The largest city in the French-speaking Canadian province of Québec, Montreal is one of the biggest cities in Canada and certainly one of the most unique. The French heritage of the city is very much on display, but in the centuries since Nouvelle France evaporated, Québec has taken on a character all of its own.
Montreal is one of the best places to explore the unique Québecois culture. And there are few better ways to do that than through the traditional delicacies on offer here.
As you might expect, French food still has an enormous influence on the cuisine of Montreal. But the produce of Canada has also shaped what there is to eat here. Plus, waves of non-French immigration have fundamentally changed the city's food culture so that now some of the best things to eat in Montréal come from all over the world.
Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Montréal, and you'll be ready to enjoy everything the city has to offer. From incredible street food in Montréal to fancy prix-fixe tasting menus at some of the best restaurants in the country, Montréal has food that everyone can enjoy. And if smoked meat sandwiches and foie gras aren't really your thing, check out our guide to the best vegetarian restaurants in Montréal so that you can maintain a plant-based diet in this delicious city.
Incredible Montreal restaurants are just waiting to be discovered. Check out some of these local delicacies as you eat your way through the city.
Montreal Food: Poutine
You can't talk about food in Montreal without talking about poutine. Not only is this famous dish virtually synonymous with the city, but it is also Canada's national dish.
There's nothing fancy about poutine. The classic version of the dish is nothing but French fries sprinkled with cheese curds and smothered in gravy. The cheese curds in a traditional poutine are supposed to squeak when you bite them, and as the gravy melts the cheese, the whole thing becomes a delicious stringy, gooey mess. In fact, one theory of how the dish got its name states that the word poutine is Québecois slang for 'a mess'.
Like any good national dish, the origins of poutine are disputed. It was invented in central Québec in the 1950s, but several different restaurants claim to have made the first version. What's not in dispute is the popularity of this dish.
Montréal is absolutely full of poutineries willing to serve you the classic version or put their own spin on this favorite. Pulled pork poutine, foie gras poutine, jerk poutine, and just about every other variation imaginable are available on the streets of Montréal. The best thing to do, then, is try as many as you can before picking a favorite. The locals love the chain called Poutineville, and Au Pied de Cochon is another favorite poutine spot.
Montreal Food: Smoked Meat Sandwich
Montreal is almost as famous for its delis as New York is. And the classic thing to order at the deli in the city is the mighty smoked meat sandwich.
Smoked meat is a Montreal specialty. The meat in question is typically beef, but it can also be pork, turkey, or lamb. It is cured in a salty brine, then rubbed with spices like garlic, coriander, and pepper before being smoked and cooked.
The result is a firm but juicy slab of intensely flavorful meat that is perfect for slicing thinly and piling high on top of some fresh rye bread. And if you want to try the real deal, make sure to head to one of Montreal's most famous delis: Schwartz's Deli.
This Jewish deli has been serving up some of the best smoked meat sandwiches in the city since 1928. The secret to their success is simple: they use the same recipe that they've been using for nearly a century. So if you want to try the Montreal classic of smoked meat, make sure to swing by Schwartz's Deli.
Montreal Food: Bagels
Another Jewish specialty with roots in Montreal is the bagel. These chewy, slightly sweet breads have been made in the city since the early 1900s, when Polish and Russian immigrants brought the tradition over with them.
The Montreal bagel is denser and sweeter than its New York counterpart. It is also smaller and thinner, and it is always boiled before it is baked. This unique cooking method gives the bagel a crisp outer crust and a soft, chewy inside. A cream cheese bagel with smoked salmon makes for a great breakfast or light lunch and is the perfect food to eat on the go while you explore the city.
If you want to try a Montreal bagel, head to one of the city's many excellent bakeries. St-Viateur Bagel Shop and Fairmount Bagel are two of the most famous, and they have been making bagels in Montreal for over 60 years.
Montreal Food: Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is another product that is closely associated with Quebec, and it is a staple of the Montreal diet. This sweet, sticky substance is made from the sap of maple trees, and it has been used as a sweetener and flavoring agent for centuries.
In Canada, maple syrup production is concentrated in Quebec. In fact, over 80% of the world's maple syrup comes from this province. And if you want to try the real deal, make sure to head to a sugar shack in Montreal.
Sugar shacks are typically family-run businesses located in the countryside outside of the city. They open their doors to the public in late winter or early spring when the sap is flowing, and the maple syrup is being made.
