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1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

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Chicago, IL
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1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

3 of us are going to Montreal July 4-8 for a girls' weekend. It will be our first time in the city, and we are very excited. We are bringing along my 18-year old sister in-law, and it will be her first time out of the US. So, she's particularly excited.

We want to do a lot of wandering, a little sight-seeing, and a lot of eating. We're staying at Le Place d'Armes, for reference.

So, while we're looking for "can't miss" things to see and do, we're mostly looking for places to eat.

We'd like recommendations for cafes, nice lunches, local fare, places in the neighborhood in which we're staying, and a few nicer dinners. One of us will be celebrating a birthday while we're there, and we'd like to have a couple of high-end restaurant suggestions.

We are Chicago foodies, and we like to eat good food, but that doesn't always mean fancy schmancy. Our preference is for small place, farm-to-table, hip restaurants.

Looking forward to your recs! Thanks so much.

Montreal, Canada
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1. Re: 1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

Montreal is a restaurant mecca. When i see these posts, i get all excited then overwhelmed. Too many choices!!!

For high end, i would recco Les 400 coups. A relatively newcommer restaurant, it's rapidly gained a great reputation. I went there about 3 weeks ago and confirmed that it lives up to expectations. Not touristym, though on the edge of Old Montreal. French inspired, fancy without any of the pretension. I DO recommend you be tempted by desert. All are fantastic (and the menu changes), but "Le Vert" desert is possibly the best and most inventive desert i've ever tasted in my life. 2 appetizer + 2 entree + 2 desert + bottle of wine was about 210$, so it's not cheap but worth it.

For more common sweets and coffee:

- Olive et Gourmando (BUSY) is a great cafe in Old Montreal.

-Mamie clafoutis, really good croissant

-Juliette et chocolat, chocolate deserts, crepes and coffee

Food:

You're going to have to give us something more to go on in terms of tastes, because there is waaaaay too many choices. Of course, most people would tell you to try :

-Montreal style bagels at either Saint-Viateur or Faimrount.

-Schwartz for Smoke meat.

-Poutine, some say got to la Banquise, i say seriously you can get it anywhere, don't stand in line. Poutine Ville, Frites Alors and pretty much any place that serves fries has poutine on the menu.

That being said, since you are girls, i don't know your tastes. These are light on the wallet but not on the stomach. Let us know if you like ethnic, if you want french, asian... :)

Chicago, IL
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2. Re: 1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

Thanks for this response! I know it's a big, open-ended question. So, I appreciate your taking a stab at it. :)

Even though we are girls, we can probably eat you under the table. :) We frequently go on trips with one item on the agenda: eat! So, we can handle pretty much anything.

Les 400 Coups sounds like a good birthday dinner option.

As for what kinds of food we like, there really isn't anything we don't like. However, since we're from Chicago and Chicago is a big foodie city, our general rule of thumb is not to eat anything we can get at home. So, we'd be totally up for some "ethnic" dining options, as long as they were extremely noteworthy. We can get most of those things here.

I guess that means we're mostly interested in "local" fare--whether that means dishes, cuisine, or ingredients that are from the region.

Does that help?

Montreal, Canada
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3. Re: 1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

Well, aside from bagels, smoke meat, poutine, our *restaurant* cuisine isn't much more different than in the US.

I wouldn't say we have local cuisine but we do some things better than in the US. There is a lot of french or french-inspired food. Particularly in bakeries and some sandwich shops. Let's just say it's easier to find a good croissant here than in the States. Mamie Clafoutis or Olive et Gourmando are good bets, but there are many other really good places.

As for french, i put my money in 400 coups. Lemeac is another really nice choice, less expensive and more typical french food. After 10pm, a appetizer+main is 27$ and that's a really good deal for their quality. I've been twice and was never dissapointed. http://restaurantlemeac.com/

We have a lot of different ethnic foods as well. Morocan, Middle Eastern, Asian, Japanese, Portuguese... You'll probably find Montreal to have a wide range of cultures, particularly if you venture outside of Old Montreal.

NJ
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4. Re: 1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

and the cheese!!! Ah!!! The cheese! Fresh cheese, not pasteurized like in the US. We look forward to the cheese each year when we visit! :-) Canada definitely gets "props" for their cheeses!!

