Québec is the only region in North America with French as a first language. Though just about an hour away from upstate New York, things are quite different here – traffic signs are in French, the river (instead of the north pole) is the mapping reference point, and all speed is listed in kilometers. As clarified in Tony’s visits to the province’s most populated city, Montreal is “not little Paris, but also not North America.”
Anthony Bourdain made three recorded trips to Montreal over the course of seven years: first to film season 2 (episode 4) of No Reservations in 2006, next for season 1 (episode 6) of The Layover in 2011, and finally for season 1 (episode 4) of Parts Unknown in 2013. Over the course of these three visits/episodes, it becomes pretty clear why he believes the city to be “a very dangerous place for chefs” (in a good way!).
If you know anything about him, you know that Tony can be quite the maximalist when it comes to food; abundance is the name of the game. That being said, I’m not sure there exists another place with a bill this extensive. I’m not even sure it’s humanly possible to consume as much food as he seemingly has on each of these trips.
As such, there’s no question about Tony’s lack of hesitation to state the obvious: “I will confess my partisanship upfront: I love Montreal. It is my favorite place in Canada.” Ready to discover all the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Montreal? Allons-y!
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Montreal?
The No Reservations episode is available on Amazon, The Layover episode is available on Amazon, and the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon, too!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) and Ho-de-no-sau-nee-ga (Haudenosaunee) people, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
No Reservations (2006)
Anthony Bourdain’s first trip took place relatively early in his career, but he made the most of it – and enjoyed it immensely too. As you’ll see, he samples French, Québécois, and Canadian cuisine to show your why Montreal is a city for anyone who loves food.
Au Pied de Cochon
Bourdain first meets up with Chef Martin Picard for all things fatty, duck-y, and pork-related. Specializing in foie gras, the dishes at Au Pied de Cochon all begin in a room filled with slaughtered, cut, and cleaned duck parts, and assembly lines surrounded by white lab coats and hairnets. As Tony runs through each sectioning of duck parts and their uses, it becomes clear that it might actually be true when they claim that no part goes to waste.
Once moved to the dining table, Tony is met with a flood of towering plates, all with their own magical offerings: a thick slab of duck terrine, sausage du foie gras, pumpkin foie gras, poutine au foie gras, foie with bacon, buckwheat, pancakes, maple syrup sauce, and lard, foie hamburger, foie gras tart, boudin noir with salted foie and potatoes, foie hot dog, rabbit stuffed with foie, giblets, duck with a side of pasta, cassoulet (bean stew cooked with goose-fat sausages and duck confit), duck and foie gras cooked in a can, 24-k gold-flaked pig head and, last, but certainly not least, an inconspicuous bottle of hard liquor. A feast is feasted upon.
At La Banquise, the specialty is poutine 24 hours a day, every day. The dish that Bourdain deems “thematically disgusting but utterly delicious” strays from its classic fries, cheese curds, and gravy here. Poutine spin-offs like “The Italian” add what looks like a can of Spaghettios to the top, while “The Kamikaze” touts peppers and tabasco. A crowd-favorite, the “Three amigos” combines four types of non-premium meats in one dish. And the rest is history.
Sucrerie de la Montagne
A bit north of the city exists Sucrerie de la Montagne, a maple farm and country inn. Its owner, Pierre, left his job in finance and marketing to pursue this picturesque vision. Here, Tony is met with a hearty soup, meat pie, mash, ham, sausage, meatballs, country bacon, souffle, and pancake– and this is just breakfast.
St Viateur Bagel
At St Viateur the bagels are hand-rolled, boiled in honey water, then baked and smoked in the oven at the same time. The result is a bagel crunchy on the outside, and tender on the inside. Tony can’t bring himself to say outright it’s better than a New York City bagel but, after a quick, mumbled internal conflict, settles with calling it a different beast altogether.
The Layover (2011)
Tony wasn’t the biggest fan of filming The Layover; Tom Vitale’s book suggests they did it to fulfill a contract and crammed the show’s episodes into short summer trips… While I wouldn’t encourage you to visit Montreal under the same conditions, he does show you can certainly fit a lot into the time you have and space in your stomach even if you are short on time.
Anthony Bourdain kicks off his second trip to Montreal with a stop at Beauty’s Luncheonette, “where they pretty much invented breakfast around here.”
