I’ve always been impressed by how often Montreal and its food scene popped up in The New York Times and other publications I like to read – but recently things seem to have kicked up a notch. All of a sudden, local chefs and restaurants are being written up seemingly everywhere, so much so that I had to ask myself why…
It didn’t take long to figure out one of the key factors. It turns out that Hugue Dufour – an alum and ex-partner of Montreal’s most talked-about restaurant, Au Pied de Cochon, and a close friend of chef-owner Martin Picard – replicated the mothership’s style of cooking in Queens, New York. His M.Wells, set in a rickety diner, opened only last year and became an instant hit. Meat pie. Veal brains. Large cuts of pork and beef, served on the bone: New Yorkers ate it all up!
It scored high marks from the critics, including glowing reviews in The New York Times and New York Magazine, and every article included the requisite nod to Au Pied de Cochon, the nose-to-tail temple where it all started. And then came a scorching feature in GQ magazine that bucked the trend of wide-eyed praise. The story is too long to re-tell here, but trust me, it’s a very fun read, if nothing else….
Aside from the avalanche of press on Hugue Dufour, other local chefs have merited their own fair share of ink. The new book by David McMillan and Fred Morin of Joe Beef (pictured at top), for example, will be featured prominently in the October edition of Food & Wine magazine. Titled The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, it will be launched officially on October 20 and it’s pretty obvious, judging by all the attention it’s already garnered, that it’ll be a smash. Already in September, the same magazine featured Fred and Dave’s Québec travel tips, plus their recipes for revamped Québecois classics, like Barley Soup with Scotch, and grilled cheese-and-bacon sandwiches with cheese curds. The duo’s star is definitely on the rise…
In my own GQ piece on Montreal food, which is about to hit newstands in Brazil, I chose to focus on the city’s beloved taco truck, Grumman ’78. The three owner’s fine dining backgrounds, which is reflected in the unusually high quality of the street food they serve (one of them, Gaelle Cerf, worked at Au Pied de Cochon for eight years). If interested in having a taste and finding out why their tacos have become such a craze, you can always track the truck’s whereabouts on Twitter.
And the very same GQ, in its U.S. edition, recently published a piece – cheekily subtitled “Montreal: Europe Without the Eurotrash” – which highlights what writer Stan Parish sees as the city’s must-sees (in its online version it appears in slideshow form). Among them, a few restaurants I also count among my favourites, like the always fun L’Orignal and Joe Beef, the Quartier des Spectacles‘ great new addition Brasserie t!, Le Filet, and… you guessed it: the infamous Au Pied de Cochon.
For a more in-depth account of what it’s like to eat at these top tables, you won’t want to miss the very thorough Montreal Food blog post by Dr. John Sconzo, a.k.a. Docsconz, from upstate New York. The Doc, as his countless foodie friends call him, is as respected for his balanced and well-researched musings on dining as he is for his actual work as a doctor. He travels the world to eat, knows several of the best restaurants and chefs and, while in town, managed to hit an impressive number of recommended addresses. These included many of the usual suspects, but also less obvious finds like Taverne Square Dominion and Les 400 Coups (the latter, one of my own favourites).
After the whirlwind eating marathon, he concluded: “It was reassuring to rediscover the culinary pleasures of this great city. It is as exciting as ever. Many of the old stalwarts like Toqué!, Au Pied de Cochon and Le Club Chasse et Pêche amongst others are still going strong while the new places are as exciting as I can remember… Montreal remains one of my favorite food cities on the continent. It won’t be so long before I return again.”
Au Pied du Cochon, 536 Avenue Duluth East, Montréal, (514) 281-1114
Joe Beef, 2491 Notre Dame West, (514) 935-6504
Restaurant L’Orignal, 479 Rue Saint Alexis, (514) 303-0479
Brasserie t!, 1425 Rue Jeanne-Mance, (514) 282-0808
Le Filet, 219 Mont-Royal West, (514) 360-6060
Taverne Square Dominion, 1243 Metcalfe, (514) 564-5056
Restaurant Les 400 Coups, 400 Notre-Dame East, (514) 985-0400
Toqué!, 900 Place Jean Paul Riopelle, (514) 499-2084
Le Club Chasse et Pêche, 423 Rue Saint-Claude, (514) 861-1112