MONTREAL...4 nights...should I avoidi weekends?

Thinking of taking train from NYC to Montreal. I’ve been there only twice and last time was about 20 years ago (the night Bush was elected vs Gore!).

Stayed at Ritz Carlton which was reasonable due to exchange rate. Is this a good hotel to return to as far as location? Big plus is that it has an indoor pool and I am a committed swimmer.

Partner is in his late 70s and cannot walk more than about 5 blocks or so, depending on the day. I can walk longer andn partner is fine being holed up in a comfy room while I explore.

So…looking for places to eat that typify cuisine of the city. Smoked meat would be a must but we can take that out and snack on it during the train ride back south.

I’ve done but a scant amount of research, but these 3 places sound tempting; please comments on these and recommend others…


Will likely take a hotel room with breakfast so interested mostly in dinners.
Would like to try poutine at some point…where?
And smoked meat for the one lunch and to cart home…

Not looking for much ethnic eating…more in the local foods but can be persuaded easily…

Should I do all I can to avoid weekends in late November or does it not much matter as far as getting restaurant bookings? Does one have to book 30 days out as in New York?

ALSO…How could I forget: Food markets!!! Where to shop with an eye of bringing items home on the train…cheeses ot so much, but what are other quintessential Montreal foods that I should consider? I cook often at home and always looking for new ingredients, anythingn interesting… Love to wander around food markets, Which should I head for in the city? Less interested in ethnic markets but those that let the Canadian food of the region shine. (yes, I know they are all blended together but hope you get my drift.

I’m a fish out of water here…welcome any and all comments!

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Try to avoid Sundays and Mondays as a lot of restaurants close those day, weekends will be busy for sure but if you make reservations you’ll be fine. I went in July Tues-Fri and it was great.
4 decadent dayz in Montreal

You can’t go wrong with L’Espress, your other two I’m not familiar with. I find hotel breakfasts boring and overpriced, lots of good options to be had. For smoked meat, Schwartz’s Deli is good, but not as good as it once was, but go at off hours, I went at 10:30 AM and there was no line, but there was a huge line on my way back by noon.
The Ritz is a decent location and a fine hotel, and if you got a deal all the better. The markets will be a schlep from the hotel though, but transit is quite good.
I always recommend au pied de cochon if you’ve never been, sitting at the kitchen counter seats and ordering some daily specials is the way to go.

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The Ritz Carlton is a lovely location. I have stayed there. It will be a 10 to 20 minute taxi to most restaurants recommended here. You could walk along Sherbrooke W to Westmount in roughly half an hour, or walk to Little Burgundy and Atwater market in 30-40 minutes. The Metro is also fairly straightforward.

The Jean Talon Market (in Little Italy, 15-20 min taxi) has more variety than the Atwater Market.
I visit both.

In terms of restaurants downtown, that are nearby, the Café Boulud at your hotel has nice brunches and tasting menus. I also like the Café Ferreira on Peel for Portuguese seafood. Vasco da Gama Caffe is the sister café.

I would avoid the restaurants and bars on Crescent Street, close to the Ritz Carlton. They aren’t going to be places recommended here, anyways. Those places used to draw a Come From Away weekend crowd.

Lots of ideas in Shrinkrap’s recent post.

I used to take the train to Montreal from Toronto all the time.


“Partner is in his late 70s and cannot walk more than about 5 blocks or so, depending on the day”

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Peel St is within 5 blocks of the Ritz Carlton.


I’m giving the walk distances in case Erica is walking on her own while the partner hangs out in the comfy room.

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Re: poutine
There are fancy types and basic types, and other types somewhere in the middle.

The basic one was invented by a truck driver, and involves commercial beef gravy, fries and curds .

Fancy types might call include demi-glace, twice-fried frites and foie gras.

I would try 2 types. The basic type is often meh for people who have greater expectations.

Le Banquise is often recommended for the basic type. The basic type will also be found on every greasy spoon or bar menu in the city.

For the fancier type, Au Pied de Cochon has a their decadent and heavy type, with foie gras.


My dad couldn’t walk much either, but he came everywhere with us – given buses, metro, and now Uber, there really isn’t much that’s not accessible with a few blocks of walking. (We didn’t find cabs particularly helpful or plentiful in Montreal, but that may have been a new york comparison.)

