Did you know, Montreal is continuously ranked one of the top nightlife cities in North America, again and again? If you have ever been, you can easily see why; this city is bustling! In addition to its buzzling late night scene, Montreal also has some fantastic food and tons of cool neighborhoods to check out. Sadly, I was only there for a long weekend, so I didn’t check out nearly as many places as I would have liked, but here are places I would highly recommend, as well as fun things to do.
Brunch: Jardin Nelson
Who doesn’t love live jazz, freshly squeezed mimosas, and outdoor seating underneath a cozy, warmly heated patio? That’s the brunch trifecta right there! The ambiance at this fantastic weekend spot is casual, trendy, charming, friendly, and fun. The lengthy, all day menu resembles a Charles Dickens novel, which can be slightly intimidating, but luckily, they’ve shortened brunch down to two pages, so you’re not sitting there deliberating until dinner rolls around. If you’re looking for brunch suggestions, the Shakshouka with poached duck egg is very tasty and filling. The dish comes with pan fried vegetables roasted in a delicious cheesy tomato sauce with a duck egg on top, and roasted potatoes on the side. The open-faced grilled cheese sandwich is also another suggested dish, especially if you like things on the sweeter side. The dish comes with two pieces of bread topped with aged cheddar, blue cheese, dates, walnuts and maple syrup with a delicious salad on the side finished off with a poppy seed dressing. Be forewarned, the dish is resembles more of a dessert than a hearty breakfast dish!
Moving on, as we all know, you can’t do brunch properly without delicious mimosas, so be sure to grab some while you’re here. The orange juice is freshly squeezed and as you might imagine, it comes with a nice, fresh cut strawberry slice on the rim. In addition to the delightful mimosas, the peach sangria is all the rage here. Jacked with peach schnapps, this sangria will have you singing like the high pitched jazz singer on stage when you’re done!
If you’re in a rush, and just looking for a quick to go bite, be sure to check out the freshly baked bagel scene in Montreal. (Here is Time Out New York’s list of the best bagels). What makes the Montreal bagel so unique compared to the NYC bagel you might be asking? Excellent question. First off, all Montreal bagels are made by hand. They are also poached in honey before being baked in a wood-fire burning oven. This unique cooking process gives the Canadian bagel its distinctive chewy characteristic, as well as its golden color and crust. Apparently, the proper way to eat this bagel is fresh out of the oven in a paper bag, and ripping scolding hot pieces off, and dipping them in cream cheese. It’s worth a trip to Canada just to give this delightful bagel a try.
Lunch: Check out the Mile End.
The Mile End which is often referred to as the Brooklyn of Montreal comes complete with the usual Brooklyn staples: brownstone buildings, hipsters, bagels, abandoned factories turned into expensive condos, and of course, fantastic food! The Mile End area is best known for tons of vegan options, signature homemade gnocchi in a to-go Chinese takeaway container at La Dhrogeria Fine, and some of the best gelato you will ever eat at the famous, Kem Coba, which is so popular, it often garners a line longer than Six Flags on a hot summer day.
If you’re unsure where to go, check out a food tour. Trust me, there are many! We did the Local Montreal Food Tours.
The rooftop deck at the Hotel William Gray is the perfect place to grab a pre-dinner cocktail. The seats at the bar are heated with overhead heat lamps, there’s gorgeous views of the river and the giant Ferris wheel, the bar staff is super friendly, and the vibe is very chill and trendy. People are dressed in everything from suits to ripped jeans and a white tee, trust me you’ll feel like you belong, whether you’re dressed in your Sunday best or a Big Bird costume.
Montreal has so many amazing restaurants, it’s insane! It’s truly the New York City of Canada. In any case, you must have at least one great meal before you leave (especially if the exchange rate it in your favor, then it’s well worth it)! One restaurant that came highly recommended is Garde Manger. One awesome thing about this restaurant is the fact that they change up their menu daily and they do tasting menus so you can try a variety of things! Be prepared to wait when you arrive as this place is in the heart of Old Montreal (touristy area of Montreal) and it’s quite the popular spot! The tasting menu starts at $100 dollars Canadian and includes a shared seafood tower, appetizers, entrees, and dessert. Expect a lot of food. If there are three people in your party, you will likely get: three appetizers, three entrees, and three desserts for the table. Whew. All you need to do is tell the wait staff what you won’t eat, and the chefs will create a menu around that. Please see below: chicory, beef tartare, and tuna carpaccio for starters. For entrees: halibut, lamb, and roasted broccoli. If you dine on a Thursday-Sunday and order the tasting menu, be prepared to stay a few hours as everything is made to order in a small kitchen and this place gets packed!
If you’re in town for work or pleasure and find yourself near the Golden Square mile where the Four Seasons, Loews Hotel, or Ritz Carlton are, do check out La Société at the Loews Hotel. Don’t forget to order a fantastic bottle of French white wine and their duck rillette & foie gras parfait and their Icelandic cod fillet. Although the restaurant has a clear French theme, it’s much better than most of the restaurants in Paris. Guaranteed!
Another highly recommended restaurant was Maison Boulud at the Ritz Carlton. It’s a Daniel Boulud restaurant so you can’t go wrong and again, if you are a United States citizen visiting Montreal, you feel like you get an automatic discount because of the exchange rate!
Late night cocktails:
The Coldroom is a must (assuming you like speakeasy type bars). It’s a bit of a project trying to locate this underground bar, but as a rule of thumb, if it’s a speakeasy, look for a line of people waiting outside a black door, and you’re probably at the right place. They’ll take down your information and tell you they’ll text you when they are ready for you. (Luckily for us, it didn’t take more than 30 minutes). When you arrive, you’ll walk downstairs into a dimly lit room with a small bar and dark, lounge style seating.
Bar Le Mal Necessaire is another fun, late night stop for cocktails. The cocktail bar has a tiki style theme and serves exotic drinks while playing underground house music on Friday and Saturday evening. The place isn’t too big or too crowded, so you can dance on the dance floor or sip on your drink at the bar while listening to DJ music play in the background.
If you have the time, do check out Bota Bota before you leave. It’s a spa on a boat and it’s quite delightful. You truly feel like you’re on a cruise on the water. There’s indoor and outdoor spas, pools, saunas, and steam rooms. There’s also an excellent restaurant on the first floor that allows you to dine on the water in a glass enclosed room. The food is excellent, and you can dine in your robe. What more can you ask for?