Craving Curator's Guide to Dining in Montreal

Come along as food photographer Scott Usheroff guides you through the city's diverse gastronomic scene with this personally curated selection of 'must-tries' from 10 Montreal establishments.

Scott Usheroff

Scott Usheroff

May 29, 2023- Read time: 10 min
Craving Curator's Guide to Dining in MontrealBernie Beigne – Drippin' the sauce (Image: @cravingcurator)

Montreal: A true culinary melting pot, diverse, and teeming with talent. There are so many options and neighbourhoods to eat your way through each with their own style, flair, and tasty offerings. Then again, some dishes stand out above the rest.

Let's explore what I eat at some of my favourite spots around town.

Croque-Pétoncle at Mon Lapin

You would think that finishing Number 1 on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants in 2023 may come with some ego and pretentiousness, but not at Mon Lapin.

No, Mon Lapin is all about "fun dining". This is exactly the type of establishment that we should be proud to have representing the best of Quebec and Canada on the international stage, and is a well-deserved title for Marc-Olivier, Jessica, Vanya, Alex, Marc-Antoine, and the entire team at Mon Lapin.

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Though it has been one of my favourite restaurants since opening in 2018, it truly started to evolve into the phenomenon that it is today, post-pandemic. It’s difficult to focus on one dish as the menu is constantly evolving with the seasons and whatever playful, creative, new ideas the kitchen team has.

However, one staple has been on the menu for a little over a year—the coveted Croque-Pétoncle™️. To this date, the dish has been served over 10,000 times, and with good reason!

Inspired by the classic French dish Quenelles Lyonnaises and the mythic Pierno from Harry’s Bar in Venice, this crispy, buttery, creamy seafood delight hits all the right notes. I order it every time I have the pleasure of eating at Vin Mon Lapin and will continue to do so as long as they keep it on the menu.

Sunday Sugo at Mano Cornuto

Something special goes down every Sunday at this Griffintown spot. You never know what it will be but you can be sure it will be damn good.

Sunday Sugo is an Italian tradition that consists of a home-cooked meal and a gathering of family and friends. Mano truly nails the experience on all counts. Four courses of love served family style at $40 a head; you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bang-for-buck meal anywhere in Montreal.

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The last visit was the best dinner I've had so far at Mano, period. We started with an Insalata Nizzarda, a perfectly fresh and crisp iceberg and fennel salad topped with Calabrian chilis, fried leeks, and a stunning white balsamic, radish vinaigrette.

Next up was the Cavolo Grigliato: Seared red cabbage, rutabaga, and a delicious bagna cauda for dipping. On to the pasta: Penne rigate e ceci, fresh penne paired with escarole, chickpeas, tomatoes, minced pork, and ground beef. For dessert, we had a Torta al cioccolato, an expertly executed chocolate cake with a vanilla glaze, layer of sliced pears, and a cookie crumble.

Oh, wait. Don’t forget the porchetta add-on. (Never, ever forget the porchetta add-on.) It was genuinely succulent and tied the meal together so well. Mix this with a weekly special cocktail and rotating curated wines by the glass, and you’ve got the whole Sunday Sugo experience nicely wrapped-up.

Deer Kibbeh Nayeh at Bar St-Denis

Bar St-Denis is high up at the top of my Montreal list these days.

Everything is always so on point. This is partly thanks to the passion David Gauthier, Emily Holmsy, and their talented team put into everything they do.

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And while the menu is stacked with great dishes, the Deer Kibbeh Nayeh with grilled flatbread... oh my word. A smooth, round mound of finely ground raw deer, almost creamy in texture and impeccably fresh, with a delicate sweetness that only the highest-quality locally sourced meat can possess.

Perfectly seasoned, it enhanced the natural flavours of the deer without overpowering them. It was topped with fresh mint leaves and onions that brought a refreshing brightness to the dish, and finished with a drizzle of top-shelf, cold-pressed olive oil, bringing a fruitiness and adding another layer of complexity to the flavour profile. Fold the fire-kissed flatbread brushed with spicy chili oil and scoop up your prize.

