Ah, Montreal: it was right at the top of my must-visit list for what felt like forever. The moment I heard someone refer to it as “the Paris of North America,” I was sold: charming, cute, and conveniently located in the country of our friendly neighbors to the north? Count me in.
One of the first things we did in Montreal, however, wasn’t quite in keeping with the old world magic I had initially envisioned: we took a food tour of the Mile End neighborhood with Local Montreal Tours. My only preconceived notion about Montreal’s culinary scene can be summed up in one word (“poutine”), but our time in the Mile End proved that there was so much more good food to discover.
Our guide explained to us that the Mile End is one of Montreal’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods. Fittingly, then, its food scene was quite diverse and high quality. We began the day at La Panthère Verte, which serves vegan and organic cuisine. In addition to making a seriously delicious falafel, what I liked about the restaurant was its eco-friendly policies: if you bring your own container, you get a discount on your meal. Pretty cool.
Next, we made our way to Boucherie Lawrence for cheese, charcuterie, and beer. Boucherie Lawrence uses local products, and the cheese and meats (including porchetta, chorizo, and salami) we sampled were excellent. As for the beer, it was Saison du Tracteur from Le Trou du Diable, a brewery in Quebec. I’m not a beer aficionado by any means, but I did appreciate trying something locally brewed.
At our next stop, we switched things up and sampled something sweet. Kem CoBa is an ice cream shop co-owned by a husband and wife team; she’s Vietnamese and he’s French. Together, they make some incredible ice creams and sorbets. It was hard to choose between the two, but I ultimately opted for ice cream, picking a tasty combination of salted butter and dulce de leche.
After our ice cream, we headed to one of my most anticipated events of the tour: trying a Montreal bagel at St. Viateur Bagel, which opened in 1949. Our guide told us that the secret ingredient in Montreal bagels is honey water; whatever makes them special, I have to say that I loved my bagel. And if you’re curious about the difference between a Montreal bagel and a New York bagel, check this article out (though, in fairness, I love both: who can say no to such carbohydrate-y goodness, in whatever form?)
At Phyllo Bar Melina’s, we tried a variety of piping hot Greek bites: tyropita (filled with feta and ricotta), spanakopita (spinach and feta), prasopita (leek and potato), and bougatsa (creme anglaise). After visiting Greece several years back, I’m always excited to eat Greek food – and this was some good Greek food.
We finished up our tour at Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois, where we each got to select one gourmet chocolate. I felt it was only fitting, being in Canada and all, to go with the maple chocolate – and I was very happy with my choice.
Overall, I would highly recommend Local Montreal Tours – I particularly liked the wide variety of foods we tasted, and many of the shops were places I never would have stumbled upon on my own. I also appreciated the focus on restaurants with local, sustainable cuisine, a trend I was happy to see becoming more prevalent most everywhere I traveled last year. More than anything, though, my morning in the Mile End taught me there was much more to Montreal than poutine (though, of course, we did eat poutine at another meal and it was fantastic). Next time I visit the city, I know a return trip to the Mile End – and those bagels, man – is on my agenda.