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Ginny & I spent a month in Montreal last year. We drove (6 hrs door to door from Bklyn) but used the Metro and Uber a lot while there. It’s an easy city to navigate, coming from NYC. Saregama turned us on to a great indoor market called Marche Adonis (the one on Ste Catherine St). It can fit Sahadi on one side and Zabars on the other, while leaving room for Eataly in between. Great place for you to shop. As for outdoor markets, both Jean Talon & Atwater are good. In terms of dinners, L’Express is very good. Don’t think Au Pied de Cochon would be worth one of your 4 meals. Probably not Joe Beef either, as it’s not what it was (still good) & greatly overpriced. O’thym was on our list but we never got there - looks like exactly what you want. Darna (Middle Eastern food) was highly recommended but everyone agreed that this wasn’t anything you cant readily get in NYC, although it is probably better done than most. I really liked the smoked meat at Schwartz’s. So much so that I had them pack a second sandwich for me to take back to our apt. for the next day’s lunch. Two places that we liked a lot but may not be what you want: first, Candide a tasting menu place. If you’re interested, reserve to sit at the kitchen pass, where you can see and speak with the staff at work. We loved the food they served, the atmosphere and the overall experience. Your “other half” may not be happy here. Secondly, on the other side of the spectrum (more for him, but okay for you), is a Montreal burger house (like Waterfront Ale House used to be) called Caribou Gourmand Decidedly not upscale, but we enjoyed our meal there.


Unless you have your heart set on the Ritz, might I suggest staying in Old Montreal.
Tons of great restaurants and sights to see nearby.

Hotel Nelligan | A Classic Luxury Hotel in Old Montreal

Luxury Spa Hotel in Old Montreal | Hôtel William Gray (

For bistros, I like Leméac.

I like La Chronique, as well.

In Old Montreal, I like Le Club Chasse et Pêche

I find L’Express okay. It’s more traditional French, as opposed to French Canadian.

I have a post if you have not read of a recent long weekend trip to Montréal. L’Express was great. But French food, not French Canadian as already noted. Also think that Au Pied de Cochon was not as good as the hype.

We like Dunn’s for smoked meat and it’s close to your hotel. Doesn’t have the hype of Schwartz’s or lines. You can get poutine there too. We have a local friend who thinks the Sunday brunch buffet at the Fairmont is awesome and we meet there to sample a lot of local fare.

Sundays as noted can be tricky as many places are closed. The hotel location is fine but not really close to where you will find interesting places to eat. But I’ve found the issue with hotels is that they’re basically in the city center and the places I want to go aren’t. We stayed at Hotel Monville which was only a block from the Place d’Armes metro station. The metro is pretty good for getting around. The weekend pass is a bargain. Jean Talon market is great but if you don’t have a kitchen for cooking, there’s not much to do but wander and gawk.

Wanted to point out that technically bringing the food you have described back from Canada is not permitted. It’s international travel and all the restrictions on bringing cheese and fresh food into the US apply though I have no experience taking the train and whether anyone even checks bags.

One thing to keep in mind for getting around, I found Uber to be incredibly cheap compared to what a ride costs in NYC.

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Cabaret L’Enfer
Nora Grey
Le Vin Papillon
In no particular order

Another of my 2cents (American)…
we really liked Nora Grey but remember that erica lives in nyc & that its an italian restaurant, not much different from what can be found here. we also liked le vin papillon — the small plates were very nicely composed and tasty. However, the wine list is all natural & we didnt find any (& believe me, with the knowledgable assistance of our bar server, we tried) that we liked enough to recommend. Either too cider-y/cloudy or too light. If one enjoys this type of wine, then fine.

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A third vote for Le Vin Papillon

I don’t do Italian here in Toronto, so Nora Grey was an absolute treat for me. If you’re coming from NYC(or Toronto ) , you’re not gonna find anything really different in Montreal tbh.
I found Jean talon market underwhelming and kinda boring, nothing to write home about.


I find Montreal Italian distinct from Italian American in Manhattan, Italian in Manhattan, Italian in Toronto and Italian in different parts of Italy.

I know Erica spends a lot of time in Italy and in NYC. If she’s interested in Montreal-style traditional or modern Italian, I think she will find it distinct from what is available in NYC.

I am a fan of chefs Stefano Faita and Michele Forgione.