Each bite is better than the next.

Weekly Lunch Specials at Impasto

You have to eat lunch at Impasto. No, seriously, go. Now.

Luca, Charles, and Deborah have you covered with a beginning-to-end lunch menu full of hits, dessert specials, and inspirational weekly pasta specials dreamed up and executed by Pastapooks himself.

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The last visit offered up the Tortelli verdi di ricotta e limone con ragù bianco, the stracciatella, and a burrata plate. And while each dish was outstanding, what followed for dessert was easily one of the most remarkable I’ve ever had. A cloud-like chocolate choux dense and moist on the inside, crispy on the outside, topped with a chocolate mousse and homemade peanut butter sauce. Wow.

Oh yeah, they also have one of the best freshly baked focaccia in the city, and yes, I have receipts. Literally.

Warm, glazed doughnuts at Bernie Beigne

At Bernie Beigne they mix and make the dough, prep it, cut the doughnuts, proof them, fry them, garnish them, dip them, and serve them to you hot 5 days a week. Everything is made by hand, fresh. Every day. No exceptions.

Everyone plays their part here. Bobby manipulates the dough like no one’s business. Philippe (who’s also a drummer) flips the hot doughnuts with his drum sticks, stacks and glazes. George and John dip and garnish. Dean runs operations and does a little bit of everything. It's really something to see, and taste!

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With 23 delectable varieties of doughnuts, you may need help selecting which ones you want to bring home. Personally, my selection is always plain, glazed, and warm. Being as indecisive as I am, this makes the selection process more manageable. I’m also a purist when it comes to this sort of thing; I want to experience pure nakedness.

The technique, the love, and the passion shine through in every bite without distraction. If you haven’t been to Bernie Beigne it’s about time you do, and if you have been, I’d bet a fresh dozen you’ll be back!

The "Expert Order" at Snowdon Deli

Snowdon Deli is a real ‘if you know, you know’ type of deal. If you don’t know, it’s time to find out.

I grew up with the whole mishpocha meeting for a nosh and picking-up party sandwiches, cheese bagelach, karnatzel sticks, and the famous matzo ball soup with its glorious neon yellow broth. A true Jewish style deli in all its glory.

Walking in here is like stepping into a portal to an old-school Miami deli reminiscent of Wolfie’s Rascal House (RIP). In my opinion, Snowdon Deli has always been the goat, and it proves it by outliving all of the local competition (think The Brown Derby, Deli Boys, The Main, and Ben’s – again RIP).

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I've been a patron for so long, so I feel confident sharing the Craving Curator tasting menu for you to kvell over. Here we go, in order of consumption:

  • A full stick of grilled karnatzal (served with a slice of rye and mustard)
  • Kreplach soup (if none left, settle for matzo ball)
  • A club roll with mustard served ‘as is’ (don’t start asking about or messing with the combination of assorted sliced, grilled, deli meats in there, just eat it, love it, it works, don’t screw with perfection)
  • One full sour dill pickle cut in lengthwise quarters, an order of fries (preferably for sharing)
  • And of course, an ice-cold Cott Black Cherry Soda

Make sure to say hi to Hart if he’s behind the counter that day!

Grand Slam at Arthurs Nosh Bar

I had the pleasure of having Arthurs as my next-door neighbour for many years when we lived on rue Notre-Dame. I also went to high school with Rae and have known Alex for many years.

I remember the first day they opened; I rolled out of bed and was there bright and early to try version one of the latke smorgasbord. A runaway hit from day one, it has been amazing to watch Arthurs evolve into the phenom it is today.

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For me, the real star of the show is none other than the Grand Slam: A decadent combination of crispy, spicy, Noshville fried chicken, two pillowy mini Syrniki, all-beef bacon, and perfectly fried eggs paired with the irresistible appeal of American diner-style hash browns.

