Just about every Montrealer thinks of him or herself as a gourmet. And, indeed, the city has hundreds of restaurants, markets, and food boutiques catering to just about every conceivable taste—from hot dogs stimés to steak Diane. Sampling all this without packing on the pounds would be a Mission Impossible, but a brisk gourmet walk could limit the damage.
You could start at one of the dozens of cafés near your hotel downtown selling fresh-baked baguettes or pain au chocolat, but for something a little different walk over to Chinatown for a dim sum breakfast at the neighborhood institution, Maison Kam Fung.
Latin Quarter and the Plateau
Fortifed with filling dumpling dough, walk up through the streets of the Latin Quarter on rue St-Denis and you’ll hit Square St-Louis. It’ll certainly be time for a drink, and maybe a mid-morning snack. Right on the square is Les Gâteries, a favorite local café where they make great iced espresso and homemade maple syrup pie.
Turn north on boulevard St-Laurent, and browse leisurely through dozens of ethnic food shops and delis, inhaling the smells of the Caribbean, Mexico, India, Korea, Vietnam, and Eastern Europe. If that reanimates your appetite, stop at the iconic Schwartz’s Delicatessen and split one of the world’s best smoked-meat sandwiches, served piled high on rye (it’s best slathered with spicy deli mustard), with your walking companion.
Next, work up an appetite for lunch with a forced march down avenue Duluth to Parc LaFontaine. Beware though: This will take you past some of the city’s finest restaurants, including Au Pied de Cochon, whose pork- and foie-gras-rich menu would make your cardiologist blanche. If there’s no chance of stuffing in a full lunch, order a few of their avec l’apéro (small plates served with an aperitif) or a couple of entrées (appetizers).
Take a restful stroll through the park and up avenue due Parc Lafontaine avenue Mont-Royal, arguably the best people-watching street in the city and just the place to grab a hot and sweet traditional Montreal bagel at St-Viateur Bagel & Café.
Time to cheat. Hop on the métro at the Mont-Royal station and head north to the Jean-Talon stop for an afternoon visit to the busiest and best public market in eastern Canada—the Marché Jean-Talon. You could spend a whole day here, browsing the fish and cheese shops and sampling everything from smoked buffalo to field-fresh tomatoes.
Because the bars, brasseries, and bistros in Montréal don’t start buzzing until well after 9 PM, you’ll have plenty of time to digest before even thinking about dessert. One of the nicest tucked-away neighborhoods to stroll in the city is Francophone Outremont’s rue Bernard, a leisurely 30-minute walk (or 5-minute cab ride) from Little Italy. Easily the best ice cream in Montréal is Glacier le Bilboquet, served in various cafés citywide, but their only shop is here, right at the corner of rue Bernard and avenue Outremont. And just three short blocks away is the Outremont métro stop, which will have you back at your hotel in under a half-hour.
Details At A Glance
Highlight: A fat smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s Delicatessen; walking around the Marché Jean-Talon tasting vendors’ samples.
Where to Start: Chinatown, located downtown, at the ornately decorated red gate on St-Laurent off boulevard René-Lévesque.
Length: About 5 km (3.5 mi), plus the four-stop métro ride from the Mont-Royal to the Marché Jean-Talon stations on the Orange Line.
Where to End: The Outremont métro station, on the Blue Line. From here, it’s four stops to the Snowdon station, where you can change for the Orange Line that runs through downtown.
Best Time to Go: Busy summer Saturday (the crowds are half the entertainment).
Worst Time to Go: Dull winter Monday.
Editor’s Choices: Walking up boulevard St-Laurent through the colorful streets of the Plateau, browsing in the ethnic delis and shops; the maple ice cream at Glacier Le Bilboquet!