Big in Japan
4175 Blvd. St. Laurent, Le Plateau Mont-Royal
It’s only fifty seats, and there’s no sign out front, but that’s kind of the point. Despite the name, Big in Japan isn’t meant for a big crowd. Behind an unmarked door at the corner of Boul Saint-Laurent and Rue Rachel, though, it is one of the best spots for late-night cocktails in Montreal. If you’re feeling adventurous, the specialties are amazing prune wine, sake, and Japanese whisky.
1074 Ave. Laurier O, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal
This clean, sleek, minimalist space mirrors its wares—lots of Dries Van Noten, Lemaire, and Acne Studios, which draw the city’s creative class (art directors, architects, and the like). There are plenty of pieces for both men and women, and the men’s rack has some pretty fantastic options for women, too. There’s a nice selection of accessories (wallets, backpacks, and totes) from WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie, a line started by local twin brothers Byron and Dexter Peart. There’s a second outpost in Old Montreal.
Le Rouge Gorge
1234 Ave. Mont-Royal E., Plateau-Mont-Royal
Le Rouge Gorge is a roomy space with beautiful decorative touches that feel decidedly Parisian. A mix of marble-topped bar and table seating, black tile, exposed brick, and plenty of natural light by day and reflected light by night (from the many windows) contributes to the lively, brasserie-like vibe. The wine list is extensive with bottles ranging from average-priced to the more special, celebratory bottles for a splurge. The by-the-glass selection changes daily and the cocktails—mostly based on classics—have all been upgraded with Rouge George’s signature out-of-the-box touch.
4328 Blvd. Saint-Laurent, Plateau-Mont-Royal
Darling showcases many of the finer beers produced by Montreal’s many microbreweries. The food offering revolves around classic bar snacks like cheese boards, olives, and selections of Italian antipasti. The space itself is incredibly inviting and evocative of the decadence of the ’30s. In contrast to many of the pared-back industrial bars that dot the city, Darling is a feast for the eyes—multiple types of lighting, books scattered about, a mixture of low and high seating, and a polished stone floor, all warmed up with plenty of plants and natural light during the day. While roomy, the space fills up night after night.
20 Ave. Duluth E., Plateau-Mont-Royal
Chez Suzanne owns the fairly novel concept of being a dumpling speakeasy, yet conversely, the space has no Chinese design elements and has abandoned the traditionally dark speakeasy-style décor for something lighter and greener. Serving the aforementioned dumplings, twelve lines of craft beer, and an excellent selection of cocktails, Chez Suzanne is a fresh-feeling spot for comfort food and some of the latest beers produced by Montreal’s thriving microbrewery community.
4357 Rue St. Laurent, Plateau-Mont-Royal
Ibiki first opened its doors back in 2011 and exists today as a kind of clothing/publications/stationery/housewares emporium for those with more minimalist leanings. There's an artful curation (largely greys, black, navy) of cult labels big and small, like Black Crane, Y-3, Oak NYC, Norse Projects, Converse x Play by CDG sneakers, plus books by D.A.P. Artbooks and MoMA Publications as well as copies of indie magazines, like Apartamento, Tunica, and Record—all of which are worth leafing through.
74 Ave. Fairmount O, Plateau-Mont-Royal
Bagels in Montreal are something of a point of pride—locals take them very seriously, and there's some debate about what spot is truly the best. A top contender? Fairmount (its "rival" is nearby St-Viateur), which was opened in 1919 by a Russian immigrant named Isadore Shlafman. Both spots sell fresh ones twenty-four hours a day. What makes these bagels different than the bagels you'll find elsewhere is both their size (they're smaller than the ones you'd find in, say, New York) and their sweetness—likely thanks to the addition of honey or malt syrup. There are several flavors on offer, from blueberry and chocolate to whole wheat and onion, but no matter whom you ask, sesame is the most popular. A tip: Bagels are sold in a pack of six and can last in the freezer for up to a few months should you want to take them home.
3895 Blvd. St. Laurent, Plateau-Mont-Royal
Come for the signature sandwich—smoked meat piled atop chewy, house-made rye bread and finished with golden mustard—and stay for the old-school setting (Schwartz's has occupied the same spot since its founder Reuben—a Jewish immigrant from Romania—opened the doors in 1928). The brisket is marinated in spices and herbs for a full ten days prior to entering the smoker, no chemicals added. If in doubt when ordering, the fail-safe method is to point at another diner’s plate, but for the brisket aficionados out there, the sandwiches come lean, medium, or fatty—we recommend medium for that sweet spot of crispy edges and tender meat.
994 Rue Rachel E, Plateau-Mont-Royal
Poutine is the official, unofficial dish of Canada, and this color-happy, super casual restaurant does it justice. While the poutine formula (fries + cheese curds + gravy) is simple, here, variations (all thirty of them) run the gamut from the Galvaude (chicken and peas) to the Veganomaniac (vegan cheese and gravy). It’s open twenty-four hours a day, so expect the place to get rowdier the later it gets.
4524 Blvd. St. Laurent, Plateau-Mont-Royal
Although this bakery has only been churning out their specialties—crusty French baguettes, lightly sweet challah, and fluffy panettone (to name a few)—for only a few years, it's become an institution in the city. Owner Jeffrey Finkelstein's talent for what he does is both evident in his incredible breads and pastries (he's said he adds a "Jewish twist" to everything he bakes) and resume, which includes positions as both The French Laundry and Per Se. A great spot to grab a coffee and pastry to enjoy at the communal table. (Note: the buttery, fluffy scrambled eggs are worth trying.)