This is a plate to remember. Everything just meshes together exceedingly well, and it gives one of the best “can I fit a piece of everything on the plate in one bite” experiences I’ve ever had!

Nolan Roll at Nolan

A most welcome addition to the sometimes drab and repetitive Griffintown restaurant scene, Nolan opened its doors about a year ago. It has a cozy and welcoming feeling, like you’re chilling in a space you know and love with your friends.

The kitchen is commandeered by chef Tyler Flamand (previously of Knuckles), who crafts meals influenced by the season's local produce. The top of the menu is an assortment of small plates designed more for communal enjoyment, followed by a more traditional service which includes elegantly cooked vegetable courses, a fresh pasta dish, and a selection of meat and fish entrees.

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The last time I ate at Nolan, we sampled the entire menu, and there really isn’t anything I wouldn’t personally recommend. The menu has definitely changed since my last visit, but one compelling item remains regardless of the season.

The Nolan Roll, let me tell you, you’d be a fool not to try it. This elevated cheese stick combines Montreal smoked meat, Emmental cheese, sauerkraut, and a red bell pepper dipping sauce to smother the sticks with. The last time we were there, we ordered a second round of rolls to curb our craving for this delicious dish.

Mazemen at Kitano Shokudo

Hiroshi Kitano runs the show at Kitano Shokudo—and what a show it is.

Born in Japan, Hiroshi started cooking very young; this is abundantly clear when you sit down for lunch or dinner in the eclectic 30-cover dining room. Advanced techniques, unusual flavour pairings, and nothing but the freshest cuts of fish are all commonplace at Kitano. We should consider ourselves lucky that Hiroshi chose to plant his roots here in Montreal.

My order always includes some nigiri (the rice is spectacular), whatever is on the weekly specials, and a mazemen. The direct translation of mazemen is “mixed noodles” but that is genuinely an oversimplified description of a spectacular dish that must be experienced to understand its depth and complexity.

Different mazemen offerings are featured on the menu, but you can count on perfectly textured and cooked ramen-style noodles (served without broth) every time. I’ve tried the lobster mazemen, which gave so much umami goodness I almost ordered a second one. The noodles were coated in a rich lobster bisque, served with a generous portion of fresh lobster and a side of tomalley to mix in for a real savoury treat.

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On my next visit, caviar dreams became a reality when I ordered the limited edition caviar mazemen. I was delighted to find the same perfect noodles, but this time with a gorgeous mound of Kaluga Queen caviar from Current Seafoods delicately balanced on top of the noodles with a perfect egg yolk next to it for mixing in.

The coveted uni and bone marrow mazemen may be the best of all. I don’t need to walk you through this one; if you see it on the menu, order first and don’t ask questions later.

The truth is that anything you order at Kitano will satisfy your cravings and will have you begging for more. Even the house-made pickles are bound to tickle your fancy.

Foie Gras Déjeuner at Liverpool House

I’ve been to Liverpool House many times since it opened back in 2007, yet I only tried what I can confidently say is one of the best breakfast sandwiches I have ever eaten during my latest visit.

It’s called a ‘breakfast’ sandwich because of its components, but let’s be clear: This sandwich can be eaten at any time, in any season, for any occasion, by anyone who wants to experience this perennial staple of the Liverpool House menu.

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Expertly seared foie gras, smoked bacon, and a beautiful fried egg sandwiched between a fresh English muffin coated with an artful hollandaise sauce and surrounded by Quebec maple syrup.

Good morning, good afternoon and good night.

Scott Usheroff aka CravingCurator is a Montreal-based food photographer with roots firmly planted in the culinary world. With a background in cooking, his passion lies in uncovering the city's complex gastronomic layers through captivating, drool-inducing imagery. Through his lens, the city's eateries come alive, their dishes telling stories of innovation, tradition, love and creativity.

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