MONTREAL
I’ve been back home in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost two weeks now, but these posts about my Montreal vacation have made me feel like I’m still there. How I wish I were!

It was a fantastic trip discovering this quaint and stylish Canadian city, and the emerging food scene has gotten so sophisticated that I did more food-related adventures than actual sightseeing. This meant I often found myself in the local neighborhoods far away from the tourist traps.

This is my last post, wrapping up all the other food things (and some city scenes just to make you jealous) I did on my trip that didn’t make it into a full blog post. How I hope to return soon!

Bagels. Bagels. Bagels.

Fairmount Bagel in Montreal

Fairmount Bagel is one of the oldest bagel shops in Montreal.

Everyone talks about the Montreal-style bagel, which is quite different than New York style bagels most Americans are used to. Luckily for me living in Oakland, I’ve been exposed to Montreal bagels (slightly sweet because they’re boiled in honey water and baked in a wood-fire oven) because of Beauty’s Bagel Shop. But, of course, I still had to try some while I was in Montreal.

One of the more popular spots to get them is Fairmount Bagel in the Mile End neighborhood. This place has been around since 1950, and is open 24 hours. That’s right, you can get bagels after a late night of drinking or early morning for breakfast. Apparently anytime is the right time for bagels.

Fairmount has a tiny store that you can barely walk into because of the trays of bagels and ingredients stacked all around you. Plus, there’s often a line of people waiting to buy dozens of bagels. I actually just tried two bagels from them, a sesame and a raisin. I forgot to take a photo of the sesame, which I ate back at my hotel, but here’s the raisin.

raisin bagel

The raisin bagel from Fairmount

The hand-rolled bagels actually don’t look that pretty because they seem thinner, and it’s often oddly shaped, probably because the workers are whipping them around so fast just to make as many as they can. They were good and slightly sweet (especially the raisin, not so much the sesame) but I like the size of New York bagels better.

Of course, I also had to visit Beauty’s Luncheonette on Mont-Royal, partly because it has the same name as the Beauty’s in Oakland (though not related) and it was featured in an Anthony Bourdain episode, which is why at peak times there can be a wait. But when I went for breakfast on a weekday, I had no problems strolling up to the counter. The patriarch of the family that owns the place is this cute, sweet old man who actually sits on a stool near the entrance smiling and greeting everyone and then pointing you to your seat. I wanted to take him home and call him grandpa.

Beauty's Special

Beauty’s Special is a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon and red onions.

I ended up ordering the Beauty’s Special (CAN$11 or US$7.85), which is a bagel with smoked salmon, tons of cream cheese, and red onions. I wasn’t expecting much since this sounded pretty basic, but when I took my first bite I really wanted to cry. It was so good and I was so happy, I didn’t know I could enjoy a bagel so much. I think what helped was that it was perfectly toasted, so the bagel was easy to bite into with a slight crunch but because it’s fresh the inside was so soft and airy. Sigh, I want one right now!

Fairmount Bagel, 74 Fairmount West, Montreal. PH: 514.317.1349. fairmountbagel.calls.net

Beauty’s Luncheonette, 93 Avenue du Mont-Royal Ouest, Montreal. PH: 514.849.8883. beautys.ca

Noble Cafe

A new streetside cafe across from the Laurier metro station called Noble Cafe.

One of the art galleries in the popular Mile End neighborhood.

One of the art galleries along Saint-Laurent Boulevard in the popular Mile End neighborhood.

Fall colors through tinted glass at the Montreal convention center known as the Palais de Congress.

Fall colors through tinted glass at the Montreal convention center known as the Palais des Congres.

Paquebot Cafe
I tried to spend a lot of time just hanging out at cafes and not trying to feel rushed by my days. I really wanted to check out this cafe because it’s one of the first to serve nitro-brewed cold coffee in the city. Now, it was pretty darn cold in Montreal while I was there, but luckily the cute neighborhood cafe was toasty inside so I was able to enjoy their coffee “cocktails.”

There were three options, and I tried the Empress of Belanger (CAN$5.75 or US$3.75, named after the street where the cafe is located), which is made of nitro-brewed coffee, milk, simple syrup and a tiny bit of bitter chocolate-chili. It looked really pretty, and had a light body, almost watery? But I can see how this would be popular during the humid weathers here.

The cafe workers are super friendly, and they also serve nicely toasted wraps. I enjoyed trying this curry chicken wrap (curry seems to be popular because I saw some kind of curry offering in almost every restaurant I visited, and they’re not even Indian restaurants). Paquebot really is out of the way, quite a walk from the Fabre metro station. But if you ever want to just hang with the locals, this spot is definitely an escape.

Paquebot Cafe sticks out as a hip spot after walking past blocks of residential homes and repair shops.

