Eating Montreal

Montreal’s burgeoning food scene rivals any “best of” city, even my tasty little hometown of Portland, Maine. Glowing fruit and vegetables in mysterious heirloom varieties, divine buffalo mozzarella, robust cider vinegar, flinty wines, and oh, the duck! Pillowy gnocchi and sweet beignets created with love and magic are simply delicious. During Jazz Fest 2019, we indulge in our own epicurean exploration of this world-class city.

Jazz & Food

The diverse, multigenerational Jazz Festival crowds grow each day. As temperatures soar, regular time-outs at onsite cafés are a necessity. We settle at Café Nouveau Monde for some stellar people watching and refreshment. We take our time over chilled sangria, red and white. We savor goat cheese “Josephine” and a thin Alsatian tart.

I beg for their favorite sangria recipe. “Pas de problem,” says the friendly bartender.

White Sangria

  • Soupçon each light rum, dark rum and Triple Sec
  • Pineapple juice – 2 cups
  • White wine – 1 liter
  • Secret Montreal Ingredient: dash of Sprite! Seriously.
  • Add orange, lemon and lime slices. A few maraschino cherries.

Red Sangria

  • Soupçon each light rum, dark rum and Triple Sec
  • Orange juice – 2 cups
  • Red wine – 1 liter
  • Secret Montreal Ingredient: dash of Sprite! Seriously. 
  • Add orange, lemon and lime slices. A few maraschino cherries.

Festival stalwart Le Blumenthal Brasserie is also centrally located, and a fine place to take a break while in the heart of the festival. The menu is reliably creative, with fresh salads like our favorite, heirloom tomato with Québécois mozzarella. Best of all, the profits from this busy brasserie help finance the work of the Maison du Festival. The exchange rate reduces prices by about 25%, if that is the kind of cool comfort you crave.

Heirloom tomato 3

Like me, if your idea of summer refreshment skews toward gin and tonic, check out the Hendrick’s Gin Tent. Their version of the hallowed cocktail is sublime in its simplicity, featuring sliced fresh cucumber. It feels almost healthy — a boozy micro-salad.


Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic

1 parts Hendrick’s Gin
3 parts tonic water (***I like Fever Tree)
3 ribbons (or rounds) of cucumber

Combine ingredients in a highball glass filled with cubed ice
Lightly stir and serve
Garnish with thinly sliced cucumber


Our neighborhood destination for local color is Nyk’s. First night, we’re feeling shy, and politely order house fries with a modest dab of mayo and splash of vinegar, s’il vous plait. A delicious but tentative beginning. Feeling a little braver after a day or two, we decide to go native with classic Québécois poutine: fries, cheese curds and Nyk’s special foie-gras gravy. Sublimely decadent. We’re hooked, and return a few days later under cover of darkness. We revel in the local scene, the waitstaff doing shots behind the bar, a quintessential Montreal moment. Our Poutine infatuation rages throughout our stay, culminating in the ultimate combo: fries, cheese curds, and unctuous duck confit draped in Nyk’s special foie-gras gravy. Swoon-worthy fare, it’s just this side of food porn. 

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 10.27.04 AM

We’re finally tempted offsite to Joe Beef’s new Liverpool House in Little Burgundy, home of jazz great Oscar Peterson. We sip a flinty Ontario Stanner’s Riesling and order six oysters, les huitres. Surprise! We receive seven jewels: 3 from P.E.I., 2 from Quebec, and 2 from British Columbia, a briny provincial sextet plus one. The gorgeous black ruffled oysters from B.C. taste like the wild ocean itself, wow.