Visitors can tour the sugar shack and learn about the process of making maple syrup. And, of course, they can also sample some of the finished product. If you're visiting Montreal in the spring, make sure to add a sugar shack visit to your itinerary.
Montreal Food: Croissants
Croissants are a type of French pastry that is made from flour, butter, and yeast. They are typically shaped into a crescent moon shape and baked until they are golden brown and flaky.
While croissants are associated with France, they actually originated in Austria. But it was the French who popularized them, and they have been a staple of the French diet for centuries.
In Montreal, you can find croissants at any bakery or café. They are typically served for breakfast or as a snack, and they can be plain or filled with chocolate, cream, or fruit.
Montreal Food: Foie Gras
Montreal shows its French heritage in this controversial dish. You won't find it on many menus in the rest of Canada, but in Québec, this liver pate remains popular.
Foie gras is made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened up through a process called gavage, in which the bird is force-fed through a tube. This results in a liver that is larger and richer than usual.
The liver is then cooked and seasoned, and it can be served hot or cold. It is typically served as an appetizer, but it can also be used as an ingredient in other dishes.
If you're interested in trying foie gras, make sure to head to one of Montreal's excellent restaurants. Les Deux Gamins and Toque! are two of the best places to try this controversial delicacy. This is the kind of meal that is best eaten in a fine dining establishment — if you're not having it on top of poutine at Au Pied de Cochon, that is.
Montreal Food: Roti
As a Commonwealth country, Canada has received lots of immigration from the Caribbean in the latter half of the 20th century. As a French-speaking city, Montreal has received a huge proportion of Canada's Haitian immigrants. But other nationalities from the Caribbean have also made their way to the city, bringing their culinary traditions and culture with them.
One of the most popular dishes to come out of this culinary tradition is roti. Roti is a type of flatbread that is typically made from flour, water, and baking powder. It is then cooked on a griddle and served with various curries or stews.
The dish originated in Trinidad and Tobago, but it is now popular all over the Caribbean. In Montreal, you can find roti at any number of Caribbean restaurants. Try it with chicken, goat, or shrimp for a truly delicious meal. You can get good roti all over Montréal, but Caribbean Curry House is one of the best places to try this flavorful food.
Montreal Food: Garlic Potatoes
Unlike other items on this list, Montreal has no special claim on inventing garlic potatoes. After all, this is a fairly basic food item that can be found all over the world. But it's the presence of one legendary restaurant, Boustan, that makes this a classic Montreal dish. Boustan is frequented by Canadian Prime Ministers along with the people who really matter in the country, professional hockey players, and the garlic potatoes are universally considered the best thing on the menu here. The restaurant has been successful enough to open several locations across the city, and their potatoes smothered in rich garlic sauce are undoubtedly one of the best things to eat in Montréal.
Montreal Food: Hot Dogs
The food similarities with New York keep coming. Not only are Montrealers in love with their delis and bagel shops, but they are also partial to a good hot dog. Frankly, it's hard to find a bad hot dog in the city. Street carts, delis, and even high-end restaurants all serve up fantastic frankfurters.
One of the best places to get a hot dog is at La Banquise. This 24-hour restaurant is located in Plateau Mont-Royal, and it has been serving up some of the city's best poutine and hot dogs since 1968. The menu features over 25 different types of poutine, as well as nearly 20 different kinds of hot dogs. Whether you like your hot dogs simple or loaded with toppings, you'll find what you're looking for at La Banquise.
If you're looking for something a little different, check out Chez Claudette. This Plateau hot spot serves up traditional French-Canadian food, and their hot dogs are no exception. The restaurant's menu features several different kinds of gourmet hot dogs, including a veggie option. These aren't your typical ballpark frankfurters — these are gourmet hot dogs worthy of a sit-down meal.
There are so many great things to eat in Montreal that if you're not careful, you can end up doing little else. A smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz's deli, a cream cheese bagel from St Viateur bagel shop, and a foie gras poutine from Au Pied de Cochon are every bit as much classic elements of a trip to Montreal as seeing the Basilica of Notre Dame or Mount Royal.
Of course, that means it's easy to overindulge. Luckily, the incredible natural surroundings of the city mean that you can always embark on one of the best hikes in Montreal so you can work off the grilled cheese or pulled pork sandwich you may have had for lunch.
Montreal food may not be the healthiest cuisine in the world, but it is certainly delicious. So drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage and immerse yourself into the culture of this Québecois city through its food. As is the case in so many French-speaking cities around the world, there's no better way to get to know what really makes Montreal tick.