One of the best ways to explore a city is undoubtedly to try the food and meet the locals! Stepping beyond the tourist joints is a surefire way to learn more about the place and its unique culture. For our trip to Montreal, my best friend Alexa and I decided to do just that. Last month, we did some research and learned about Local Montreal Food Tours- top rated food walking tours guided by a local. These tours aim to help people discover both good eats as well as a cultural and historical perspective on a Montreal neighborhood!
Our tour lasted three hours and we walked about 1.4 miles (2.3km) with a wonderful and engaging tour guide. So follow along as we explored the Mile End neighborhood last Sunday!
Local Montreal Food Tours: Mile End:
La Panthere Verte (The Green Panther):
- Address: 160 Saint-Viateur East
Our first stop, La Panthere Verte, is a sustainable local vegan restaurant with locations around the city. They serve a variety of different dishes and we tried their falafel in a pita pocket. Falafel consists of mashed chickpeas fried into a little ball, and ours was topped with pickled vegetables and sprouts. This was one of the tastiest falafels I have ever had! And while I’m not vegan/vegetarian/anything along those lines, the pita pocket is very good especially for not containing any eggs or milk etc.
While we munched on our food, Caroline (our tour guide) explained a little backstory of the restaurant. For example, we learned about the owners’ commitment to sustainability, so basically everything in the restaurant is recycled or will be re purposed in some way.
Chocolats Genevieve Grandbois:
- Address: 162 Saint-Viateur West
After our falafel, we stopped for a sweet treat at Chocolats Genevieve Grandbois just a few minutes walk away. Once inside the warmth of the small store, we learned the owner Genevieve (side note: what a beautiful name) travels to Costa Rica during the year to bring back the ingredients. The chocolates come in many different flavors, and are all at least 70% dark. We sampled a small chocolate with a maple caramel filling + a hint of salt. We also tried a small cup of hot chocolate which was incredibly smooth, rich, and welcome on a cold Canadian day. The chocolate here is quite intense and strong, because of how dark it is, but tastes incredibly fresh and pure.
St. Viateur Bagel:
- Address: 264 Saint-Viateur East
One thing I learned on this trip is that Montreal is known for its bagels! As someone from the US, I hear how New York/New Jersey bagels are the best due to the difference in water consistency. So travelling with someone from that area, I was extra curious to see how Canadian bagels stack up. Montreal bagels are all handmade, boiled in honey-sweetened water, and cooked in a wood oven. St. Viateur Bagel is actually open 24 hours to keep the wood oven temperature consistent !This bagel shop is perhaps one of the best known, as evidenced by the news articles and awards covering the walls.
Each person on the tour received a sesame bagel and cream cheese. While eating, we learned about the store owner’s beginnings and some fun facts – can you guess how many sesame seeds are on each bagel?? Alexa and I can verify the bagels are delicious! Montreal bagels are thinner and less dense than their American counterparts, and the touch of honey is tasted in each bite. Because of their lightness, eating a whole one didn’t prove difficult at all.
- Address: 5723 du Parc Av
At the halfway point, our tour led us to the Rialto Theatre, a National Historic Site of Canada. We went inside and sat in the balcony area, overlooking the stage. Perhaps most striking is the ceiling with its beautiful colors and glass. You have to see the beauty in person! The whole theater itself is very reminiscent of Europe and specifically modeled after the Paris Opera House. It was so nice to sit back and learn, from our tour guide, some history of the Rialto over the decades.
Learning about Mile End:
While Local Montreal Food Tours encompass lots of eating (of course!), historical facts and cultural elements are interwoven throughout the three hours. I won’t spoil everything for you (take the tour!), but we did learn interesting information about gentrification in Mile End, the roots of the neighborhood’s diversity, and some personal anecdotes and stories from our tour guide. It was fascinating to learn the history behind many of the places we stopped at – from the owner’s stories to the inspiration behind the local businesses!
- Address: 68 Fairmont West
Following our food-break at the Rialto, we headed off to try homemade gnocchi and pasta sauce. Inside the stand, you can see the Italian owner stirring a big vat of tomato sauce and gnocchi together. We each received a generous helping of the dish, topped with Parmesan. “Nonna”, an adorable little grandmother, came to greet us and proudly shared her hand drawn picture of authentic Italian tomato sauce. It is moments like these, and interacting with the shop owners, that makes this kind of tour special!
And, needless to say, the pasta was delectable! The gnocchi tasted like little fluffy balls of goodness, and the sauce created the perfect buttery and savory complement.
- Address: 5237 Saint-Laurent Blvd
Years ago, in French class, we learned all the different terms for food stores so it was extra fun to actually visit “une boucherie“! (A boucherie is a deli specializing in cold, prepared meat products). On Sunday, we sampled five different pieces: smoked ham, sausage infused with fennel, a pate with pistachio, and two types of cheeses. The smoked ham was my favorite, but the slightly spicy sausage I also enjoyed. (I wasn’t a huge sausage fan but after living in Austria I definitely have come to appreciate it). Boucherie Lawrence also touts offering “locally and respectfully raised meat” in their shop as well!
- Address: 5134 St-Laurent Blvd
Our final stop on the tour led us to the boulangerie – a bakery focused on baking bread! Inside, all different kinds of bread line the wall behind the counter. This boulangerie alone makes and sells over 80 types…it’s carb heaven! We tried one infused with chocolate chips and another shaped like a round mushroom with a sweet glaze on top. Both were sweet but not in an overdone way, however I did find the chocolate bread a bit dry for my taste. The other one was soft and flaky, and a great afternoon snack.
This concluded the final stop and it was time for the group to disperse *sad face*. We all went around and shared our favorite stop, mine being the gnocci + tomato sauce! Caroline stayed around and offered to answer any questions and provided us with some more information on Montreal!
Alexa and I had a wonderful time exploring the Mile End neighborhood and trying such diverse dishes during this tour. Although I traveled quite a bit this year, I have never done this kind of thing, but I personally think it’s really worth it. What better way to spend a few hours than trying new food and learning about a city’s culture? If you find yourself in the city, I recommend checking out Local Montreal Food Tours here! The trip I enjoyed is the one in Mile End, and the company also offers one in Old Montreal and a Craft Beer Tour. Also, this is a great way to connect with other tourists in the area…later that day, we ran into four people from the group in other parts of the city!
FTC Disclosure: Thank you to Local Montreal Food Tours for having me as a guest on this tour. As always, all opinions are honest and my own!