Montreal is a culinary mecca and has a huge variety of food options, from diners and fast food to low-cost ethnic restaurants to haute cuisine. The city was recently ranked 2nd best dining city in North America after San Francisco and ahead of New York. The large local Jewish population has contributed local specialties including huge smoked meat sandwiches (beef brisket) (Schwartz's is undisputably the most authentic smoked meat restaurant) and small, crusty bagels (the undisputed classic bagel places are St-Viateur's and Fairmount Bagels). Other specialties are "all-dressed" pizza (pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers), pizza and spaghetti with smoked meat, and Quebecois favorites like split pea soup and poutine.
Many Montreal restaurants are "apportez votre vin" (bring your (own) wine). This may sound like a hassle, but you end up paying much less for wine with dinner if you bring it yourself. There's usually a SAQ (government liquor store) or a dépanneur (convenience store, with a limited selection of typically inexpensive wine) nearby; ask your waiter. Your waiter will open your wine for you; corkage fees are rare, but don't forget to factor this service into your tip.
If you are driving from the United States, you may find Canadian liquor prices quite frightening. Even the duty free shops along the border are rarely cheaper than an American liquor store (although these are still cheaper than the SAQ). Visitors can bring in 1l of hard alcohol, 1.5l of wine, or a 24 pack of beer.
Separate bills (l'addition in French) are common and you may be asked ensemble ou séparément? (together or separately?) The standard tip for acceptable restaurant service is 15% and is not included.
Never call a waiter "garçon"! Use "monsieur" or "madame".
Special travel tip:
No visit to Montreal is complete without at least one plate of poutine (possibly from a French word meaning "mess"). This unique dish is a plate of French fries drowned in gravy and topped with chewy curds of white cheddar. There are variations on the theme — adding chicken, beef, vegetables, or sausage, or replacing the gravy with tomato sauce (poutine italienne). Every Montrealer has their favourite poutine restaurant where you can get "the real stuff" but La Banquise, on the Plateau at 994 rue Rachel est, usually tops the list.
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