Montréal is a foodie city. Per capita, there are 1.6 times as many restaurants in Montréal than in New York City, for example, making the dining scene busy indeed, and competition is fierce and quality is high. Many visitors assume that French cuisine would be king around here, and indeed, there are a number of classic French restaurants, bistros, and brasseries that serve traditional dishes, just as many other ethnic restaurants serve authentic cuisine. But chefs are creative people, and many higher-end chef-run places of all cuisines tend to branch out and take advantage of novel techniques plus the abundance of ingredients, exotic or purposefully local, to create their own inventions. Miam miam miam!

The French influence is often obvious to the tourist -- we tend to eat later, take our time, drink lots of wine (and there are many bring-your-own-wine restaurants and never a corkage fee), call appetizers entrées, and rarely have coffee served to start unless it's a diner or breakfast. It is extremely unusal to be rushed at the end of your meal, even in busy restaurants unless they have two official seatings;  in general, you can take all the time you want and the bill will only be brought when you signal your waiter. You may have an easier time getting a table for 6:00 instead of the usual 8:00, and often since the table is reserved for the entire evening, it is basic courtesy to cancel your reservation or phone if you will be late, rather than not show up. Restaurants often consider a minimum of three course a meal, and while prix fixe is not really used here, the table d'hôte is common, which includes the soup/salad, the main dish, and dessert and tea/coffee, and many higher end restuarants offer a tasting menu with multiple courses.

American visitors will notice that in general, our portions are smaller and our waiters a little more aloof (although we like to use the word professional :). Also less common, at least downtown, are family dining places -- of course, families do dine out here, but there are fewer places serving standard North American family dining cuisine, and aside from chain restaurants and a few exceptions, most will not have a specific children's menu. And for Americans, low- to medium-range restaurant prices are higher; however, quality is also generally higher in independent restaurants compared to chains. Upscale restaurants, however, can cost a fraction of what you'd pay for the equivalent in most other large cities on the continent; alas, alcoholic beverages also tend to be more expensive than elsewhere but, as mentioned, there is a booming BYOB culture -- you can bring wine and beer but not anything stronger.  You can buy your wine at the SAQ (liquor store), not the grocery store. 

One surprise is that the tax on each meal is an amazing 15%.  This does not seem to have dampened anybody's enthusiasm for eating out, but it is something to consider  when budgeting for meals; the standard tip here also works out to around 15% for table service restaurants, so to figure out the tip, you can add the two taxes on your bill and give roughly the same amount.