Montreal quick eats – Coffee, bagels, smoked meat, cupcakes, and poutine
We went to Montreal over the Thanksgiving weekend and had a blast. We ate a lot of food. A LOT of it. This is a collection of items we ate over 2 days.
It has been so long since I’ve had a good coffee since living in Kingston. Finally, in Montreal of all places, I’ve found a good latte! I think that a barista that performs latte art has pride in the aesthetic of his/her coffee and therefore, has pride in the flavour of his/her coffee. This is a mocha, a latte, a soup and a turkey club sandwich from Cafe Art Java. The coffee was excellent. I was very happy. Cafe Art Java, 645 avenue du President-Kennedy, Montreal, QC, www.caffeeartjava.com.
From our Chowhounding, after au Pied de Cochon (which was completely booked), this poutine from La Banquise is second best. This is the Poutine Classique, regular size for $5.49. The cheese curds were salty and squeeky in texture, the gravy wasn’t too salty, and the fries were nicely crisp. My only wish was that it was all a little warmer. Not a bad deal for $5.49. They also have a LOT of other variations of poutine. You can check it out from their website. They are also open 24 hours. We went there after seeing some jazz at House of Jazz. We walked 3km to get there. That is how bad we wanted midnight poutine. La Banquise, 994 Rachel Est, Montreal, QC, 514-525-2415, www.restolabanquise.com.
We decided to try a quick breakfast at L’Express Restaurant on the wonderful rue St. Denis with lots of small shops and bistros. It was quite a unique experience as everything on the menu was a la carte and nothing was included. I guess it makes sense to order only what you want. This is the deux oeufs/toasts avec jambon for $4.65. The ham was nicely salted and the eggs were nicely runny. The bagette was a bit tough on my soft palatte and didn’t soak up the egg yolk but it was still nice. A great deal for $4.65.
This was the pain dore brioche avec sirop for $5.25. The best french toast that I have ever had. The bread was soft, fluffy, and light. The egg coating was very thin and in places were the bread had soaked up more, still liquid which gave it a delicious custardy flavour. I really liked this dish. I highly recommend coming here for their french toast. L’Express Restaurant, 3927 rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC, 514-845-5333.
You can’t go to Montreal without trying their bagels. These are from Fairmount Bagel Bakery. When we arrived at 11am, there was a line-up extending out the door and onto the street. We had to see what the big deal was. The pumpernickel on the right was a bit tough for my liking but Jules says it is a property of the pumpernickel itself. The sesame in the middle was chewy, doughy, and crispy on the outside. The all-dressed on the left was amazing with sesame, poppy seed, and garlic chips. Again, it was crispy on the outside and quite doughy on the inside. Compared to St. Viateur Bagel’s (which was very disappointing: tough, chewy, and bland), I much prefer these bagels. Fairmount Bagel Bakery, 74 avenue Fairmount Ouest, Montreal, QC, 514-272-0667.
These cupcakes were from Cocoa Locale. We really liked the baker there who was very friendly, bubbly, and obviously proud of her work. We couldn’t resist getting one of each of the flavours! The top left was the lemon which was the best of the three. It was tart, sweet, the cake wasn’t too feathery and it had a good substance to it. The chocolate in the middle could’ve been a bit more cocoa-y but it was still quite tasty. The vanilla on the top right was the most disappointing and was rather sweet. Overwhelmingly, these 3 cupcakes destroy Crave cupcakes in Calgary but the lemon cupcake today was a surprising winner. I usually hate lemon cupcakes. Cocoa Locale, 4807 avenue Du Parc, Montreal, QC, 514-271-7162.
We’ve heard that Schwartz was the best place to try Montreal smoked meat in Montreal. The line up was stupendous. We waited for an hour outside before we could order and when we finally ordered, it took them 30 seconds to throw together our sandwich. I was angry but after I took a bite, I felt better. This is a picture from the store front window. There are 2 lines when you are outside the store, the eat-in line and the take-out line. Logically, the take out line should move faster right? Wrong. For some reason, the butchers in the shop tend to serve the eat-in line faster. We were initially in the eat-in line but when we found out about the take-out line, we switched. We were behind a couple from UBC that were recognizable from their purple shirts. When we finally got inside Schwartz to order, we noted that they were just paying their bill and ready to leave. Grrrrrrr. Schwartz should really adopt a system like Katz in New York where there are 10 different butchers each pounding out sandwiches.
One hour later, here is the medium fat Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich for $5.50. This smoked meat was nothing like the stuff you buy at Loblaw’s or at your local deli. It wasn’t half as salty or as overbearingly peppery. It was warm, steaming, and delicious. The fat was marbled into the meat and made the flavour quite rich. The mustard added some nice zestiness. The bread was quite soft and worked well with the meat. I don’t know which I like more, pastrami on rye at Katz in New York or Montreal smoked meat at Schwarz in Montreal. But I do know that I definitely want to go for another smoked meat sandwich soon. Schwarz, 3895 St. Laurent, Montreal, QC, 514-842-4813.
On our last day, we decided to check out another Montreal smoked meat shop closer to our hotel: Dunn’s Famous Smoked Meat Restaurant. This is their take on the smoked meat sandwich for $11.25 including coleslaw, a pickle, and fries. We upgraded the fries to a poutine for $3.00. Again, this was medium fat. I was really interested to see if the line up at Schwarz was worth it. Evidently, it was. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad sandwich at all. However, the quality of the meat just wasn’t there. The fat wasn’t marbled into the meat and could’ve been trimmed from the sides a bit. There was a saltier more peppery flavour, similar to what I’ve tried in the past. I liked Schwarz more. Maybe it was because I had to wait 1 hour in line for it. Dunn’s smoked meat sandwich was a good value and came with a lot of sides that were of fairly good quality. The poutine was a bit unremarkable but really hit the spot before our drive back to Kingston. The coleslaw was zesty and not creamy. Dunn’s Famous Smoked Meat Restaurant, 1249 Metcalfe, Montreal, QC, 514-395-1927, www.dunnsfamous.com
After our trip to Montreal, all I can say is that I miss Montreal so bad right now. I am stuck in Belleville right now and for dinner, I ate: Uncle Ben’s instant rice, a can of beans, and Chunky soup for dinner.