I’ve traveled the world eating vegan food, but Montreal is definitely special in terms of the variety and styles. Founded in 1642, Montreal is one of the oldest cities in North America—and interestingly, second-largest French-speaking metropolis in the world after Paris. The French tradition shows up as an immense pride and interest in good food made from fresh, local (Quebec) ingredients. I’ve been to the city several times, and these are some of my favorite places from the most recent visit.
I first tasted the Dragon Sauce at Aux Vivres about ten years ago. It was so mind-blowing that I bought a bottle and stuffed it in my check-in bag, only to come home and discover it had exploded all over the place. A sad tale, really. My revisit did not disappoint—the Dragon Bowl at this legendary institution is still incredible. Everything on the menu at this oldest vegan restaurant in Montreal is excellent. The “thinly shaved raw veggies in a bowl with a sauce” is definitely something I see at a lot at French vegan restaurants. Another thing that feels unique to Quebec is the vegan pâté wrap, which is way better than it sounds (I wasn’t a fan of pâté even before becoming vegan). Be sure to leave room for dessert, like the gateau choco-pomme (chocolate apple cake) or the chocolate banana pie.
This photo doesn’t do justice to how exceedingly delicious Mandy’s is. It’s a local chain of mostly plant-based salads and some baked goods. Their pride and joy is the house-made vegan chicken (fauxlet), which is made from mushrooms. The portions are huge, dine-in utensils and bowls are all reusable (instead of plastic), and the vibe is colorful, bright, and chic. It’s 1000x better than Sweetgreen and competitors, all of which I avoid because of their plastic footprint.
Although I’d been to Montreal many times before, I’d never had poutine. I finally got to taste it for the first time thanks to Maynard, a comfort food place with chic diner vibes. We got our poutine loaded with not just default gravy and vegan cheese curds (tofu-based), but also vegan buffalo wings. Next time we would probably skip the wings and keep it tradish, but I’m glad I finally know what all the fuss is about. We also really liked the vegan buffalo pulled sandwich (surprisingly light!), coleslaw, and mac n’ cheese.
For some reason, Montreal has multiple very trendy, upscale, and stylish vegan sushi restaurants, which is something I’ve only seen in New York, with its much greater population. Lotus Sushi located in Vieux Montreal is perfect for a special occasion dinner. It’s beautiful inside and out, the service is on point, and even the miso soup is the best miso soup I’ve ever had. Don’t skip the cocktails here, as they are excellent and so pretty. We ordered the omakase for two, a selection of chef’s special sushi rolls, and it was a perfect date night choice.
Montreal bagels, to eat or not to eat?
Unpopular opinion coming through… I’ve had Montreal bagels on each trip, and they’re not exactly bad per se… They are chewy, carby things, after all. But from the point of view of an ex-New Yorker who didn’t even eat bagels unless they were from Ess-a Bagels on First Avenue (or a few other select places), I find Montreal-style bagels lacking. Whereas New York bagels are so pillowy as to make the hole almost non-existent, Montreal bagels are skinnier, so the hole is indeed large. It’s a bit dryer, definitely less carb-y. Also, these bagel places don’t offer tofu cream cheese! Which even the most basic bodegas in New York offer!! If I can’t get a cream cheese on my bagelry bagel, then how is it different from toast and jam at home? Don’t get me wrong, I will eat Montreal bagels if offered to me for free, but they’re not something I will go out of my way to experience. Anyone else?
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Photo: Peaceful Dumpling