Montrealers tend to be fiercely proud of their home neighbourhoods, to the point that they sometimes have a reputation for being reluctant to venture beyond their home base. And this love for their quartiers (“neighbourhoods” in French) extends to their neighbourhood restaurants.
These kinds of local haunts are arguably the city’s most prominent dining option; the city is relatively light on large, corporate restaurant groups. There also aren’t too many plus-sized restaurants with room for hundreds. Instead, smaller and more intimate owner-operated restaurants with 40 or so seats are dotted all over the city, particularly in the inner areas, from Verdun in the southwest up to Villeray in the northeast.
Within this cozy, casual category, there’s no shortage of choice, from French bistros to BYOB, taquerias, and tapas bars. Here are ten of the best options around town.
T&T Tacos and Tortas (Plateau)
It might not look like much from the outside, but indoors, T&T is a breezy spot for tacos done right in a part of town that’s otherwise pretty light on Mexican food. As the name states, tacos and tortas (Mexican sandwiches on fluffy telera rolls) are the main offerings here. T&T sticks to a smaller number of staples: for tacos, that means carnitas, al pastor, chorizo, and crispy Baja-style fish tacos; for tortas, it’s cochinita (pulled pork) and milanesa, among others. It’s ultra-affordable as well, with taco plates or sandwiches clocking in at as little as $11. Use that money you’re saving to get a few margaritas, micheladas, or straight-up tequila — or you could just get guac and chips, too.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant offers indoor dining only
Takeout: T&T offers takeout and delivery.
Kazamaza (Mile End)
This cozy Lebanese and Syrian spot occupies a simple yet chic space on Avenue du Parc with exposed brick and vintage touches. Mezzes are Kazamaza’s strong suit — the best move is to come with a group and order a bunch to share. All the classics are offered, including garlicky, perfectly smooth hummus, mouhammara, and baba ghanouj, as well as well-spiced, juicy lamb kefta with pistachios and walnuts for texture. Some larger plates are offered, including hearty stews, and the restaurant is also one of few in Montreal to serve distinctive Lebanese wines.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant takes reservations for indoor and outdoor dining on its street-side terrasse (outdoor dining is only available in warmer months).
Takeout: Kazamaza offers delivery and takeout.
Garage Beirut (Downtown-Concordia)
Tucked on a downtown street better known for student-friendly bars and fast food joints, Garage Beirut is a hidden gem of sorts. A well-rounded menu of homestyle Lebanese dishes is on offer, including fattet with layered yogurt, hummus, and crispy pita, and succulent grill plates including shish taouk. A solid selection of mezzes such as grilled halloumi, tangy sujuk sausage, and various dips round out the menu. Consider pairing your meal with arak, a Lebanese anise and grape brandy — otherwise, there’s a small but tidy selection of wine and beer, including Lebanese options.
Dining at the restaurant: Garage Beirut takes reservations; limited outdoor seating is available out front in summer and adjacent months. Take note: the restaurant is fairly small, so it’s not ideal for larger groups.
Takeout: The restaurant offers delivery and takeout.
Named for one of the owners’ grandmothers, Rita takes nonna-style Italian dishes and executes them with flair — think polpettes, ricotta gnocchi, and spaghetti alla norma. Alongside those classics are Neapolitan-inspired pizzas, some classic and others with a few twists, including a pie with fennel bechamel and another with mushroom paste and provolone. Rita’s wine program is also robust: It’s all private import (meaning the wines can’t be found at Quebec’s government-run liquor shop, the SAQ), with plenty of natural wines from Italy, as well as a solid selection of Quebec wines if you fancy something local.
Dining at the restaurant: Rita accepts reservations, and offers indoor and outdoor seating (outdoor is only available in warmer months).
Takeout: Takeout and delivery are not available.
With a space that evokes a modernized Mediterranean villa, Ayla is all about sharing — which fits with its focus on the convivial food cultures of the eastern Mediterranean (with a few nods to Italy and Spain). The restaurant’s menu centres around its taboon, a clay oven common in the Middle East; this means that its roasted dishes are a strength, from veggies to flatbreads and a juicy Cornish hen. Don’t skip the house cocktails with zingy flavours including mint, citrus, and pomegranate. There’s also a classic, Old-World leaning wine list peppered with a few funkier macerations and natural options.
Dining at the restaurant: Ayla accepts reservations and offers indoor and outdoor seating, though it’s indoors-only come winter.
Takeout: Ayla does both takeout and delivery.
Fine Spanish products are the name of the game at tapas bar Ibericos, located at the heart of the Plateau. The restaurant’s cellar-like setting with stone walls sets the scene for a delectable mix of wine, cheese, and cured meats. Chef Haissam Souki Tamayo brings MICHELIN-level knowledge from his work in Catalonia and the Basque country, and the end result is a refined pan-Spanish menu. Beyond the jamon and manchego, there’s classic potato tortilla, cod fritters, and fried eggplant with yogurt and honey. Those looking for something more than tapas can go for paella, with a choice between chicken with rabbit or a seafood option, best served with a Spanish wine from Ibericos’s tidy list.
Dining at the restaurant: Ibericos has indoor and outdoor seating (no outdoor option in winter).
Takeout: The restaurant offers takeout and delivery.
L’Orignal (Old Montreal)
Old Montreal might be known as a relatively touristy part of town, but L’Orignal is the kind of place where you’ll find a few locals. But that’s not the only local angle here: The restaurant is a very Québécois affair with a menu that highlights regional and seasonal produce where possible. The menu leans comforting yet upscale with options like a bison burger, mushroom toast, and crab beignets. The woodsy dining room matches the menu, with chalet-esque decor from canoes to (faux) mounted moose heads — all the better to go with L’Orignal’s steak spice bloody caesar.
Dining at the restaurant: L’Orignal accepts reservations for indoor dining; no option for outdoor dining.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery are not available.
La Fabrique (Plateau)
Be it for dinner or brunch, La Fabrique is a reliable staple in an ever-changing part of the Plateau, in large part due to chef Jean Baptiste Marchand’s consistent cooking and approachable menu. Expect updated French fare, from terrine and tartare through to crispy veal cheek or a vegan cassoulet; a few North American touches like a pulled pork sandwich also dot the menu. Private import wines and a cute space with checkered tiles and plenty of plants seal the deal.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant takes reservations and offers indoor and outdoor seating; the latter is only in the warmer months.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery are available from La Fabrique.
Beau Mont (Parc-Extension)
Beau Mont comes from the owners of renowned Montreal fine dining institution Toqué, offering a more casual — but still very Québécois — spin on chef Normand Laprise’s odes to local produce. The menu shifts frequently, mixing French technique with ingredients from Quebec’s oceans, farms and forests. That could mean sea snail gratin, grilled halibut, or duck breast with glazed beets and elderberry sauce. Regardless of what’s on the ever-changing menu, Beau Mont delivers impeccable flavours and presentation, and its industrial-chic space, brightened up with plenty of greenery, only enhances the experience.
Dining at the restaurant: Beau Mont takes reservations for indoor seating; no outdoor seating available.
Takeout: The restaurant does not offer takeout or delivery.