat, Montreal smoked meat, bacon, lobster, foie gras, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and almost whatever else you can imagine. A lot of Montreal natives would say the 24-hour La Banquise is the best in the city, and I would probably agree, but places like Patati Patata, Maamm Bolduc, and the Frites Alour chain also have very popular poutine that's worth checking out.

Some people will say that New York bagels are the best, but don't try telling a Montreal resident that. The truth is: Montreal bagels are just different than their New York-style counterparts. They're smaller, sweeter and denser, with a larger hole, and are always baked in a wood-fired oven. St. Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel are the two most popular shops, constantly hand-making fresh and delicious bagels, but there are a number of other great shops around the city that make authentic Montreal-style bagels. Montreal-style bagels have even become so popular that places like B&B Empire Cafe in Brooklyn have started making bagels the Montreal way.

Along with these few specific dishes, Montreal has a generally great and diverse food scene. Portuguese chicken places like Ramados and Janos have had Montrealers and their taste buds captivated for years. But Greek, Lebanese, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, Ethiopian, French, and Italian cuisines are all also heavily represented in this metropolitan city. Along with those, many Quebecois cuisine restaurants, like the ultra-decadent Au Pied du Cochon, are not to be missed.