Chefs' Guides To Montreal Dining

17 April 2016
Read Time: 4.1 mins

Despite being a one-hour plane ride from New York City, there really is nothing like Montreal. They do things differently: they are more French than Canadian, there are no celebrity chefs and quite frankly, the restaurant scene puts the 'Big Apple' to shame (I said it!).

With such a dense offering of bakeries, restaurants and eateries splashed out around the city, it's easy to feel slightly uneasy at navigating the food scene of Montreal, but not anymore.

To help you on your next trip to 'The City of Saints,' I’ve asked the best chefs of Montreal to give up their secret hangouts on where to eat, drink and consume the city.

Montreal skyline The city of Montreal holds many memorable foodie moments (Image: Getty)

Chef Jeff Finkelstein

Jeff Finkelstein is the bread man of Montreal and the owner of Hof Kelsten, an amazing bakery in Montreal where gourmets and lovers of carbs get their bread.

The classically-trained chef has worked at some of the best restaurants around the world (El Bulli, The French Laundry and Per Se) and takes his food seriously.

Chef Jeff Finkelstein Chef Jeff Finkelstein is serious about bread (Image: Hof Kelsten via Facebook)

Where do you go for breakfast?

Beauty's is friendly, consistent, bustling and the owner Hymie has been manning the counter for over 70 years – a living legend.

Secret cheap eat in the city?

Caraibe Delight is a hidden gem on Park Avenue serving up mom-and-pop Caribbean food, jerk chicken, mutton and roti!

Best dish to try now in Montreal?

Henrietta's battata, which is an amazing bar dish concept with crispy potatoes and cheese with avocado and beer sauce.

Best spot for dinner?

Toque has been one of the best restaurant in Canada for the last 20 years! Eating there, seeing their creative passions flow and their dedication to the product and their purveyors – their class is second to none.

Montreal Plaza is a new place with chefs trained at Toque, but it has a more casual almost whimsical vibe along with obviously stellar food.

Chef Marc Landry

What makes Montreal such a culinary diverse city is the amazing food you can eat at non-conventional restaurants, such as food trucks and other great finds around the city.

At the top of the list is Landry & Filles, which started out as a food truck and more recently has moved into a small sit-down eatery, which has locals rejoicing.

Owners Josee Ann Landry, Lisa-Marie Veillette and Marc Landry are the power houses behind this little blue gem, which combines seasonal produce with Quebcois flavours for food lovers to enjoy.

Chef Marc brings his francophone heritage to the table, along with his charming personality.

Chef Mark Landry with fellow owners Josee Ann Landry and Lisa-Marie Veillette Chef Mark Landry (middle) with fellow owners Josee Ann Landry (right) and Lisa-Marie Veillette (left) (Image: Landry & Filles)

Best coffee in the city?

Hands down Caffe San Simeon on Dante Street in Little Italy. It's a small coffee place, but is always full. Service is efficient and the coffee is always, I mean always, perfect.

It's not a place were you cosy up into a seat with your laptop. You get your fix, take five outside under the sun and you're out.

Favorite place for a quick bite?

Trilogie, on St-Laurent Boulevard. The flavours of the homemade dumplings are delicate and quality is always through the roof. It's a minimalist and zen space with easygoing goodness.

Favorite bakery?

It's a tie! We adore the feminine perfection of our neighbour, Patisserie Rhubarbe, located on De Lanaudière. Their delicate and flavoursome pastry is always executed with precision.

Go early for good choices. It's a small intimate place to get a coffee with your sugar and the hot chocolate is worth a try, too.

Secret cheap eats?

Malhi sweet on Jarry Ouest Street offers the best deal in town for Indian food. You don't go for the fancy decor. You walk in and your belly sings with joy. It's just the best.

Best-kept secret in the city?

Gia-ba on Monkland Street. You need a car and it's definitely a destination, but it is completely worth the trip. Sit by the bar!

More Montreal holiday inspiration

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Chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard

A self-educated chef from Montreal, Chef Antonin is often regarded as an artist with his beautifully designed plates and Quebec-cool attitude in and out of the kitchen.

Drawing inspiration from his mother, actress Katherine Mousseau and father, singer Michel Rivard, Antonin’s latest restaurant, Le Mousso in Montreal Village, really speaks volumes of his amazing talent in the kitchen.

Chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard Chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard (Image: Le Mousso via Facebook)

Favourite place for breakfast?

Even if I stay far from this place, when I want a real greasy spoon breakfast, I always go to the legendary Cosmo's in NDG where I grew up. Best breakfast period.

And what about your coffee fix in the morning?

Caffe Italia in Little Italia. So much history there.

Favourite place for a quick bite?

I have this thing for Italian-style sandwiches and right next to my restaurant, Le Mousso, there is this place called Arte Farina.

I always go there for a choice of the chef sandwich, which is always made from a few simple but really tasty ingredients.

Best spot for sun and great food?

Parc Lafontaine is the best spot in Montreal to go for a picnic and one of the only places you are allowed to bring your BBQ and to drink alcohol if you're eating.

Best spot for an upscale dinner and casual nosh in Montreal?

Lemeac, L'expresse, La Bottega and Beging are all great for an casual night out, while Hotel Herman, Restaurant Les 400 Coups and Le Club Chasse et Peche tick all the boxes for those feeling a bit more ritz.

Best kept secret in the city?

The meat lasagna from Pasta Casareccia.

Chef John Winter Russell

Regarded as one of the most exciting restaurants in Montreal right now, Restaurant Candide is definitely worth seeking out.

Chef John Winter Russell creates an amazing four-course menu, which changes depending on local seasonal produce from regional producers and farmers.

In between setting the table and coming up with creative menus, John loves exploring Montreal as a foodie.

Chef John Winter Russell Chef John Winter Russell (Image: Restaurant Candide via Facebook)

Best coffee in the city?

Dispatch Coffee is my favorite place. They are a few coffee geeks who buy single origin beans and roast them themselves. and they are always improving with quality testing and tasting.

Best spot for outdoor dining?

Dinette Triple Crown. The reason? Picnic baskets!

In the summer you go in to the counter, order your meal and they pack it all in a picnic basket and you go eat it in the park next to the restaurant. It's wonderful and the food is awesome!

Favourite bakery?

Joe la Croute. It's at the Jean-talon market and the bread is awesome! There is no other reason than that! Well, maybe the owner/baker is also one of the nicest people I know.

Best spot for dinner?

Le Fantome. I really like what Jason and Kabir have put together. A nice intimate restaurant that serves great food and wine with professional service. They are great neighbours to have.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Montreal.

Michelle Tchea

Michelle Tchea is the bestselling author of Building a Perfect Meal, Signature Dishes and My Little SoHo Kitchen.Born and raised in Melbourne, she currently bounces back between Europe and the US working with the world's best restaurants and hotels. Specializing in luxury travel and gourmet escapes, she can't imagine anything better than vegemite on toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner.