A 48 Hour Sidequest In Montreal: The Closest Way To (Sort Of) Spend A Weekend In France
This is Ariel, Liran’s wife, with another guest post covering our brief and parents-only babymoon to Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
WHY MONTREAL: We had two childfree nights coming from the NY/NJ area. At first I looked into options that we could drive to, but post-COVID, if it’s within 3 hours drive of central NJ, chances are, we’ve seen it. Instead we looked at destinations we could fly to relatively quickly. And given that I was in my third trimester of pregnancy, I was looking for a destination where we could relax and have good food. Enter Montreal – the French city that doesn’t actually require a flight to France, with a bonus – lots of amazing kosher dining options!
WHERE TO STAY: We stayed at the Hotel William Gray, which was lovely. The concierge helped us with restaurant reservations and suggested activities, and we were given a lovely fruit basket and popcorn basket to celebrate our babymoon. The location was perfect and put us right in the heart of Old Montreal.
WHERE TO EAT: We checked off all the Montreal eats that we wanted in just a short Thursday-Saturday time frame (even including a delay from Newark that had us arriving a few hours later on Thursday than expected). The food was every bit as good as we had read about.
CHIYOKO: Liran’s primary mission for exploring the Montreal kosher scene was a good kosher steak, and we found that plus more at Chiyoko. Chiyoko offers a Japanese menu but is also renowned for excellent meats. It was an excellent meal well worth the drive out from where we were staying, including a really good, Liran-approved steak plus a nicer/fine dining ambience.
Cote St-Luc Kosher Bagels: The best bagels in the world are in NY and NJ – or are they?! We just had to try the famous Montreal bagels, and Cote St-Luc Kosher Bagels claims to be “the best kosher bagels in the universe” on Instagram. Well folks – Montreal indeed gives our bagels a run for their money. These bagels are made with honey and cooked in wood-fired ovens, so it’s a totally different bagel experience. I don’t know if I would label them the best in the universe, but certainly really tasty and different.
Deli 365: For a kosher version of Montreal smoked meats (plus schnitzel and shawarma), look no further than Deli 365. This place is to-go only with nowhere to sit but we enjoyed our sandwiches in a little park a few blocks away. The classic smoked meat on a baguette was great – exactly what we wanted.
(Editor’s Note: This was such a rare opportunity for me to get kosher meat/order my favorite things on a trip. Outside of a shockingly rare find in Maui this year, going out to eat when keeping kosher, always means ignoring the lure of the things on the menu I most crave. Montreal was both a relief, but also an incredible dining experience in its own right. Would be easy to be “just kosher” and not put in the effort to be good. Not the case for any of these places! Also the kosher selection at the supermarket we went to for kiddush wine had me absolutely gawking.)
As Shabbat approached and the Jewish restaurants shut down, we shifted gears to exploring the non-kosher delicacies in Montreal.
Jellyfish Crudo + Charbon: For a really special dinner in the Old City, we chose Jellyfish at the recommendation of our hotel’s concierge. The menu is primarily focused on crudo (raw) dishes and charcoal dishes, as well as lots of interesting vegetable dishes. This meal blew us away. Everything we ordered was bursting with flavor and so unique. Highly, highly recommend!
Olive et Gourmando: An Old City brunch staple, Olive et Gourmando has incredible house-made breads and pastries. Unfortunately in addition to a long wait we also dealt with service issues in getting us seated and once we were seated, but the outrageously delicious sweet ricotta with house-baked brioche, grilled cheese on house-baked challah and two kinds of pastries (maybe?) made up for this.
Tim Horton’s: No visit to Canada is complete without a stop at Tim Horton’s for coffee and donuts – it’s non-negotiable. We very much enjoyed ours!!
Poutine: Our search for vegetarian poutine came totally down to the wire as we made a VERY quick stop at a fast food place literally on our way to the airport to fly home, Restaurant La Belle Province. For a place that got us a huge plate of poutine in under 5 minutes, it was glorious.
THINGS TO DO: Although good eats was the primary purpose of our trip and definitely dictated our itinerary – particularly as we had just gotten back from an adventurous week in Iceland – we did manage to do a few things. Walking around the Old City itself really was like walking through a European city. We did the ferris wheel (La Grande Roue de Montreal), a touristy boat ride on the St. Lawrence river, cocktails/mocktails at a terrasse (rooftop bar) at our hotel, a drive through Mt. Royal Park, and a short hike at the Gault Natural Reserve when we wanted to get out of the city for a bit. It wasn’t Iceland (or New Zealand, or Alaska, or Hawaii, or…), but that was really kind of the point! For once we were looking for a city experience, not a frontier.
In short, Montreal is an excellent destination if you’re looking for a fun city to explore, with lots of good places to eat. And at less than two hours from NJ/NY, it’s totally doable for a quick getaway.
Final Verdict: A charmingly European-ish, ultra-easy-to-get-to, and kosher friendly city that is a deliciously French use of le temps qu’on vous donne! Tres magnifique!