Montreal, Canada
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5. Re: 1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

If you've never been to MTL before, you should check out the bagels from St. Viateur Bagel & Fairmont (only 1 street apart). The ongoing debate is which makes the better bagel (my vote to St. Viateur). Please let us know what you think! Just steps away from Fairmont bagel is KemCoBa ice cream/gelatto. One of the best in the city. You can then head north onto Park Ave between St. Viateur & Fairmont for some of MTL's best coffee at Caffe in Gamba. Barrista Jean-Francois is a master at his craft. If you want to try some of MTL's best croissants, & walk off what you've already eaten, from Fairmont, head 1 block south on Park to Laurier street & continue on Laurier EAST to Fous Desserts (809 Laurier Est), continue down Laurier (1375 Laurier Est) to Le Fromentier for some great bread and cheese, artisnal sausages. And if you should happen to try Schwartz's smoked meat, please do not order it lean! Medium fat is the way to truly appreciate a hot smoked meat sandwich. And lastly, a trip to Jean-Talon Market or Atwater market is a nice way to spend some time. The former more a foodie destination, the latter a nice spot for a picnic lunch along the canal weather permitting.

Montreal, Canada
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6. Re: 1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

Yes two things that we take for granted but that amaze the US tourists is our cheese and bakery culture. Here you can find white sliced bread and fougasse aux olives or Velveeta and artisan unpasteurized cheeses in the same supermarket. Not something evident in the US and I have 6 years of experience in Florida to vouch for that!

But you will still find better if you go to the farmers markets, particularly Jean-Talon where Maison des Saveurs has all kind of made in Québec foodstuff, the cheese counter is great there as well as at Fromagerie Hamel and you can have bits to taste if you want.

How much foodies can you be? Well a good test is if you want to try offals. L’Express is probably the epitome of a French bistro in North-America but the food is of the real bistro kind so do not expect outstanding food but you should certainly try the beef bone marrow appetizer or the kidneys and the sweetbreads or the hanger steak.

Another thing that is typical to Montréal is the restaurants that elevate the food of some countries that are not so gastronomic to the gastronomic levels. What come to mind is Milos for Greek Cuisine and Cafe Ferreira for Portuguese. Milos went to open other restaurants in NYC, Las Vegas and even Athens but it originated in Mtl. Be aware though that for relatively plain meals but done with stellar ingredients, you will pay very dearly. That is unless you want to try them for lunch or after 10 pm when they have late dinner specials.

Just near your hotel you could have tea at Birk’s (our Tiffany). Traditional and modernized tea is served in the afternoon. The same chef and company operate the very gastronomic Europea which can be your choice for your grand evening. The Menu Dégustation Signature offers 12 courses + numerous amuse-bouches, tid bits and mignardises that you don’t expect. That would be exactly the kind of foodie excess that you are craving for! Well even by ordering à la carte or the 3 courses table d’hôte you will be served as many little bits in between. Well you really get the whole shebang there!

For bread and «viennoiseries» we have numerous neighbourhood bakeries like Olives et Gourmando or Le Fromentier already mentioned but also 2 chains that make great stuff: Au Pain Doré and Premières Moissons. Both have stores near or in the farmers markets but there is also one Au Pain Doré on Peel Street, close to your hotel and also close a Premières Moissons in the food court of Central Station. So they come in handy for breakfast although you get one included in the room price at your hotel. Great French Pastries are also found at La Brioche Lyonnaise in the Latin Quarter and Pâtisserie de Gascogne on Laurier Street in the Mile End, close to the bagel bakeries in fact.

By the way legal drinking age is 18 in the Province so that might please your sister-in-law!

Chicago, IL
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7. Re: 1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

Thanks so much, everyone! This is SO helpful.

I've made reservations Les 400 Coups for the birthday dinner and at Le Bremner for our first night. I also made reservations for tea at Birks--sounds like the perfect things for a girls' weekend!

We'll also plan to eat lots of bread and cheese and pastries at many of the places mentioned, and we're definitely going to hit up the farmers market.

Admittedly, though, I might have to turn in my foodie card because we don't eat offals. We will eat bone marrow, but that's basically meat butter. :)

Any farm to table places with less complicated fare? Great ingredients, simple preparations, small plates? Maybe something a little more casual?

Montreal, Canada
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8. Re: 1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

If you want to get more pure butter croissants and other «viennoiseries» you could also go to Kouig Amann in the Plateau area. It is also a coffe shop to eat on premises and if not exactly for breakfast you should go for their epinymous kouig annam cake as a morning snack. Better to check in advance at what time they cook some since this is way better when still hot to lukewarm. So: Pâtisserie Kouign Amann, 322, avenue du Mont-Royal Est, Tél. : 514-845-8813

9. Re: 1st timers--best things to EAT and see?

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