I generally judge a place by how long I’d like to live there (Sheepshead Bay, 3 months; Pittsburgh, 2 weeks; New Jersey, 6 months); but Montreal, I would live there. Live there! There’s not an abundant amount of immigrants like NYC, but what it lacks in diversity, it makes up for in character, funk, and fresh fruit. Seriously, I think every plate I came across was accompanied by some edible fruit garnish that tasted delicious. That’s function!
In NYC, we strive for the best, but that might just be a case of our competitive Me being better than You. Here, high rents and other costs cause our proprietors to concentrate on margins. In Montreal, it was different – I saw a strive for expression. What a great town.
I’ve said this before: The best way to see a city is to stay close to the ground and ride faster than two legs can take you – with frequent stops. Me and number 1 brought our bicycles and we did.
First, let’s get to the Must Haves:
Schwartz’s (3895 Saint-Laurent) - When I passed by, the line was out the door, so I dismissed it. No matter how good it is, I wasn’t going to wait in line like a lemming for a sandwich. THEN, I saw the take-out shop next door selling the exact same sandwich – and with tables and counters to sit at! Zero line. How come no one told me about this before???
Let me tell you something about Schwartz’s - It’s better than Katz’s. I didn’t think this was possible. Ordered “fatty,” you will never get closer to heaven. It’s so soft and salty; the bread is fluffed and smooth. For $6.15… wait, 6 bucks??? Damn, NY is a killer on the wallet, how am I even GLAD to pay 15 dollars for a pastrami at Katz’s?? Well, for 6 dollars and 15 cents Canadian, I will, without flinch, expose my money clip to that.
I have no idea what the classic Schwartz’s deli looks like, and I don’t care. Schwartz’s take-out window gets 5 out of 5 stars on whichever foodie site you’re looking at – easily. It blows up the scale.
Bagels vs NY: Montreal’s are sweeter, more condensed, with a stiffer shell. As far as I can tell, there are two main companies of bagel: Fairmount and St. Viateur. The process is cool, with the big shovel in the oven, and I guess it’s worth at least checking out how they bake it. Everyone has an opinion on this, but I have to say, I like the big, chewy NY bagels much better (butter goes to MTL though).
One of the most impactful meals we had was at a greasy spoon. It was soooo local. It didn’t have any internet reviews and there was no self-describing magazine story on the window. It wasn’t the commercialized diner on the way to the Biodome, it was the one directly across from it… the name: Roi D’Ontario (3991 Rue Ontario Est). Here, I learned the ploye. These little pancakes, called crepes on the menu, were so buttery and light that they became a revelation for me. These discs got me hooked, and since that meal all I wanted was more crepes. I even majorly contemplated going back a second time (an unthinkable act for me).
Back in Queens, I learned to make these soo simple little things. Ready for the recipe? flour, water, baking soda, salt. Enough water that it’s fluid. And butter the pan generously. Flip when it gets bubbling and the bottom looks good.
We did some tourist stuff. Some were worthwhile, like the Biodome residing INSIDE Olympic Stadium. I learned about the French downtown, which was where I’d prefer to spend much of my time as a tourist, and I learned about English downtown, home of Old Montreal – which sucks. Old Montreal was like being in the South Street Seaport or the NOLA French Quarter, such a waste. Other than looking at general stuff, there isn’t much realness to the area. I believe there is a museum in the vicinity, but we just didn’t get to that. And as for the Underground City, it’s basically 5 malls connected to each other underground. It is big, but I don’t like being in malls as it is, so why would I like being in one huge conglomerate of one?
Here’s the Biodome:
I loved the penguins.