Tag Archives: restaurants

Au Revoir Montreal, Part Deux: Guidebook

After living in NYC, I am frequently asked my favorite highlights by friends heading to the big apple. I have to dig up the same information (what cross street is that on again?) and think of and type out all my recommendations each time. So while I’m still fresh, I thought I’d just consolidate that information right here, right now, in case in the future any of you decide to visit Montreal. And obviously, this is written by someone who does everything with a little kid in tow, so if you are here for the nightclubbing, this review is not for you.

Parks
Parc Lafontaine: in the Plateau is very nice to walk around in almost any season. It has a pond and playgrounds, and in the summer a mini choo-choo train for kids. It’s below Rue Rachel between Ave Parc Lafontaine and Papineau. Closest Metro: Sherbrooke

Westmount Park: Adorable little park with an interesting water-feature and nice playground. Some of the friendliest (and thieving) squirrels in the city. Westmount’s library is nestled in the corner of the park and has a lovely children’s section downstairs. Along Rue Sherbrooke between Melville and Lansdowne. Nearest Metro: Vendôme.

Park Wilfrid Laurier: One of my favorites in the summer. It has really tall trees and a lovely lawn for picnics. The playground is great for mixed ages and it has a fantastic pool and wading pool with fountain. I especially love the wading pool because the bottom is kind of soft and it has a sloped entrance which is really nice for babies and crawlers. It’s free on weekdays and only $4 for adults and like $1 for kids on weekends. Along Rue Laurier between Mentana and Brebeúf. Metro: Laurier

Attractions

Museum of Fine Arts: While not the largest collection, it has many wonderful pieces of European, American, and Canadian art. And there is usually an interesting special exhibit to check out. The museum is free (donation requested) but you need to have a ticket for special exhibits. There is a nice room with puzzles and things for kids, and really shallow “horse steps” going up to each of the floors. My daughter loves climbing them. On Rue Sherbrooke between Bishop and Crescent. Metro: Guy-Concordia.

Old Town Montreal and the Old Port: In the way all old adorable places get super touristy, this area has unfortunately fallen to the temptation of filling its charming streets with tacky souvenir shops and overpriced dining. But there are still a few interesting things to see and the views of the stately, old buildings of the city are quite nice. It’s nice to take a walk around this area and there are a few interesting art galleries here and there. Go on weekends or it will feel a bit desolate. Between Rue Notre Dame Est and towards the waterfront, near Rue Ste-Gabriel. Metro: Champ de Mars.

Botanical Gardens: A gigantic, sprawling garden, or rather series of different gardens, the crown jewel of which is the lovely Chinese Garden, with it’s little temples, lake, bridges, and winding paths. My favorite is the Temple of Infinite Pleasantness, it just sounds like such a nice place to hang out. The Japanese Garden is also very beautiful and quite large. Don’t miss the Shade Garden and the First Nations Garden either. You could spend a lot of time wandering this place, appreciating all the hard work that goes into all the different plants. There is also an indoor system of greehouses featuring different climates’ vegetation. In the early spring, they have a Butterflies Go Free exhibit where you can walk around in a greenhouse filled with free butterflies and their native fruits and flowers. June and July are probably the best months to see all the flowers blooming outside, but if you come in the winter, the Chinese Garden has a temporary exhibit of lit silk lanterns after sundown. It’s breathtaking. At Blvd Pie IX and Sherbrooke Est. Metro: Pie IX.

Marche Jean-Talon Our large semi-permanent, open air, farmers market and various small shops for cheeses and spices and lots of other wonderful things. Jean-Talon is the kind of place you WISH you could buy all your vegetables. It’s only really hopping in the late spring through early fall, but it gets wonderful local produce for good prices and even if you are just visiting, you are bound to find something at one of the stalls or in the surrounding shops. Grab lunch at one of the little places in and around the market and if you are here in June, grab some local strawberries. On Rue Jean-Talon Est at Ave Henri Julien. Metro: Jean-Talon.

