Eating My Way Through Montreal

by amanda

This year for the 4th of July, Matt and I did the obvious: we took a trip to Canada. It didn’t originate as a rejection of the United States, but after 3 days of eating my way through Montreal, I think I’ve finally found the one place I could live that isn’t New York City. It is a land of rose wine on the ivy-covered terraces of French cafes, crepes for breakfast, and the absolute best vegan food I’ve ever had.

I had done a lot of research before the trip to get the low-down on Montreal eats – mostly vegan or vegetarian – and it seemed like many of these were located in an area called Mile End, which felt very much like Brooklyn. Urban, hip, and saturated with adorable places to eat. You know how everything feels more magical when it’s in a different place, even if it’s the same touristy stuff that’s peddled to you (and that you desperately try to avoid) every day where you live? Yeah, that was the whole weekend.

Thank god the vegan cafe we were originally going to go to was closed, because Invitation V was about half a block down and it was, without question, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I had the vegan burger with spicy fries and murdered it so dead with a vicious ferocity. I was all, “Oh my gosh I can’t believe I just ate all that.” But yeah, right. Yes I can believe it. I offered Matt fries just to be nice, but to be honest, I was secretly relieved when he turned them down. I really just wanted them all to myself. Matt got the pizza, which I also had a nice healthy piece of, and he said it was the best pizza he had ever had. Not the best “vegan” pizza…the best pizza. Seriously, this place ruined everything because it’s in freaking Montreal and now it’s going to cost us $1000 in travel fees every time we want pizza and a burger.

Of course this is the one place where I forgot to photograph our food, so please enjoy these Yelp photos:

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It looks so simple here, but there is nothing simple about this majestic explosion of burger goodness.

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Chili oil! Genius. I can't wait to make my own.

Chili oil! Genius. I can’t wait to make my own.

Matt wanted crepes the next morning, so the trusty internet led us to La Bulle au Carré, a gem of a creperie just a couple blocks from our hotel. This was the most beautiful crepe I had ever eaten, and the flavors were just gorgeous. For such an inauspicious little place, they really turned out some incredible food. I had a buckwheat crepe with onions, leeks, tomato, swiss and a perfectly cooked egg. Matt had the mack daddy of dessert-for-breakfast crepes, and it was also divine.

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When walking back to the train after Invitation V on Thursday, we passed a ton of Greek places that inspired in us a healthy craving for Greek fare. We found a place in Mile End, and on the way there, stopped at Cafe Local, where we learned a quirky fun fact about Montreal restaurant licensing: many restaurants have a certain license that requires a food order with every drink order. And everyone in your party has to order something. After looking at the menu (which was really good), our desire for a cocktail won, and we caved and ended up dining at Cafe Local. I wanted something a bit lighter on my stomach, so obviously I made sure we ordered french fries for an appetizer, and then I had a mixed greens salad with walnuts, sunflower seeds, cranberries, apple and goat cheese. Simple, but such a perfect combination of ingredients for a fresh, summer salad. Matt had a quesadilla with this really decadent pureed black bean mixture topped with guacamole. I finished that for him because frankly, who can be done when there’s still guacamole left?

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And for dessert, this yummy little guy. My idea of a perfect dessert is a salt lick, so I thought I’d just have one bite and be done. But no. Canada, like every other country in the world does not prepare foods with the same toxic ingredients that run rampant in the States. For instance, I checked the ingredients of a bottle of Heinz ketchup sitting on our table and not only was there no high fructose corn syrup in it (a staple in US Heinz ketchup), but the sweetener, sugar, was second to last on the ingredient list. And I did taste a subtle difference in things I ate that just felt generally less processed than many of their US counterparts. Like this vanilla bean ice cream, which really, truly tasted like actual ice cream. Like, ice cream made from whole foods ice cream. Not that Ben and Jerry’s bunk that most of us are used to. It was just delicious, especially topped with the pistachios and baked apples. A splurge well played.

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Obviously after having our minds blown by crepes the day before, we needed to try another crepe place for breakfast on Saturday. Enter: Une Crepe?  Where crepes are the size of your torso. I went for the “create your own” option, and didn’t really realize how ridiculous my order was until I said it out loud and Matt started laughing and our server just looked confused and taken aback. But you know what, if I want a buckwheat crepe with swiss, black olives, spinach, onions and guacamole on my last day of vacation, that’s exactly what I’m going to get. Basically a French quesadilla, because I’m classy like that. Matt got a Nutella, banana and pistachio crepe, and then when they came back and said they were out of bananas, he replaced them with…raisins. Although it was still really good, it sadly lacked a bit of the punch the bananas would have had and we both learned an important lesson in how to balance the flavors of a sweet crepe. We also gained a new joke about raisins, and who can ever have enough of those?

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There are a so many more places in Montreal I want to try, including some of the most adorable little vegan cafes ever (the three veggie burgers at La Lumiere are high on the list). My first time in Canada was a delicious success, and I look forward to many trips eating my way through Montreal in the future.

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