From bagels to beer, some local treats to bring back to the people at home
Montreal’s food scene is the stuff of legends, from the foie gras poutine to the French cuisine. Jewish cuisine has always been a local strength, too. Quebecers are rightly proud of the province’s agricultural products, meanwhile, and the markets here teem with delicious examples of it. Now: How about bringing some of our unique taste experiences home? We’ve picked out some of the most delicious things you can pack away and bring home from Montreal. Go fill your basket.
(Note: If you’re travelling to the United States, U.S. Customs permits the personal import of a wider range of edible items than you might imagine, even including certain meats and fresh foods. But definitely check the regulations regarding what you can bring into the country before you commit to doing so.)
Many Montreal workplaces have bagel day – a day in the week when someone on staff brings in a few dozen with some cream cheese and makes everyone else’s day. [And of course there’s the Toronto tradition of bringing back bagels for the office when you go to Montreal for the weekend. Do your duty. — ed.]
Much is made of the bagel wars between lovers of Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur Bagel, just blocks apart from each other. Ultimately, they’re both delicious, storied and a unique part of Montreal’s Jewish heritage in all its doughy, crusty splendour.
74 Rue Fairmount Ouest, 514-272-0667
273 Rue St-Viateur Ouest (plus other locations), 514-276-8044
To go with world-class bagels you’ll need knockout lox (sliced lightly cured salmon), and though seafaring towns might be a more logical place to procure fish as a souvenir, Montreal has a couple of master smokers worth the purchase of a freezer bag. Saum Mom is a Montreal brand that produces a melt-in-your-mouth range of smoked and marinated salmon distributed in supermarkets citywide. Otherwise, head to New Victoria Fish in Côte-des-Neiges for the thickest cut, most tender lox in the city, sliced right there before your eyes. Jewish customers drive in from all over town for this one (and the whole smoked whitefish).
Find it at Rachelle-Béry and Métro supermarkets, and more
New Victoria Fish
6015 Avenue Victoria, 514-737-4873
Unlike the Turkish donairs/doners of anglo North America, kebabs in Montreal are usually done Athens-style: a grilled pork or chicken souvlaki (skewer) nestled in a pillowy pita with lettuce, tomato, amazing spicing and a decadent dollop of tzaziki. Rather than cry your way to the airport, bring back a taste of heaven by getting a bunch of perfectly marinated brochettes from the best-kept secret in town, the pint-sized Elatos in Parc Ex. Grill them up when you get home. Call ahead for your order and don’t forget your freezer bag.
550 Rue Jarry Ouest, 514-273-5853
In line with Montreal’s French heritage, cheese is serious business for Quebecers. From the traditional squeaky poutine cheese curds to the creamiest adjudant by Au Gré des Champs, passing by the stinky, world-renowned Oka cheese, Montreal’s outskirts produce some truly unique flavours you’ll want to share with friends. Though the cheese shops at Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market are amazing places, the easiest spot to get your cheese from may be the IGA supermarket closest to your hotel: The IGA chain has a locavore philosophy and supports dozens of local cheesemakers. Take your pick.
Courtesy Au GrÃ© des Champs
Schwartz’s smoked meat is probably Montreal’s most famous export, second maybe to Céline Dion, who now owns the deli. Double whammy! The taste and texture of this uniquely Jewish-Montreal take on pastrami is as legit and authentic as ever, and the takeout counter now enables big vacuum-packed orders even more easily. Lesser known but popular with another set, Lester’s in Outremont has been making a thinner-sliced, more mellow smoked meat since 1951; it’s worth trying both to see which you prefer. Get your order vacuum-packed here, too, and try the house-smoked lox while you’re at it.
3895 Boulevard St-Laurent, 514-842-4813
1057 Avenue Bernard, 514-276-6095
The brainchild of Montrealer Bertrand Poulain, 1642 Cola is a local crowd-sourcing success story that tastes as good as its intentions. The idea: Make cola for us, by us, without dubious ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. The result: the only part of this product that’s imported from outside Quebec is the bottle cap. Everything else about this beautifully spiced cola is made in Quebec, from brewing to bottling to labelling. It’s sweetened with maple syrup from the Laurentians and the bottle is hella handsome, so a six-pack makes a swell gift.
Find it at most Métro supermarkets, and more (see map on website)
For a true taste of Montreal, you can’t get more sweetly literal than Alvéole honey. Alvéole is an urban beekeeping company that works with businesses (restaurants, shops, office buildings) to install hives on rooftops around the city. Alvéole maintains and cultivates the hives, and at the end of the season, the businesses who host them get part of the honey the bees have produced. The rest goes for sale by Alvéole, which means that you can bring home a taste of Montreal, down to the very neighbourhood – each pot is named for its provenance.
7154 Rue St-Urbain, 514-907-0826
Yes, we like to tie one on in Montreal, but we’re classy about it. Mainly. That’s why we have so many great breweries in Quebec, like Le Castor, Brasserie Dunham and Dieu du Ciel. We also produce the award-winning vodka PUR, and wines served in the city’s best restaurants, like the Val Caudalies Vidal Demi-Sec and the rosé by Domaine L’Ange Gardien; and probably our most renowned tipple comes courtesy of our apple trees. Our ice cider game is on point, and if you really want to treat yourself, go the extra mile and try a bottle of Domaine Pinnacle’s Apple Cream: it’s their take on Irish cream, and it tastes like apple pie à la mode (with a kick). Yes, heaven.
Société des alcools du Québec