Streets to Walk Down

St Laurent between Mont-Royal and Rue Prince Arthur Est, take a left on that and walk down to Square St Louis (so pretty) and through to St Denis, make a right and continue to St Catherine.

St Catherine between Papineau and Downtown

Sherbrooke Oest between Blvd Décarie and Ave Victoria

Ave Du Parc between St Viateur and Mont-Royal

Restaurants and Cafes

I’m not going to pretend that this is in any way comprehensive… my restaurant-ing has been dramatically hampered by the baby-to-preschooler conversion project I’ve been working on as well as income, but here are a few of my favs.

Juliette and Chocolat: One of my favorite places for crepes, actually. And their cocoa menu isn’t too shabby either. Cacao 70 is good too, but their focus is more on chocolate everything and Juliette has really good regular food too. Two locations, one at St Laurent and Prince Arthur Ouest and the other at St Denis between Ontario and Maisonneuve.

Commensal: A vegetarian buffet, lots of interesting salads and warm dishes. Two locations, one on St Denis and one on McGill College Ave downtown. I think it’s rather kid friendly.

Comptoir 21: A cute fish and chips shop, but very good food. St Catherine, just east of Amherst.

Icehouse: A southern, “tex mex,” fried food kind of place. They dump your food on paper in the center the table in sort of the most charming way possible. I like the burrito but really I go for the bourbon lemonade which is pretty much the only thing I want to drink all summer for the rest of my life. The experience/service is a bit brusque, but I’m a NYer so it doesn’t bother me so much. If you can, go on a weekday evening as early as possible as it can get busy (no reservations). Ave Roy, just east of St Laurent.

Cacao 70: A chocolate goo fest. Crepes and desserts and chocolate pizzas… it’s delicious and terrible and wonderful. St Catherine between Panet and Beaudry.

La Mie Matinale: A very small bakery, cafe, sandwich shop. This is a totally personal recommendation. When we first moved to Montreal, I had a tiny baby and no desire to leave the apartment. My husband brought me back sandwiches from here quite frequently. I fell pretty hard for them. If you happen to be nearby, go in and grab a coffee, a pain au chocolate, and a smoked salmon sandwich. It’s my favorite sandwich in all of Montreal and will probably be the one food I miss the most. St Catherine between Panet and Plessis.

I hope you have fun running around Montreal, remember to keep your metro cards until you’ve completed your trip (sometimes they check), bring your winter coats between October and April (and all year except July/Aug if you are from Florida), and yes, the paper money feels like plastic so don’t accidentally throw out stuff in your pockets without looking at it. Bon voyage!

Eating Out Midterm Warning

My husband and I, we have honed our skills, over the years, at eating in restaurants. We can occupy a table in a wide variety of places, three star and no star, of almost any ethnic sway, and hold our own. We have cultivated a pretty nice eating out technique and I think we’d be welcome customers in almost any establishment. A long time living in big metropolitan areas, plenty of travel, adventurous tastebuds, and a shared interest in trying new things has taught us a great deal. Not only are we pretty good at eating out, we enjoy it as well.

Well, our toddler is bringing down our Restaurant grade point average.

We went out tonight because for SOME reason our building shut the water off on our floor from 3pm to after 8pm, without warning. Cooking was out of the question. We went down the street to a friendly little Chinese place that always seems delighted to have children. They normally are very sweet to our daughter. But after tonight I think maybe they’ll reconsider that.

Things started off well, but then one thing let to another, and all of a sudden she was throwing chopsticks on the floor. The waiter brought clean chopsticks and handed them to her and she PROMPTLY threw them to the floor!

Appalling. I nearly left her with the bill.

I had to tell her that we’re graded as a TABLE. This is like a group project. And she’s bringing our GPA down. Not cool.
I tried to explain that if we don’t pass enough tests, we won’t pass the semester. And if we don’t pass the semester, we won’t be allowed to take Restaurants classes in the Spring. We’ll have to wait until Summer and retake Restaurants 101: Food Courts and Coffee Shops all over again. And frankly, mommy and daddy passed that decades ago with FLYING colors.

