We can't say for sure, but despite all of the hardships seen in the restaurant industry, this past year had to be one of the best in recent memory for pop-ups. The last 365 days had chefs from Canadian and international cities near and far coming through to cook in our local kitchens, and it was amazing.
Here are the pop-ups that made the biggest impression on Montreal's writers, critics, photographers, and bloggers. Take notes as you go through these names—with these names, you'll know who to keep an eye on in 2024 when you want to experience something totally new.
What was your favourite pop-up of 2023?
Alison Slattery, photographer, @twofoodphotographers: Parcelles—although not exactly a pop-up, their summer outdoor setting is delicious & difficult to get into. I would have loved to have been able to try Banquet St Laurent pop-up this holiday season.
Tommy Dion, food writer, @lecuisinomane: I'm not really a pop-up person, but I would have loved to have attended the events organised by chefs Louie Deligianis from Bistro La Franquette and Sean Murray-Smith from L'Île Flottante. Oh, and also the one at Knuckles x Pascal le Boucher. Who doesn't love a pogo?
Scott Usheroff, photographer and writer, @cravingcurator: This is going to be long, I’m sorry, I can’t choose one. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting and eating at some amazing pop-ups in Montreal this year. Gotta start by shouting out Louis at Bistro La Franquette. He’s always trying to keep it fresh, hosting great chefs like Mark Singson, Sean Murray-Smith, Brandon Olsen, and David McMillan. Then there’s Willow Inn x Quetzal, Mon Lapin x Bernhardts, Jérôme Ferrer x Langdon Hall x Manoir Hovey, to name a few.
Some others that stand out in my mind this year were the Tre Bastoni - Bossa X Mano Cornuto X La Panzeria, Pasta Pooks x Laurent Dagenais x Menu Extra, Gia Vin & Grill x Ha’s Dac Biet, Salle Climatisée x Harry Lester, Castel Franco x Rosenbaum… Needless to say I’m a big fan of chef and restaurant pop-ups, they create excitement for the people and help bring together an industry that can sometimes feel very competitive and siloed.
Ivy Lerner-Frank, writer, @ivylernerfrank: The very first taco omakase at Alma was a joyous collaboration between Juan Lopez Luna and Alejandro Ramirez (Bar à Flot and Buvette Chez Simone), both asserting their Mexican roots showcasing nixtamalized corn in every which way—a real fiesta in the kitchen. I also loved the lunchtime pop-up between Mon Lapin and Toronto’s Famiglia Baldassare for Mon Lapin’s fifth anniversary in March: a big family party, with loads of stuffed pasta, homemade charcuterie, and wine, and it was just the best.
Daniel Bromberg, co-founder of The Main: Oh man, that's a tough one. There were so many. There was one behind Gema in late summer that just happened to land on one of those perfect summer days... and another behind Boxermans that was all good food and good vibes. I remember one more with Pumpui/Pichai and Zamalek, too, that was dope.
Phil Tabah, co-founder of The Main: Though there were hundreds last year, I think I only went to one and it was the Bistro La Franquette x Dave McMillan dinner which was outstanding – Dave brought some seasonal produce from his farm and we got to make some great meals out of them.