Bienvenue à Montréal!
Before you ask: no, we didn’t go to Tim Horton’s. Fun fact, I’ve been to Canada 4 times, and the only Tim Horton’s I’ve ever been to was in upstate NY!
So, full disclosure: we only really hung out downtown (from Sherbrooke to the river). There’s so much more of this amazing city still to explore, but we found some absolute gems!
We stayed at the Gouverneur Hotel at the corner of rue St-Hubert and rue Ste-Catherine E. It’s a prime location—walkable to everything downtown, and right near rue St-Denis, which is a super hip area. Across from the hotel, and visible from our room, is a sweet little park with sculptures, fountains, and an outdoor bar.
We managed to fit about .0003% of what I had planned into our three short days in MTL, but what we did get to was pretty awesome. The following is our recommendations for places to go and things to see downtown!
Pour les repas et le café:
Jardin Nelson is right in the center of Old Montréal and boy oh boy is it nice. My dad treated us to a gorgeous dinner there our second night in town. It was my second time (the first was for lunch 5 years ago), and I got the same thing, but in my defense: savory crêpes with goat cheese! Can you blame me?! This time, we were seated right beside an amazing live jazz band at twilight. It was pretty magical. We ate and drank way too much, and a very merry time was had. A+
I love this place. I don’t care that it’s a chain in Ontario & Québec. I’m sure a real Montréaler would roll their eyes so hard at me right now. I’m a sucker for microbreweries, what can I say? Their blanche ale is my faaaave. We didn’t eat there this time, but last time I was in town I had a poutine there that was a borderline religious experience.
This place is my dream concept for a restaurant. A super limited menu specializing in…shepherd’s pie & poutine? I guess in French the term for shepherd’s pie is “pâté chinois,” which makes zero sense to me and caused some confusion upon entering. “Chinese pâté?” I wondered, ignorant to the beautiful culinary world awaiting me. I got my whole table to agree to order the vegetarian pâté, and we all split a traditional poutine (and a pitcher of sangria).
Breakfast poutine. Poutine matinale. Whatever you call it, it’s poutine for breakfast. Fabergé is the most adorable restaurant in the cutest neighborhood (that I’m pissed we didn’t explore more). We stopped by Fabergé on our way back to the States and I treated us to a fabulous brunch. In Canada, even restaurants have cold brew readily available. Great vegetarian options, lovely mimosas. Can’t wait to go back and eat all the brunch.
Okay, so, Eggspectation is another chain—with locations in Virginia and Maryland for no reason?—but it has a special place in my heart because we ate there on my high school trip to Montréal. I’ve had breakfast there once each time I’ve traveled to MTL, half out of nostalgia, half because they have delicious food.
What you’re ordering: Eggs Florentine and an almond milk cappuccino
If I lived in Montréal, this would be my every day lunch spot. Possibly the best food we had on the trip, and we only stopped into Petit Végo for lunch. I had a tandoori tofu sandwich and Fig got a naan pizza with pesto & goat cheese (which I recreated when we got home—soooo good). Vegetarian/vegan restaurants are my happy place. They also have smoothies and coffee, so it’s really one-stop shopping.
Café 1880 is probably my favorite little spot in Montréal. The aesthetic alone! Almond milk lattés glacés by baristas who actually know what the hell they’re doing (can you tell I worked in coffee-land for way too freaking long?) Oh, and bonus points? They serve carry-out food from a local vegan restaurant. I bought a glass reusable cup so that I can feel like I’m having Café 1880 every day (and zero waste!)
Pour acheter de la musique:
Atom Heart Musique Alternative
Atom Heart *has* my heart. Much like Aquarius Records in San Francisco, it’s a curated niche store that feels no obligation to carry 27 copies of the new TSwift (no shade, Tay). “Alternative” is kind of a garbage phrase that means nothing, but there’s really no other way to describe the eclectic mix of stuff they carry. The new Marissa Nadler record (which is so good, you guys) was on display, and To Pimp a Butterfly was in the staff recommendations. Fig got quite a few discs there, including a Turkish Experimental Compilation, because Turkish rock musicians from the 1970s rule our lives.
Used record lovers look no further! Fig & I can be snobby when it comes to buying music new vs. used, but Beatnick had a great selection. We actually lost out on the last copy of a Serge Gainsbourg box set while we were there and we’re still not emotionally over it. They play incredible music in-store, and overall the shop tends to favor the ’60s, which is 10000% fine with me!
Pour voir d’art:
Admission: we never made it to the Musée des Beaux-Arts. We physically arrived there, but the line to enter was several city blocks long, and neither of us was particularly keen to stand out in the hot sun. I mean, it was free museum day, what did we expect? Luckily, we had the foresight to get to the contemporary art museum much earlier and have our minds blown by exhibits by Edmund Alleyn, Jean-Pierre Gauthier, and Ryoji Ikeda.
Pour écouter de la musique:
Métropolis is a Lupo’s/House of Blues-esque music venue on rue Ste-Catherine E. We were lucky enough to be there when…drumroll please…COURTNEY BARNETT was there! We of course got tickets, because we’re not completely insane! My fave Aussie babe melted our freaking faces off with non-stop rock. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
Until next time, MTL.
Au revoir, Montréal.