Someone needs to think of the good of the group and start doing their homework. I’d like to work up to 2 star sushi sometime this decade.

Plattsburgh

I just got home from a 2.5 day excursion to visit a friend in scenic Plattsburgh, NY. And by scenic I mean, if you are not at on the Lake and staying at a hotel near the mall, you better like views of parking lots. Needless to say, it was perfect for our purposes because it was a good mid-way point between our cities to which I could take the train, offered us a inexpensive place to stay that had a nice pool and nearby stores/restaurants, and did not offer much distraction from our sole mission to let the kids play and just “hang out.”

My friend brought 11 bags for a 2 day stay. This is traveling with toddlers. I brought 3, but I also forgot a second shirt, socks for the baby, and I ran out of diapers on the last day, so I lose.

The first thing we did is bravely attempt dinner out with two 13 month olds. All in all, it went very well! I think only the carpet lost.

After that, we went to the supermarket and loaded up on baby snacks and extremely unhealthy adult snacks (hello chocolately caramel corn!). We got back with just enough time to take the kids down to the pool and try get them them REALLY tired before a quick bath and bed. They both slept pretty well the first night.

The next morning, we let them play all over the room for awhile and fed them breakfast. The kids had a grand time at such activities as: putting stuff in the “bible” drawer and taking it back out, stealing each others toys, opening and closing the temperature panel on the a/c unit, banging on said a/c unit, giggling wildly, sharing sippy cups, bouncing on the bed, running around going “da da da da,” and eating goldfish, crackers, apples, yogurt melts, and puffs.

It is also possible we heard Adele’s “Someone Like You” on the radio 500 times.

We didn’t venture out until lunchtime when due to the relative success of Dinner 1, we attempted another sit-down meal. A gentleman at a nearby table actually remarked to us that we had very “well behaved children.” I wouldn’t go THAT far, but they were pretty good! They ate some food, they didn’t make tons of noise, the floors were not strewn with absolutely everything… We made a very thorough survey of Target and a tiny dip into Michaels and then headed back to the hotel because the kids needed naps.

Dinner we decided, was best to order in. And boy, we nailed it. I don’t know if you’re ever planning on being in Plattsburgh, but we highly recommend Mangia. It’s a Italian, brick-oven pizza kind of place. But everything we had was delicious. The crab-cakes were something special and the ravioli were beyond.

Since swimming worked so well the night before, we tried that again. My daughter likes to take her rubber ducks to the pool and throw them in from the edge and then try to go in after them. You really have to watch her or she will try to jump in by herself. The kids were pretty delighted with the pool, even if it was kind of chilly. We warmed them up with a dip in the hot tub. And before you get all hysterical about babies in hot tubs, let me add, it was a pretty mild hot tub. I’ve run hotter baths for my daughter.

I was prepared for some really epic sleeping after their post swim bath, but it was not to be. My friend’s son went to bed like a good boy, but my child? Oh no. She decided to whine and thrash about, disrupting his winding down. So I had to quickly put her in warmer clothes, stuff her in the Ergo baby carrier with her blanket, and walk around outside for almost an hour. Freaking ridiculous.

I walked by a lot of closed strip mall-type places. There was one with a bridal store. The dresses in the window were alarmingly tacky. Attention future brides of Upstate NY, please avoid the polka-dot sash number.

After both kids were FINALLY in bed, we got to sit still for a moment and eat chocolatey things, drink fizzy things, and talk about life and stuff.

It was nice.

We packed up the next morning, took the kids for lunch out again (the floors may have lost again), and then I had to catch my train. I pushed nap-time back as far as I could hoping to catch a really good block of sleep on the train and I’m happy to say it worked. But bedtime when we got home was a mess again. I guess my toddler is just a little wound up from her trip.

I am, on the other hand, so very tired. But I’m glad we went. It was a good idea and I think everyone had fun. Even our waiters.