Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Daphne Thompson.
Café Aunja ($)
1448 Rue Sherbrooke O; (514) 914-8337; open daily 10am-10pm
It’s distinctly possible that Café Aunja sprang fully-formed from an Anthropologie catalogue, given its jauntily-arranged bookshelves, refurbished picnic tables, and window full of botanicals. But unlike so many other #aesthetic cafés of its ilk, this cozy downtown café backs up its looks with a delightful selection of Iranian-inflected teas and cakes. Orange blossom, rosewater, and other floral flavorings are well-represented on the menu: a layer of saffron syrup is topped with black Iranian tea and pistachios in the “Persian Fog,” while hibiscus syrup and basil seeds make an unlikely power couple in a traditional sharbat. A warm slice of peach and almond cake (topped with dried edible flowers) makes a perfect reading companion in any season.
Drinks and desserts from $4 CAD; vegetarian and vegan options available; Wi-Fi; not wheelchair accessible
Nouilles de Lan Zhou ($)
1006 St Laurent Blvd.; (514) 800-2959; open M-F 11am-9pm, Sa-Su 11am-9:30pm
Yep, it’s the obligatory hole-in-the-wall noodle shop listing—but wait, hear us out. You, a savvy budget traveler, are looking for a large quantity of delicious food for not a lot of money. Meet Lan Zhou and his hand-pulled noodles: they’re (the noodles, not Lan Zhou) plopped by the fistful into a rich, complex broth, topped with fresh veggies and meats, and drizzled with chili oil globules if you’re feeling spicy. Brought to you near-boiling-hot by a scarily efficient waiter in under five minutes, they’re as close to China as you’ll get in a Canadian meal. Go for the small unless you’re really looking to chow down: a medium could feed a family of three, and a large could probably feed a baseball team.
Noodles from $7 CAD; vegetarian option available; wheelchair accessible
73 Rue Prince Arthur E; (514) 588-7477; open daily 8am-5:30pm
What do you mean you didn’t come to Montréal to eat Venezuelan food? Let the signature arepas at Arepara in Plateau-Mont-Royal change your mind: cheesy, doughy, and drizzled with acidic avocado sauce, they’re perfect as a large snack or small meal after a hike through the park. The naturally gluten-free arepas can suit every dietary need from vegan (try the garlic mushrooms) to “watched too much Bizarre Foods” (try the minced shark). Take them to go, or stay for a meal in the sweetly gaudy dining room: the alarmingly realistic paintings of The Beatles may haunt your dreams. Depending on what kind of night you’re trying to have, pair your arepa with a custardy coconut flan or a Montréal-sourced gluten-free beer.
Arepas from $7 CAD; vegetarian and vegan options available; wheelchair accessible
Maison Christian Faure ($$)
355 Place Royale; (514) 508-6453; maisonchristianfaure.ca; open daily 8am-7pm
You totally made the frugal choice picking Montréal over Paris, so why not plow some of those savings back into French-quality pâtisserie? At Maison Christian Faure in Vieux-Montréal, you’ll probably feel faint at least twice: once when you taste the Platonic ideal of a canelé bordelais or macaron, then again when you see the bill. Pick your money-spending mantra (YOLO! Treat yo’ self!) and roll with it, since these meticulously-constructed pastries are too good to pass up. Have your just desserts in the airy, Instagrammable parlor room (they also serve a mean cappuccino) or take them to go for a slight discount—nothing says “French elegance” like jamming an eclair into your mouth on the sidewalk.
Pastries from $6 CAD; cash only; vegetarian options available; wheelchair accessible
Le Petit Sao ($$)
1870 Rue du Centre; (514) 543-0988; lepetitsao.com; open M-W 11:30am-9pm, Th-Sa 11:30am-9:30pm
We would be more cynical about this Vietnamese joint’s blatant thirst for Instagram fame if the food—bright, fresh rice bowls and pho—wasn’t so damn tasty. It’s like finding out that really attractive person is also super smart and nice: you can’t have it all, Jessica! In the case of this local chain’s latest outpost (in up-and-coming Pointe-Saint-Charles), the pink-and-teal color scheme and proliferation of succulents go down easy with a heaping bowl of “General Sao” fried cauliflower and a cold Thai beer. Once you’re done posing your tofu rolls against the pop art-y mural (done by a local street artist, of course), head back to the counter for a matcha and white chocolate cookie. A super-friendly bilingual staff is happy to help you decode the menu over a soundtrack vacillating from Frank Ocean to Simon and Garfunkel.
Banh mis, pho, and rice bowls from $8 CAD; vegan and vegetarian options available; wheelchair accessible
Just a small town girl livin’ in a lonely world, Daphne took the mid-morning train goin’ to the East Coast of the United States and Canada (fine, plus Chicago). She graduated Harvard in 2018 with a degree in Government, a law school acceptance letter, and an overwhelming sense of dread re: her all-too-fleeting youth, so she took off to the party capital of the Western hemisphere: Quebec City. The race against the cold, unfeeling march of time continued in Montreal, Toronto, New York, and Miami, a wildly diverse array of cities united by not-boring weather and stupid-high rents. Along the way, Daphne sampled legit Canadian poutine (squeaky), smuggled her notebook into nightclubs (sneaky), and lived on cheap falafel pitas (tzatziki). The Oshkosh, Wisconsin native finished her spirit quest back in the Midwest, where the Windy City welcomed her nasally accent back with open arms. When she’s not writing aggressively alliterative articles for Let’s Go, Daphne probably can’t be found. Don’t even try it, Internet creeps!