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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Montreal - Food Paradise en Français (Family Trip For 4)

Traveling abroad with young kids can be a tricky endeavor. Add to that a lengthy trans-continental flight and the prospect seems even more daunting. We'd been wanting to take our little one out of the country for some time but had several such concerns in mind, so for our first time venturing out of the US with him, a quick trip to Montreal seemed like a genius idea. 

With flights from the NYC-area only an hour each way, French as the local tongue and the fact that the place oozes old-world charm, you could almost pretend you're in Paris. 

We'll try the transatlantic journey to Europe sometime soon, but for now our Family-Friendly Four Day Montreal Adventure a perfect choice.

Grand Prix Weekend in Montreal, Photo: NK 


Below you'll find all the details on where to stay and what to do, plus some handy travel tips AND, of course, all of the food highlights of this little jaunt. Montreal lived up to its hype as a major dining destination, and it really wasn't bad from a family travel perspective either. Can you believe we lucked into being there on Grand Prix Weekend or that our hotel was just steps away from the World Beer Festival??

One thing to note - we dined only in restaurants that were supposed to be relatively kid/baby friendly (in the early part of the evening), but we were surprised that even though other travelers had flagged them as appropriate for young children, only one of the three had a high chair or booster seat for our son. It just didn't seem to be the norm in the city. For this reason I would recommend you travel with one of these super handy portable booster seats

FOUR DAY FAMILY TRIP TO MONTREAL 

STAY: Le Saint Sulpice
Nestled in a charming section called Old Montreal, this stylish boutique hotel is quiet yet well-located near several of bustling streets for great dining and people watching.
It's also within steps of a major tourist destination, the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal (a breathtaking basilica with a long history). A stay at Le Saint Sulpice will also place you conveniently just a few blocks from the Place D'Armes Metro Station with two lines available to you. 

Le Saint Sulpice was a great choice for a family because the rooms are more like suites with a separate bedroom and little but well-appointed kitchenette (came in handy for preparing our son's snacks and storing his milk in the fridge). At night, we were able to put him to sleep in a different room and still stay up and enjoy a glass (or two) of wine in the living room relatively undisturbed (though he did stand up in his cot to peer at us through the frosted glass of the bedroom door).


TIP for parents of young ones: If it's financially feasible, reallocate some funds towards getting a better than usual hotel room when your kids are in tow. You'll be spending more time indoors than you'd like (can't miss that noontime nap!) so you may as well make it nice. 


Getting Around Montreal:  The Metro is super easy to master and will get you most anywhere you need to go. They also seem to have an extensive network of busses. Cabs are plentiful and about as expensive as they might be in New York City. 

TIP: Email your hotel concierge service in advance to have them secure your all-important dinner reservations. You won't have to call internationally to book or communicate in another language. I used to know French pretty well but I am admittedly rusty (Sidenote: most folks we encountered in Montreal spoke excellent English). 



Gorgeous Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal 

GO: In less than a half hour metro ride from Old Montreal, you can arrive at the Biodome. A hit with kids and adults alike, this collection of science and nature themed museums has something for everyone (a planetarium, zoo, botanical garden, and more). Educational and entertaining, I think you'll find it worth the trip. 

Ok, ok, I know what you're thinking... get to the good stuff! 

WHAT WE ATE:

When Anthony Bourdain tells us to do something, we do it. That's why Montreal institution, Joe Beef, topped our must-dine list. (For more on Tony's Montreal food stops, click HERE).  TIP: Joe Beef's Sister restaurant, The Liverpool House, is supposed to be as good and an easier reservation to get. 

I can't say enough about how welcoming the staff was at this restaurant. They truly went above and beyond to make sure our experience was fabulous. We went on the very early side because we had our little guy in tow. He may be a precocious toddler but everyone, especially the gentleman bussing tables, was just lovely to him and his delight in being treated him like a grownup customer was palpable as he confidently ordered three milk refills for his sippy cup! 

The real-life urban legend of Joe Beef

Amazing Smoked Lamb & Spicy Sausage, Photo: NK


I learned that Montreal is famous for Cod - also known as "Morue" Photo: NK 


Pain Farci, like a melty cheese fondue sandwich with ham, mushrooms and gravy.
Mouthwatering. Photo: NK 


Incredibly delicious and fresh oysters and razor clams with green apple, peas and
foie gras. To die for. Photo: NK 


The charming lettuce garden at Joe Beef, Photo: NK 
For me, Joe Beef was an especially great experience, but on our second day we enjoyed a more casual, family friendly comfort food joint called Le Robin Square. The food was good and the place was cute, casual and fast if you're in Old Montreal.


Burrata Pizza at Le Robin Square, Photo: NK


Mac & Cheese with Sweet Ham and a very fresh and 
delicious Chicken Caesar Salad at Le Robin Square
Photo: NK 

GO: Take the metro to the Plateau Mont Royal neighborhood Get your caffeine fix and head out for a walk around a very cool neighborhood called Le Plateau Mont Royal. Head up to the Park Mont Royal for some greenery too. We didn't get to do this because the weather turned on us, but we were told that a climb up a one of several great hills (Mont Royal) gets you a fabulous view of the city. 


Photo: NK 

Le Plateau Mont Royal, the neighborhood at the foot of these hills, is great for finding some of Montreal's most beloved casual bites.

EAT:
Stop at Fairmount Bagel for unique Montreal-Style Bagels (this New Yorker enthusiastically approves) and then to famed Schwartz's Deli for a delicious "smoked meat" sandwich, to use the local parlance.


Required Tasting: Bagels from Fairmount Bagel and Smoked Meat Sandwich From Schwartz's, Photo: NK

EAT: 
For our last night, we dined La Salle à Manger in Plateau Mont-Royal. We really enjoyed all the food and the Oysters, in particular, were to die for. Ambiance is very casual and festive but still visually pleasing, and the place attracts a nice mix of energetic patrons from all walks of life. Add to that a solid wine list and rare beer offerings plus a menu with daily specials that were really appealing (I couldn't decide!) and you have a winning dining experience. We definitely recommend it!    

Oysters from Washington State and British Columbia, Photo: NK 

Daily Specials on the board at La Salle à Manger, Photo: NK

Grapefruit Tartelette With Pistachio Crumble, Photo: NK

Really Tasty Mackerel with Sardines, Photo: NK 


GO: By now you have gathered that Montreal is indeed a cook and eater's paradise. If you haven't gotten your fill, visit the best of the best, Atwater Market, for an amazing collection of local specialties, meat, fish, breads and pastries. There are several magnifique public markets in Montreal. Find them all thanks to this handy little website. An native told me that Atwater was the her favorite so that is where we headed on our last day. 

Partially indoors, this was a great choice of activity for a rainy morning. We took some meats, cheeses and pastries back to our hotel room for a little last minute carpet picnic prior to heading to the airport for our return flight.  

The inspiring selection at Atwater Market, Photo: NK
And there it is. 

Just a half hour cab ride to Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport and were ready to head home to the U.S with lots of wonderful memories. Montreal was gracious, beautiful and delicious. I'd recommend it to anyone, young and old. 

We will certainly be back! In the meantime, if you need more trip ideas, click through a few of our previous food & travel guides:

Paris and the Loire Valley 
Spain, Barcelona and Madrid
Chicago Culinary Highlights - Two Restaurants to Try 
When in Rome - Culinary Recap and Restaurants of Rome, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Area
San Francisco and Napa Valley Wine
San Fran to Los Angeles Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
Lowcountry Cooking Inspiration - South Carolina

San Francisco and Napa Valley Food Guide

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