What: Buvettes in Montréal are often described as something between a wine bar and a gastropub, and “buvette fare” is, well, a category of cuisine we just made up. But it seems essential enough to experiencing modern-day Montréal—both in the type of food and wine peddled at these establishments and in the very atmosphere of the places themselves—that we should try to define it here. The food in question tends to be seasonally focused small plates, with a pronounced French-Canadian feel; the wine list is well curated for many price points; and the atmosphere? Charming, chic, distinctly neighborhoody—and extremely conducive to eating, drinking, and conversing with friends for hours on end. Taken together, many would call these places “quintessentially Montreal.” They are where you want to be.
Where: One of our favorite meals in the city came from Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins (4807, blvd Saint-Laurent), a classic buvette in the Plateau neighborhood that, since opening in 2010, has quickly become a Montréal must (especially, among locals, for late-night dining).
2018 update: Sadly, Le Comptoir has permanentlly closed. Please see our alternative buvette picks at bottom.
Order: Start with the charcuterie—a changing mix of such nose-to-tail delicacies as guanciale, saucissons secs, crispy cotechino, country paté, and pork liver mousse, served with pickles, toast, and mustard—and then delve into the seasonal main menu. Many of the dishes here are marked by simplicity, unexpected flavor, and pleasing contrast, like the roasted cauliflower salad (pictured), with anchovy puree, arugula, and fried bread, which we enjoyed during our visit.
Alternatively: In Mile End, Buvette Chez Simone (4869, ave. du Parc, map) is another popular hot spot, with communal tables and a cool but relaxed vibe to match its casual French-Québec menu (think local-cheese plates, rillettes, roast chicken) and affordable wine list (alas, no reservations—expect to hang out at the bar and wait for a table).
Fashionable wine bar Pullman (3424, ave. du Parc, map) is also a good option, with 300-plus wines (about 50 by the glass; wine flights available) and creative snacks/plates like smoked mackerel salad, port-steeped grilled cheese, and venison tartare.