While Montréal is known for its diverse selection of restaurants and cafés, most McGillians don’t have the time or energy to venture outside of Downtown. Sticking to your old favorites like Lola Rosa and Humble Lion can be tempting if you’re like me and don’t always want to put the effort in to trying new places or discovering hidden gems when you aren’t sure if they’re going to be worth it.
Luckily, the writers over at Spoon have got you covered, and we’ve compiled this list of our lesser-known favorites in and around Montréal that are definitely up to our standards of quality despite being relatively unknown. If you’re already a regular at a couple of these, you’re ahead of the game; if not, here’s your chance to impress your friends with some super cool spots.
1. Cafe Sfouf
Nestled into the oft-overlooked (for McGill students, at least) Gay Village, Cafe Sfouf has some of the coolest decor you can find in Montréal — and incredible food to boot. The large, communal tables are perfect for studying, and their selections of hearty toasts will keep you fueled up for a day of exploring. Plus, their coffee is incredible, and each order comes with a free mini Turkish cake.
Ha is one of the Plateau’s best Vietnamese restaurants, and it’s surprising that it has kept a fairly low profile among students. They have something for everyone — with grilled octopus for the adventurous eater, marinated tofu and rice for the vegetarian, and pork buns for the average meat lover, Ha is a great place for a low key dinner with friends.
3. Hôtel Herman
Community manager Helena Lin’s favorite hidden gem, Hôtel Herman should be your next classy spot to impress your parents (provided they are paying, of course). With elegant yet intense dishes like venison tartar and bone marrow, Hôtel Herman is located in the heart of the Plateau and is definitely worth a visit.
4. L’artiste Affame
Located on St. Denis in a unique semi-basement spot, this small, quirky coffee shop boasts some of the best coffee in Montreal and has an exceptional 5-star yelp rating. What makes this spot even more unique is that it doubles as a laundromat, making it a unique mix of convenient and caffeinated.
5. Tacos and Tortas
This stylish Mexican restaurant in the Plateau is the perfect spot to wind down on a Friday night. With great tacos and cheap, delicious Margaritas, this place should definitely be on your radar if it isn’t already.
6. Luna D’oro
This quaint cafe is the perfect excuse to make the trek down to Old Port, and is one of writer Irina’s favorite best-kept secrets. Saunter in for a cup of coffee or one of their supremely good sandwiches.
Cronuts may be the trending dessert in North America of late, but Montreal as been surprisingly late to the game (maybe it’s because we have a lot of croissant purists). Thankfully, those craving the fried treats, or regular donuts, cannolis, or cupcakes for that matter, can head to La Cornetteria on St. Laurent, a favorite of Spoon Social Media manager Prairie to get their pastry fix.
8. Arts Cafe
Boasting one of the cutest interiors in Montreal, this cute Mile End spot is perfect for a relaxed weekend brunch (and the perfect place for an Instagram or two, which is always a plus).
#SpoonTip from regular customer Tess: Get there early, especially on weekends— the wait can get pretty long.
9. Hof Kelsten
Spoon editor Carlotta reckons you can smell wafts of the amazing fresh baked pastries and bread from this bakery in the high Plateau from blocks away. This quality destination opened in 2015 and is quickly becoming a staple among Montrealers outside of the downtown area. They also offer a delicious if not limited brunch on the weekend.
10. Cafe Mezcal
Another option for Mexican food, which can be few and far between in Montreal, is Cafe Mezcal. A favorite of Spoon writer Nathalie, Mezcal is currently closed for renovations, but it opens back up on March 16th. As the weather gets warmer and we need more excuses to ignore schoolwork, this restaurant is the perfect place to go to take in one of Montreal’s coolest areas.
11. Le Serpent
This upscale restaurant located in Old Port is sure to impress— the food, service, and atmosphere is impeccable. We at Spoon wouldn’t be surprised if Le Serpent soon joined the ranks of other favorite splurge spots like Bouillon Bilk and Le Pied Cochon.
12. Puca Puca
This hole-in-the-wall Peruvian joint in the Plateau is a bright spot during the gloomy Montreal “spring”. Seriously, if you hate dogging puddles, cloudy skies, and greying snow piles, Spoon writer Chelsea suggests to check out this vibrant place for some uplifting South American cuisine.
An underrated, low-key venue on Rue Roy, Else’s offers both classic and updated takes on pub food, and has a solid happy hour selection. Plus, its within walking distance from most Lower Plateau/ Ghetto apartments, and the cozy vibe is perfect for a comfortable night out with friends.
If you are seeking something more than just an average night out at BDP or admittedly pretty basic drinks at La Distillerie, Randolph Pub Ludique should definitely be on your radar. For a flat cover of 5$, you and your friends can play any of their thousands of board games, enjoy great pub food and feast on their solid selection of beers and cocktails.
15. Le Majestique
Situated in the heart of the Plateau, this one’s definitely a trek from most student apartments, but a spot with good seafood and even better drinks is always worth the walk. This place will win over guests and is a perfect place to unwind after a terrible midterm.
This underground (yes, quite literally– its in the basement level of an unassuming building in Chinatown), up-and-coming drink spot is quickly becoming a new favorite. Boasting outrageous drinks in coconuts and pineapples, this place has a contemporary, funky, and classy vibe perfect for a girls’ night out.
17. La Champagnerie
While Champagne-tasting bars aren’t as popular as wine bars or breweries and can definitely be more pricey, this is a super unique way to let loose and feel super classy doing it. La Champagnerie should be your destination for when you have some cash to blow and some class to show.
Considering McGill’s intense love for Samosas, we’re surprised this savory pie joint hasn’t caught on among the majority of McGillians. Cachitos is located on Avenue du Parc and provides the perfect cheap afternoon snack. They are also a cool new idea to cater McGill organization events, if that’s what you are looking for.
Regine is one of Spoon writer and bonafide brunch-lover Annie’s new favorite spots in Greater Montreal. While its Rosemont location is certainly a Metro ride (or let’s be honest, an Uber) away, it is well worth the travel time and is a relatively unknown brunch spot among McGill students.
20. Sweet Lee’s
Even though most McGill students have never been to this Montreal staple bakery, chances are many of them have eaten their pastries, as many cafes at Montreal contract out their goods. If you have some time to kill on the weekend its always good to get away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown, especially in the name of sugary carbs.
MELK cafe in NDG is one of the best kept secrets of Montreal’s outer edges and should be on any coffee lover’s short list from here on out. The small but expertly decorated interior is a great destination for a study spot, and the espresso is on par with many Downtown classics.