Paquebot Cafe sticks out as a hip spot after walking past blocks of residential homes and repair shops.

Empress Belanger is a nitro-brewed coffee served cold with XX and sweetened condensed milk.

Empress of Belanger is a nitro-brewed coffee served cold with milk, simple syrup and bitter chocolate and chili.

Paquebot Cafe, 2110 Rue Belanger, Montreal. PH: 415.439.4344. Connect on Facebook.

Notkins for oysters

Notkins oyster bar

Discovering Notkins oyster bar near downtown

You know how sometimes when you’re traveling you just wander the streets looking around and not really sure where you want to go to eat so you just stumble upon a place by accident? That’s what happened on the day I dedicated to window-shop around the downtown stores near Saint Catherine Road.

I was so tired from walking and getting hungry for lunch, but I wasn’t near any of the restaurants I had mapped out for my trip. So finally I just spotted a sign that said “fresh oysters” and decided to just give it a try, not thinking it would be worth mentioning.

That place was Notkins, which has only been open for 18 months. I had so much fun sitting at the oyster bar chatting with the oyster shucker Ken, who was actually from Western Canada and spoke English so that made it totally easy. (And he’s always willing to offer up sightseeing tips through a local’s eye.)

I got six of the daily fresh oysters (three Black Berry Point from Maine and three Paines Creek from Massachusetts), and you know a place is super fancy for oysters when they grate fresh horseradish for your plate and make their own hot sauce (which you apply using an eye dropper). I also tried the lobster burger (CAN$28 or US$20), which is fresh lobster meat served in a brioche bun. It was a fun way to get some lobster instead of in a roll, and definitely made my weary feet feel rejuvenated for the rest of the day. Notkins wasn’t on my radar but it’s definitely a spot worth visiting if you’re in the area. Say hi to Ken!

Notkins Oyster Bar, 1101 Bleurry St., Montreal. PH: 514.866.1101. www.notkins.com

Oysters at Notkins

Fresh oysters at Notkins oyster bar.

Adding some home-made hot sauce along with freshly grated horseradish.

Adding some home-made hot sauce along with freshly grated horseradish.

Lobster burger at Notkins

Close up of the lobster burger

Atwater Marche
On my last day in Montreal (I flew out in the afternoon), I went to check out the Atwater market, which is smaller than the popular Jean-Talon Market but more quaint and more of a local feel.

What’s cool about the market, which includes fruits and vegetable stands and butchers and fish mongers inside, is that it has several mom-and-pop gourmet shops and stands where I found a few food items to take home. So I would recommend you shop for souvenirs here if you’re like me and you like to bring home food items from the local area instead of trinkets.

Atwater Marche, 138 Avenue Atwater, Montreal. PH: 514.937.7754. website

Vegetable stand at Atwater Marche

Fresh vegetables at Atwater Marche.

Saint Laurent metro station

Inside the Saint Laurent metro station near my hotel

Canadian maple syrup

Maple syrup for sale at Atwater Marche.

Patisserie Rhubarb
My last meal in Montreal was the most amazing, because it was a mid-day snack of pastries from the quaint Patisserie Rhubarb.

This little neighborhood patisserie had some of the most beautiful creations on display, and since I wanted to try everything, I ended up eating three different pastries and two macarons — all with a soy latte. My favorite was probably the cheesecake, topped with fresh figs. The texture was firm yet creamy, and it was so delicious.

Patisserie Rhubarb

The beautiful pastries and desserts behind the glass at Patisserie Rhubarb

Patisserie Rhubarb

The “etage” in the back was prune and citron and a bit tart but airy layers of cake, and the “dacquoise” was like a nutty candy brittle topping with coffee flavor cream.

gateau fromage

Amazing “gateau fromage” or cheesecake.

This was a fantastic way to end my trip as I savored each bite, sitting by the window watching the morning sun stream through the glass and warming me all over.

Patisserie Rhubarb, 5091 Rue de Lanaudiere, Montreal. PH: 514.903.3395. patisserierhubarbe.com

Montreal Botanical Garden

Festive lantern displays in the special “Garden of Light” exhibits at the Montreal Botanical Garden.

A bike outside a coffee hut near the Mont-Royal metro station.

A bike outside a coffee hut near the Mont-Royal metro station.

2 Responses to Montreal Leftovers: It’s About the Food, People!

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    I love Montreal bagels! In fact, the last time I was there, I hailed a cab from my hotel to the airport — but asked the driver to first stop at Fairmount so I could pick up half a dozen to take back to California. The driver understood immediately and said how lucky I was that the line was not that long that day, either. Needless to say, it was so worth it!

  2. Anne says:

    Thanks – now I’m drooling – smoked salmon! oysters! fresh horseradish! bagels!

    Thanks also for the vicarious visit to Montreal. I definitely will get there in the future…