Weekend Getaway: Montreal

A Joe Beef vet picks the best places to eat and drink in Montreal

Here's the situation: Summer is over, and you have one last three-day weekend before the holiday season kicks into high gear, leaving your waistband tight and wallet slim.

So this should be your game plan: Go to Montreal. Seriously. It's a cheap, short flight from New York (although you could drive if you really wanted to), and an absolutely lovely, highly walkable, vaguely-exotic-feeling-but-they-still-speak-English-so-don't-worry-about-it kind of city. Oh, and the food. The food in Montreal is really something else, and it's everywhere—this is a city that takes eating seriously (note that it's also a city that knows how to have a good time, so combine the two, and you're in for a big weekend).

Planning your eating and drinking itinerary in Montreal can be overwhelming as restaurants open and close and bars go in and out of style at lightning speed. For guidance, we turned to Meredith Erickson, Montreal native and co-author of The Art of Living According to Joe Beef (Ten Speed, $26) and its impending sequel, as well as the author of a forthcoming book on Apline cookery with Ten Speed Press that we're pretty excited about. Here are her favorite places to eat, drink and dance in the City of Saints.

Café Olimpico | Photo courtesy Flickr user April Fool

Coffee: "Montreal is a very coffee-oriented city," says Erickson. "I've been going to Café Olimpico on St.-Viateur for the past decade. It's the opposite of third-wave coffee shops—it's Italian-owned, with sports on the TVs and cracked-out coffee that makes you feel crazy. It's a great meeting place. If you do take your coffee more seriously, try Café Myriade, which carries speciality beans from Vancouver's 49th Parallel and Portland's Heart."

Lunch: "In Old Montreal, Olive & Gourmando has incredible pastries, but for something a little more substantial, it's also known for the Cuban sandwich with panchetta and roast pork ($12). Once you get in, there's a good chance you'll end up lingering there all day. I also like Arts Café on Fairmount, which has a younger, hipper crowd. I don't always have patience for the service, but the food is great—there's a sort of French-Mediterranean influence on the menu, with things like shakshuka ($12), cod cakes ($13) and lots of daily specials. For something old-school, everyone raves about L'Express, which is one of Montreal's most traditional restaurants, but it's not my favorite. I prefer Leméac, which is where all the French-Canadian businesspeople go for lunch. The confit de canard ($25) has been the same for 15 years, and it's always on point. It's not the coolest place, but I love it regardless."

Dinner: "Buvette Chez Simone is one of my favorite places in the city. There are incredible wines by the glass, and the menu has lots of small plates that you check off as you eat, plus a very good roast chicken that you can order by the quarter, half or whole ($12 to $36). They're open from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m., so when you get there, there's an after-work crowd, then a dinner crowd, then the music gets turned up and everyone gets drunk. Of course, I have to mention the Joe Beef family, too. Joe Beef itself needs no explanation, Liverpool House is right next door and perfect for oysters and bubbles, and its newest place, Le Vin Papillion, has fantastic wines and great little bites of this and that. Finally, there's Nora Gray, whose chef-owners used to work at Liverpool House. Emma Cardarelli, the chef, is having a moment because she's making, hands-down, the best Italian pasta in the city right now."

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Dessert: "Cocoa Locale is owned by a very talented Indian-Canadian woman named Reema Singh, who is bite-size, just like her cakes. She does incredible flavors like lemon-vanilla, coconut-chocolate, vanilla with rose icing and more. You can get a cupcake, but I like the regular cakes—the small one will feed about four."

After-Hours: "For going out, we like Stereo, which, unsurprisingly, has a great sound system and guest DJs. It's open until 6 a.m., so it's good to roll up around 1 a.m. There's also this tiny new club owned by a fellow who goes by Thomas Von Party called Datcha, which also has a little bar right next door called Kabinet." 

Café Olimpico 124 St-Viateur Ouest Montreal QC H2T 2X8 514-495-0746 Cafe Myriade 251 rue Saint-Viateur Ouest Montreal QC H2V 514-507-4092 Olive & Gourmando 351 Saint-Paul W. Montreal QC H2Y 2A6 514-350-1083 Buvette Chez Simone 4869 Avenue Du Parc Montreal QC H2V 4E7 514-750-6577 Arts Café 201 Avenue Fairmount Ouest Montreal QC H2T 514-274-0919 Leméac 1045, Avenue Laurier ouest Montreal QC H2V 2L1 514-270-0999 Joe Beef 2491-2501 Rue Notre-Dame West Montreal QC H3J 1N5 514-935-6504 Le Vin Papillon 2519 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest Montreal QC H3J 1N6 Nora Gray 1391 Rue Saint-Jacques Montreal QC H3C 4J4 514-419-6672 Cocoa Locale 4807 Avenue du Parc Montreal QC H2V 4E7 514-271-7162 Stereo 858 St. Catherine E. Montreal QC H2L 2E3 Datcha 98 Laurier Ouest Montreal QC H2T 2N4 514-279-3555
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