Run by three generations of the Sckholnick family, the restaurant offers two specialties: its “mish-mash omelette” with hot dogs, salami fried onions, green peppers, or its classic bagel with smoked salmon, cream cheese, onion, and tomato. Tony picks the latter and picks up right where he left off – back to confrontationally questioning whether a Canadian bagel really could be better than New York City’s world-famous. The former touts the same recipe originally brought by the Europeans, sweeter and crispier than the NYC bagel.
Again, no final answer is given, and Tony leaves the decision yours to make.
Market Marché Jean-Talon & La Fromagerie Atwater
After quickly dismissing Montreal’s Club Social – a place made only for the bourgeois and hipsters – Tony heads to two fresh markets for some ‘real food’.
Market Marche Jean-Talon in Montreal’s Little Italy boasts 300 seasonal vendors (far fewer during the minus 10-degree Celsius winters) and is known for its unpasteurized raw cheeses which continue to be banned in the US. Tony tries a raw goat’s milk cheese and notes that it’s always a good thing when you can “taste what the animal ate.”
The fun doesn’t end there as, at Atwater Market, Proprietor Gilles Jourdenais stocks 850 cheeses on the shelves (with even more in storage) of La Fromagerie Atwater.
Club Chasse et Pêche
Along with food writer Adam Gollner, Tony stops at Club Chasse et Pêche where he is met with a feast of classics including tuna tartare with guacamole and taro chips, lobster, scallops with grapefruit foam with fennel pollen, octopus with smoked paprika, foam of smoked potatoes, salad of tomatoes, corn, and beans, as well as duck magret with butternut squash, grilled onion, jalapeno, and red peppers.
Next, at L’emporte Piece, which Tony says is more his speed, he snacks on a grilled Swiss cheese with beef shoulder sandwich. This is one of the lighter meals he enjoys – but that’s not a surprise as his Layover episodes always require lots of meals and some snacks too!
Old-world Greek dishes are served up at Marven’s. Here, Tony’s feasts on calamari and rib steak before continuing onward in his march to try any and every delicious food in Montreal.
At the classic Canadian pub, Brasserie Capri, Bourdain chats with locals about the town’s continued gentrification over some big hunks of pork knuckle with boiled potatoes, pea soup, and large beers. Important to note: Ontarians like to – lovingly? – refer to French Canadians as “pea soup.”
Dominion Square Tavern (CLOSED)
Next up, another quick stop to try a food you might be surprised he hasn’t tried yet, given Montreal’s strong French influence and uniquely Canadian interpretation. Once a tavern from the ‘20s, Tony stops by Dominion Square Tavern for some moules frites (mussels with fries and bacon) alongside a lot of whiskey.
Unfortunately, this tavern closed in 2022 after filing for bankruptcy.
Gibeau Orange Julep
Next, Tony swings by the oldest drive-in in Quebec, Gibeau Orange Julep, where muscle cars, hot rods, and other classic cars are a staple every night. The exact secret formula for the frothy beverage served here isn’t fully known, but milk and orange juice (and a little of this or that) make for an unexpectedly delicious, creamy, tangy drink.
In a once-divey, neglected part of town, owners and chefs Frederic Morin and David McMillan named their one-of-a-kind restaurant after a British Quartermaster known specifically for his ability to scrounge meat for his men during the Crimean War: Joe Beef.
Here, they serve up bad jokes turned into good (yet still silly) dishes, such as stuffed clams atop a vintage radio or laid out on the cover of erotic novels. While the menu changes daily, the theme remains. As the pair makes fun of chefs that say things like “my inspiration for food is Kandinsky and Cy Twombly,” they clarify that “art goes in your eye, and food goes in your mouth.”
With that said, their famous “Double Down” features two hulking pieces of foie gras, bacon, cheddar, and mayonnaise-gravy made from chicken stock.
Pro-tip: Suggested as an alternative to Joe Beef (in case you aren’t able to snag a highly sought-after reservation), Rotisserie Romados serves up Portuguese chicken.
Here, Tony joins up again with Adam Gollner for classic bistro brasserie fare at L’express: steak and frites, bone marrow, and trout salad. How is he still eating?!
Chef Normand Laprise prepares a competitive lineup for Bourdain at Brasserie T, consisting of headcheese, vinaigrette, mustard, smoked sausage, puree of apple and honey on brioche, local mushrooms, girolles (chanterelle) mushrooms with eggs, pork salad, escargot made with sea snails, and lobster with herb chanterelle salad.
