A good chunk of the food we either ate or just saw was similar to stuff back in New York, obviously. There was a huge amount of international cuisine, especially Portuguese and Japanese, but one could find Thai, Chinese, French, German and “American” for whatever that’s worth. It’s a huge modern city, with all the food global options that entails.
In particular, there was one decent chain we went to, Les 3 Brasseurs. (We didn’t know at the time.) They served local beers at each of their locations, meaning their Quebecois beers were exclusively sold there and not in Ottawa. It was a decent place, but noteworthy were the flammekueches, essentially pizza if you view it in its basest form. It is simply thin dough stretched out with creme fraiche and onions and pork fat. They had specialty ones, too, so I ordered a balsamic and basil one while Tony opted for a BBQ one. Both were splendid.
Further, there were two places that were well worth their recommendation. The first was for poutine, and the two places suggested were La Banquise and Ma Poule Mouillée. The first was the number one rated place I saw, and the other one was just that…the other one. They were right across from each other so we headed over and figured we would just pick whichever tickled our fancy.
La Banquise had a line forming all down the block, so we went for option 2 which was serendipitously a Portuguese-Canadian fusion place. They had a charcoal spit with chicken spinning (i.e. churrasco). After waiting but twenty minutes, Tony and I feasted on chouriça and churrasco with piri piri hot sauce, traditional gravy and cheese from the Azorean island, São Jorge over a bed of thick, crispy fries. It was a delightful mix or new and old for us, and washed back with the orange soda that was our childhood favorite, Sumol, it took us back to the past and lurched us forward to the future.
Fortunately for us, the future didn’t end there, as we needed to continue our gluttony at Schwart’z Deli, renowned for its smoked meat sandwich. As a local delicacy unavailable even in New York, theirs is a must-try. Disappoint, it did not. Served on my favorite bread (rye) with a slight coating of mustard, the smoked beef brisket is to die for, with a perfect fattiness and succulent smokiness. Unfortunately after two bricks of a meal, it was time to lay off the food and head out for a drink.
Fortunately Montreal has stylish, hip bars in abundance. I asked a Montreal friend for advice, and even given a full week, I wouldn’t have been able to check out the full list. The few places we did go all had super friendly staff, a range of local beers on tap and a unique decor. One blues bar, Bistro à Jojo, had a signed Pat Matheny guitar (my pops’ favorite jazz musician) from his show decades earlier while another had a bartender who literally grinned ear-to-ear for the whole length of “happy” hour, and presumably into perpetuity.
It was at one of the craft beer spots, Le Saint-Bock, where I encountered one of the more intriguing moments of the journey north. The Brit who we had gone out with, was actually at the concert in Las Vegas but a few weeks ago. He had left 30 minutes before the shooting actually happened, and because of his random exit from the venue, he fortunately was there in a Montreal bar to tell me the tale. It should strike home how fleeting life is, how much our lives are teetering on either side of luck. It was a flip-of-a-coin that brought him to the province of Quebec that night and a roll-of-the-dice that he wasn’t knocking on heaven’s door. It was a truly sobering moment.
It took several more conversations to finally have the gravity of the moment sink in. It should say a lot about the US right now, that that can be a bar conversation. It wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime conversation. It was a bar conversation; that should reflect a lot. In any case, we carried on about how Arsenal FC will piss away another season, Yukon territory is a rather odd place and that every Filipino has the voice of an angel. (It’s true.)
And speaking of Arsenal pissing away a season, they gave me false hope again, as Tony and I sat in the Burgundy Lion, watching them spank Everton 5-2. (COYG!!) It was an awesome place, obviously British-inspired, but blending a lot of Anglo delights whether North American or European in nature. The food could easily have been found in a roadside diner stateside as in a posh London eatery. It was that homey and that delicious. Oh, and their bloody maries are to die for. (Or is bloody marries? bloody Marys? bloody Mary’s?)
Given more time than a weekend, I’m sure I would have endless stories about the food and drink of Montreal. If we could have gotten to Le Warehouse for some cheap grub, to the Old Port’s food carts, or to the hip Arcade MTL in the Latin Quarter, I would have pages more to write. Fortunately for the reader, I did not. 😉
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