I also like Joe Mercuri’s cooking, but I don’t know what he is up to these days.

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Hi Erica,

If you’re going to Montreal as ‘culture’ then enjoy ‘la difference’. If you’re going for food, then I’m sorry to report that the glory days have passed. All of the excitement is now in Quebec City, where there is a dynamic food scene (that does not seem to have been recognised in the rest of Canada).

However, walking is more difficult in Quebec City – it’s much hillier and the transport system is less convenient.

In both places, Sunday through Tuesday are ‘challenging’ for finer dining; and the better places are difficult reservations for Friday and Saturday. So, my recommendation is to find one top dining place and get that reservation ASAP.

Typically, we travel to Montreal early in the week and stay one night (near the station), continuing on to Quebec City on a morning train – then stay overnight in Quebec for 2 (or 3 nights) and return via Montreal – staying overnight there (and picking up our foodstuffs) (usually Saturday) prior to returning home.

In Montreal itself we’re still looking for a ‘great meal’ – we’ve been disappointed with most of the previous favourites since Covid. Have now visited 4 times in 3 years and we now only aim for Quebec City with a stopover in Montreal.

Au Pied de Cochon is certainly ‘over-the-top’ with Foie – but IMO the Quebec foie is not really that different from Hudson Valley, and the ‘Bro’ culture’ at APdC seems to support conspicuous consumption, rather than finer dining.

Joe Beef had a great-looking menu but the food was disappointing.

Le Mousso was good first time around, but their current format (serve everybody a fixed tasting menu at once, and talk about it (in French)) means the food has cooled off before you get to eat it.

Haven’t tried any of your tentative places; Darna resembles several similar places in Toronto; L’Express menu appeals, but nobody I know has been there to recommend it, so I haven’t been; Chez O’ Thym I’ve added to my list for next visit – good scouting! If you visit Atwater Market, Foiegwa is an acceptable destination almost next to the Marche.

Last visit (August this year), I tried Mon Lapin (currently rated #1 restaurant in Canada by a mixed cadre of chefs and enthusiasts) and it encouraged me to avoid similar lists! A competent wine bar (actually good wine selection) with above average food. Great as a ‘local place’ but hardly worth a detour. Might just make my top 10 in Toronto! Whereas Taniere³ (in Quebec City) has been my top pick in Canada for the past 3 years (4 visits).

I used to bring back duck from Montreal, but now, it’s available in Toronto, so I don’t bother. Some people rave about the Bagels – but you’re from New York (so try one or two and decide for yourself). Smoked meat is good – but again, New York (and even Toronto) has comparable. Of course, smoked ’meat’ was originally a euphemism for horsemeat, which was popular in Montreal (and at M Wells In LIC, until the place was picketed, and that item removed from the menu). But it’s still available (called Chevaline) – PM me for locations, I don’t want to stir things up on this board. At home, we serve a great “Horse d’ Oeuvre” and a gimmicky ‘Track ‘n Quack’ – all sourced from Montreal with a freezer pack for return.

I haven’t seen mention of Toqué. Sublime.

Regarding the train, in my student days I toyed with the idea many times because the price can’t be beaten, but it’s a long, long, long ride – never did it.

@SteveR she said she doesn’t want ethnic food so Adonis may not be of interest.

I enjoyed Au Pied de Cochon more than others here seem to have - for a first-time visitor I think it’s atmospheric and the food when I went was delicious (a lot of that depends on what you choose, of course, and their menu does change - the duck shepherds pie I ate there was a special and very rich but very good.)

@erica1 Take a look at this other current thread too.

Thanks beacoup (surely this is an egregious error!!) to all!

Just realized that I had sent my USA passport out for expedited renewal about 10 days ago…so will have to book on contingency of trip cancellation if passport does not arrive…

Will keep all advice on tap and hope that passport comes through in time for US Thanksgiving week trip…if not, can take this NEXT fall, if not before…So glad I found this site (thanks to SteveR, one of my former CH “heroes!!” ). Thank you, Steve!!

Let’s get more food people involved here…looks like many of the CH’ers did not make the jump to HO, or is this my error??? I look mainly at ITES and, less so, NYC, and sometimes, cookware…need to branch out more, especially since possible Indonesia jaunt is in the offing for late spring, family visit…thanks gain, all, for such superb info on Montreal and all else!!

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