Tony follows all of this up with an evening ride through the city in the back of a pickup truck, a bottle of wine wrapped in a brown paper bag, and a penny for his thoughts: “Montreal is a chef town, a stay-up-late and have a good time town.”
Big in Japan
Speaking of chefs and staying up late to have a good time… Open until 3am seven days a week, Big in Japan is the perfect place for drunk-ass chefs after work. Tony celebrates with some Chinese whiskey, sake, and a heated conversation about Celine Dion.
Inspired by food truck fare (oh right– food trucks are banned in Montreal due to reasons of hygiene), Nouveau Palais serves a vegetarian taco that Tony’s ashamed to admit he approves of, as well as a special Szechuan pork scaloppini fried taco he also enjoys.
To finish off this trailblazing trip, Tony informs that no visit to Montreal is complete without a preflight pitstop at Schwartz’s Deli. Opened in 1928, the deli is known for its “pastrami-like magical substance” (Tony’s words, not mine), marinated for ten days in a secret blend of herbs and spices. Bourdain takes down a smoked beef sandwich – medium, not lean – along with a side pickle and cherry soda.
Parts Unknown (2013)
Anthony Bourdain’s final visit to Montreal took place at the start of his last, and arguably greatest, television project. After having visited twice, he approached the city differently this third time, moving a bit more slowly and diving into the food experiences that show Montreal as a world-class culinary destination. (He also spent time outside Montréal, which you can see in the Quebec guide)
Bistro M sur Masson (CLOSED) & Wilensky’s
After a bite to eat at Bistro M sur Masson (now closed), Tony heads over to Wilensky’s where the specialty since its opening in 1932 is sandwiches. Not just any sandwich – a unique creation from its Eastern European roots, the Wilensky Special consists of pressed beef bologna and salami. Paired with an extra-chocolatey egg cream, the sandwich comes with a couple of rules: it is always served with mustard and is never cut in two. No questions asked.
Tony makes his final stop at Fred and Dave’s sister restaurant to Joe Beef, Liverpool House. As the restaurateur pair ponder over whether they overcompensate with an overabundance of food, a never-ending stream of dishes hits the table. Gravlax of char, salmon gundi, beets and eggs, smoked veal and potatoes in bread rolls, salmon pastrami, and oeuf au gelee (egg in aspic, garnished with ham, tarragon leaves, and black truffle) are devoured.
To switch things up, their Pakistani chef, Omar, fills in halfway through the meal, serving butter chicken crab, octopus tikka, eggplants braised with anar seeds, pomegranate, mushrooms, rabbit korma, fingerlings with fenugreek and fennel, donkey hanarri, Pakistani gumbo with okra and coriander, sesame seed and green pepper curry; hanger steak palak paneer; all beef scotched egg; a pouri with horse meat tartare; and goat biryani.
Phew! The meal is finished off with some Stilton cheese, and Montreal is made one for the books.
Local Dining Experiences Tony Had in Montreal
In addition to all of that – which was a lot – Tony had a few local dining experiences too; I wanted to include these also for comprehensiveness.
- During No Reservations, Bourdain goes seal-hunting with an Inuit family. In addition to tucking into the main parts of the raw seal, Tony is offered an eyeball – an honor – which, he comments, is nothing different than a big, fat, juicy Concord grape. For dessert, the family snacks on blackberries rolled in blubber.
- In Parts Unknown, Tony goes ice Fishing with Chefs Fred Morin and David Mcmillan at the start of the episode; behind the fishing cottage’s door awaits a white tablecloth and full dining set, alongside a shelf of fine wines.
- Following a spirited game of pond hockey, Fred and David serve up a huge platter of choucroute garnie à l’alsacienne: pork belly, poitrine, bacon, homemade boudin blanc, kielbasa, smoked chops, veal, and pork links alongside fine Canadian Riesling.
- Finally, Bourdain goes beaver hunting with Chef Martin Picard. The two pull up a young catch (the best for eating), and Martin prepares Tony’s first beaver experience. Cooked on the stove with extra blood, the beaver covered in chocolate-looking sauce has a wholly unique flavor, unlike any other animal meat.
Montreal Food Tours to Try
In case you don’t have enough ideas for where to eat in Montreal, or if you know you don’t have enough time to visit all these spots, you might consider booking a food tour during your trip. Here are three that sample some of the same foods that Tony had during his visits.
Have any other questions about the many places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Montreal and all he ate? Let me know in the comments below!