When people ask me why I love Montreal so much, I don’t have to think very hard — THE FOOD.
Rumour has it that Montreal has the highest amount of restaurants per capita in North America, and while I can’t seem to find a reliable source to validate this information, I like to think it true. There are an incredible amount of restaurants in the city, all better than the other, from the cheapest takeaway to the most lavish Michelin-starred establishment, and just about everything in between.
There’s no doubt about it — Montreal does food very well. Thanks to the many different cultures that migrated to the city at some point, we have quite the variety when it comes to picking a place to eat. Poutine? Indian? Vietnamese? Sharma? Take your pick, because we’ve got it covered.
To help budget-strapped travellers or lovers of cheap, authentic food, I compiled a list of my favourite cheap eats in Montreal under $15 per head.
The suggestions below have been updated to reflect the COVID-19 regulations currently in place in Montreal.
Please respect the restrictions and health recommendations rigourously.
Wilensky’s Light Lunch
Wilensky’s is sort of an institution in the Mile-End. Family-owned since the opening in 1932, the place is famous for its cheap snacks, yes, but also for the Wilensky’s Special ($3.90): “all-beef salami with all-beef baloney grilled to mouth-watering perfection on a tasty roll with a hint of mustard”. But don’t try to change anything in it — the owner, Ruth, will not have your shit. Hell, they even wrote a poem about it:
Montreal’s first completely vegan restaurant! Aux Vivres‘ mission is simple: debunk the myth that vegan food is pretty much like eating grass – i.e., tasteless and boring. Quite the contrary! Everything on the menu is less than $15 and full of flavour. Kudos to the gyro!
Perhaps Montreal’s most iconic joint, Lester’s Deli has been in business for over 60 years now — the oldest in Canada according to the owners — and is as popular as ever. A thick, juicy smoked meat sandwich with a side of fries and a soft drink will cost around $10, but the experience is priceless.
While the debate between the cities with the best bagels still remains to be settled — New York or Montreal? — if there’s one thing the two metropolises have in common bagel-wise, it’s the low prices. And Fairmount has the best bagels in Montreal, so the choice is simple. A cream-cheese bagel and a large coffee will set you back around $5, making this not only one of the most cost-effective cheap eats in Montreal but also one of the most iconic!
Olive+Gourmando is an institution among people who live or work in Old-Montreal. This eatery offers tasty sandwiches to eat on the spot or take away to the Old Port quays. Kudos to the cajun chicken sandwich ($10.95).
Now what’s a trip to Montreal without a good dose of poutine? A failure, that’s what it is. La Banquise is cheap, is open 24/7, is delicious, is iconic and is all around darn good deal.
Pho Bang New York
One of the best eateries in Chinatown! Service is quick and efficient at Pho Bang New York, as it usually is in Chinatowns all over the world. I usually go for the #33, a vermicelli bowl with grilled beef, imperial rolls, freshly sliced veggies and a bunch of fresh coriander. This meal is extremely filling and costs just $8! Bonus points for the free, unlimited green tea.
Qing Hua Dumplings
One of the best dumpling joints in the city – where you can a huge plate of 12 steamed or fried dumplings for less than $10. The decor at Qing Hua, as with most Chinese restaurants, is nothing to write home about but frankly this isn’t what should be in focus here–focus on this being one of the best cheap eats in Montreal, and that should do the trick.
Le Vieux Vélo
My favourite brunch joint ever since I moved across the street. Le Vieux Vélo eggs benedict are incredibly tasty (not to mention their coffee, sourced from next door Café Odessa) and are a total steal at just $12.
Cheap eats in Montreal: additional suggestions
For those who decide to venture a bit further west of downtown to Atwater Market and Lachine Canal — which I highly recommend — Satay Brothers will satisfy those with a liking for Asian-Singaporean food and a small budget. The daily satay is just $6!
The $5 gnocchi with la Salsa Della Nonna is a Mile End staple. The recipe has been passed down for generations, ever since this lovely Calabrian moved here, and we couldn’t be more thankful. Ask for extra pecorino Romano and a touch of pepper flakes, and you’re good to do. And for a total experience, why not try the legendary next-door ice cream shop, Kem Coba? A little dessert never hurt anyone.
Quirky local institution (open for over 40 years now) specialising in vegetarian piled-high sandwiches and yummy soups, Café Santropol is particularly enjoyable in the summer, with its amazing garden in the back.
Tejano Burrito BBQ
Underrated yet trendy burrito joint in Griffintown that has yet to get a negative review from local experts. Tejano is definitely a good option for an inexpensive meal in Montreal.
At just $8 for a falafel pita or $11 for a full plate with sides, Falafel Yoni (two locations) hits both the budget and flavour spots just right.
With 100% Canadian beef that’s never frozen, always fresh, and their secret burger sauce, Uniburger (several locations) overpromises and overdelivers with its iconic burger at just $7.
Makoto is a modest and authentic Korean / Japanese oddly located in Little Italy. Their cheese katsu is simply amazing, and is as filling as it is well-priced.
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