Montreal is a haven for food-lovers, and nowhere has more to offer your palate than the Plateau Mont Royal. With our Montreal store right on St Laurent, we have been a part of the area’s vibrant history for the past five years. To celebrate our love for our Montreal home, we got together with local foodie and blogger, Dustin Gilman, AKA Food Guy Montreal, for a walking, tasting tour of his favourite Plateau eateries.
We met Dustin early one sunny Saturday morning in September at our St Laurent store. With its low lighting and natural wood, we chatted about the day ahead over a cup of Jasmine tea. Dustin was instantly drawn to the impressive raw edge dining tables and we could see he was picturing serving up a Thanksgiving feast or cozy brunch for friends. Through our signature ambiances, we seek to create a sense of escape at home and awaken the senses, and for Dustin, food can have the same effect
First stop… Lawrence
Warmed up and ready to go, we headed north to Lawrence, named after St Laurent. Occupying a small spot at the corner of St Laurent and Fairmount, Lawrence has only been open for a few years, but in that time it has become a mainstay of the area. Competition can be fierce for the restaurant’s legendary brunch.
We plumped for the Gloucester Pancakes (somewhere between an American biscuit and a pancake) which come with blueberries and two generous slices of signature bacon. As we waited for our breakfast, seated at the dark wood bar, Dustin explained his love for Lawrence. “Everything they make is so good,” he said, “from the scones to the kedgeree.” After a few bites of maple-syrup doused pancakes he continued, “It’s the best brunch in the city.” We tend to agree.
Next up… Hof Kelsten
In need of coffee, we headed down The Main to Hof Kelsten, a new addition to the neighborhood that’s already making waves with local foodies. Owner Jeff Finkelstein was at the door to meet us and share some of his freshly baked, exceedingly tempting creations. Although he’s now a bread-making maestro, Jeff has spent time at some of the top restaurants in the world, including the storied El Bulli in Spain, and Thomas Keller’s California classic, French Laundry. On the menu for us? Two good strong coffees, one babka (a chocolate-marbled sweet bread), and one strawberry walnut rugelach (a strudel-type of pastry). “There’s a slow resurgence of traditional Jewish cooking happening in Montreal, and Hof Kelsten is a big part of that,” explained Dustin, pointing out the bialis (baked flat rolls with an onion centre), saying, “hardly anyone makes these anymore.”
Both of the snacks we tried were delicious. The rugelach was decadent with its caramelized strawberry centre, and the babka was just the right amount of sweet. “This has the perfect balance,” said Dustin of the babka, “it’s good for breakfast, for an afternoon snack, for late night; it’s the ideal any-time food.” Hof Kelsten’s Friday challah is loved across the city, and according to Dustin, also makes the best foundation for Saturday morning’s French toast.
And finally… IceHouse
The brainchild of Austin native Nick Hodge, IceHouse combines good old southern cooking - think fried chicken and potato salad - with Tex Mex classics like pulled pork tacos and frito pie. Open since 2011, the restaurant is a firm favourite with those looking for a decadent dinner.
We opted for two American classics - ribs and fried chicken, served with sides of homemade tangy coleslaw and a sweet, creamy potato salad. The meat is served southern style, which is to say tipped onto the wax-paper-covered table from a pail. Yes, the servings are that generous. “Icehouse is one of the first places I recommend to visitors coming into town,” said Dustin. “The first time I came Nick served me the fried chicken and frito pie, I was hooked.”
“The three things I love about IceHouse are the food of course, the atmosphere, and the bourbon lemonade!” said Dustin.
We left Icehouse with full bellies and a renewed appreciation for the city that we live in. We realized that exploring new places to eat can awaken in us a new appreciation for our surroundings and engage the senses, just as we do every day through the use of nature’s most beautiful materials that help create our escapes.