Next up, the Njudi Sando is a crazy combo on warm English muffin. Whose idea was it, anyway, that swordfish be cooked? It is sublime raw, dressed simply with herbs and olive oil. Add a generous layer of Njudi, spreadable spicy sausage with a hint of chili oil, and Le Sando becomes an unctuous, extraordinary bite. With Liverpool’s sangria, heavy on the blackberries, it’s another grand slam out of the park.Don’t miss Liverpool’s grilled Asparagus Diane in densely flavored morel mushroom sauce with a hint of Cognac, complex and rich. We’re blissed out; the sauce is the velvety brown of George Clooney’s eyes. Our server asks if we’d like bread for the juices. Oooh, yes. The dish is astonishingly deep, dark, veggie-centric and flavor-forward — fabulous. “How do they DO it?” we moan.We will return to Liverpool House. Joe Beef and company lives up to the the hype. Arrive early — doors open at 5:00 and it gets crowded. Their delicious success is well-deserved.

Un Po’ Di Piu!

Another epicurious treat is Un Po’ di Piu (“a little bit more”), a wonderful addition to Old Montreal’s waterfront dining scene. Un Po’ is the newly hatched sister of Olive & Gourmando, home of outstanding panini, and Foxy, creator of unforgettably delicious wood-fired trout.

We start with Campari Spritz, nibble delicious thick-skinned olives, and happily absorb the riverfront scene. The Asparagus with Burrata and local herbs is dreamy — light, soft, and delicious. The burrata plays beautifully with shallots, fresh herbs and splash of sunny yellow olive oil. Dense house-made focaccia is handy for bright and flavorful juices. Service is thoughtful, helpful and pleasantly chatty. Well done, Un Po’ di Piu!

Daily Bruschetta features tiny, Maine-style shrimp – the kind we no longer get in Maine. Alas, they’ve wisely migrated to cooler Canadian waters. The shrimp arrive piled high on slices of grilled sourdough, topped with tomato essence, olive oil and basil. Exquisite tastes! Our happy reunion with the small, succulent shrimp is well worth the trip.

Don’t miss Un Po’ di Piu.

Mile End Food Tour

Mile End is also an epicurean Montreal hub. We explore this thriving hive of musicians, creatives, chefs and entrepreneurs via the brilliant and revealing Mile End Food Tour. My dear foodie friend, Radio Girl, comes along — a perfect companion. We actually get a little giggly from the excitement of our first food tour together! Oh my, it is such fun.

Walla Volo is a colorful, multicultural Mile End mural and the largest in Canada.

Our tour is led by engaging guide, Sebastian, who speaks English, French, German and even a bit of Italian. He is both fun to listen to and nice to look at. We happily ping from falafel to chocolate, bagels to gnocchi, and on to charcuterie and baked goods. We visit the Godfather of Gattuso and sample his beautiful salsa della nonna. We peer into the window of Wilensky’s, creator and purveyor of an identical grilled bologna sandwich on white bread, with pickle, since 1938. Seriously.

We explore back alleys, quirky shops and Mile End stalwarts like St. Viateur Bagel. We absorb local lore and color while savoring some neighborhood classics. My favorite bite is a succulent pork rillette at Boucherie St. Lawrence — excellent. Our odyssey concludes with a bit of mango gelato at Kem CoBa. Radio Girl and I agree, mango is just the thing.

Get There

Montreal has a festival every five minutes all year long. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself. Montreal is known for vibrant nightlife, all-season festivals, cinq-a-sept happy hours, multi-cultural conviviality and joie de vivre. More than a mini-taste of France, this grown-up, world-class metropolis is more than worth a visit in any season. •


About Epicurious Travelers

Ms. Margolis-Pineo created to showcase her published work and ongoing food-travel adventures. Based in Portland, Maine, she travels frequently both in her home state and north to Montreal, her favorite North American city. Although she refuses to use the word "foodie," she has an abiding interest in food and wine. Ms. Margolis-Pineo's background as a designer gives her site an edge in the oversaturated blogosphere. New contacts, "likes," subscribers and content are always welcome!
This entry was posted in Canada, East Coast Travel, Farm-to-Table, Festivals, Food and Wine, Holiday Travel, International, Jazz Festival, Maine, Maine Travel, Montreal, Music, Off-the-beaten-track, Quebec and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Eating Montreal

  1. Sarah Marsh says:

    So brilliant I love reading about these places on my list of must see future vacation spots. Thanks Epicurious T! – Sarah Marsh

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