French-Canadian Montréal, just 330 miles north of New York City, is an increasingly exciting place to be, whether it’s live music, cultural festivals, contemporary art, boutique shopping, or incredible food and drink you’re after. We are predisposed to favor the latter, naturally, and Canada’s second-largest city, with its ethnic diversity and rich (if tumultuous) Franco- and Anglophone history, does not disappoint. Start by exploring the most regional of Québécois foods—the meat pies, the pork spreads, the beans in lard—and you’ll begin to notice a theme: This is a meat-centric city. Given the area’s bitterly cold winters and early-European-pioneer lineage of hunters, trappers, fur traders, and farmers, it’s no wonder these foods became (and remain) associated with breakfast, the time of day to stock up on hearty, high-fat protein. The people’s excuse for eating these dishes today? History, tradition, nostalgia—plus the food’s damn good. Thankfully, many of the old dishes have survived even in cosmopolitan Montréal, right alongside more celebrated French favorites and those beloved, comparatively newer classics (smoked meat, bagels) introduced by European Jewish immigrants.
Which brings us to the modern-day new school of Montréal cuisine, embodied by certain packed-to-the-rafters hot spots that get the most ink from enraptured food writers today. But those younger foie gras temples, cuisine de terroir dining dens, and chic wine bars couldn’t exist without that which came before. In this section, we pay tribute to them all: the iconic luncheonettes and the carnivore cult favorites, the 24-hour poutine diners and the innovative microbreweries, the sprawling farmers markets and the Parisian-style bistros. Together they comprise this vibrant city’s overflowing cornucopia of good food and drink, and we think you should know each of them. Get out your maps, hop on a bike, follow the seemingly incessant flow of local students and sophisticates from upscale restaurant to dive bar: It’s time to eat Montréal.