Guess what? Val’s Bites is back &- and with a vengeance. After a brief hiatus, I’m feeling better than ever, and I’m ready to share my secrets with you on the best bites in Montreal for students on a budget. This week, I’m focusing on Notre-Dame St. West. Just a few years ago, this Little Burgundy street was home mostly to antique shops and interior design stores. But in the last little while, its become a food lover’s oasis. Only steps away from the Atwater Market, the restaurants have easy access to fresh produce, and from what I’ve sampled &- they’ve taken advantage of it. Get here fast, before this quaint street becomes too trendy for it’s own good, and the prices go through the roof.
2485 Notre-Dame West, 514-759-6677. Major cards accepted.
When it comes to restaurants, it’s all about the details. It’s the difference between Coke served in a retro glass bottle, and one served in a can, or clam chowder in a paper cup, and not your generic white bowl. These little touches create a vibe, and in the case of McKiernan, the vibe is run-down gourmet. This shoebox-size eatery, specializing in lunch boasts, an open-air kitchen, and a dÃ©cor comprised of beat up wood tables and chairs, dingy white walls and shelves lined with wine bottles and cans of Spam. But shabby-chic appearance aside, McKiernan is a foodie paradise. It’s that good. Their menu changes constantly, but last time I went for lunch I had the shrimp salad with tzatziki. Served on a bed of frisÃ©e, with yellow beets, green beans, cherry tomatoes, eggs, red caviar and believe it or not, Pringles potato chips – this salad was totally worth $14. After, my friend and I shared a smoked salmon sandwich that came with purple cabbage and matchstick apple slices. I don’t usually like salmon, but this one was tasty without being too fishy. A pumpkin pie and cappuccino sealed the deal. I also recommend the all-beef turkey roll and the beet salad with Parmesan.
Lunch: Tuesday-Friday. Dinner: Wednesday-Saturday. Brunch: Saturday
Mains: $9-15 (tax included)
2472 Notre-Dame West, 514-509-1237. Major cards accepted.
Two words: lunch special. Every time I hear them, it’s like music to my ears, only tastier. So, imagine my joy when I laid eyes on Mexican restaurant Limon’s too good to be true lunch special which includes a soup or salad with a choice of entrÃ©e and either coffee or tea for – get this – $10. To top it off, Limon also offers various side dishes and cocktails for a mere $4. Rest assured, if I didn’t have to study, I would’ve downed a $4 Bloody Mary like the table of suits sitting next to me. Now, enough about the special, because after all, if a meal isn’t good, even $10 is too much to spend. But, to my delight everything I ate was absolutely delicious. The “Hamburguesa de Habas Negras” a.k.a. a black bean hamburger simply melted in my mouth. The “Tostada de Tinga” translation: two corn tortillas with spicy chicken, onion, jalapeÃ±o peppers, chipotle, black beans, sour cream and marinated onions. The tostadas were the perfect size and were full of flavour. I often have a hard time finding an authentic Mexican restaurant in this city, where the margaritas aren’t the size of basketballs and the waiters don’t wear oversized sombreros, however, I can now safely say mission accomplished. Don’t get me wrong, I love sombreros; in fact, photographs of chihuahuas wearing them adorn Limon’s brightly coloured walls, and add to the charm of this relaxed, yet slightly upscale restaurant. Be sure to stop by on Thursdays, where it’s all you can drink margaritas and a plate of tacos for $20. OlÃ©!
Lunch special: $10, Dinner mains: $9-$36 (plus tax)
2496 Notre-Dame West, 514-934-0888. Major cards accepted.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of me eating, or better yet, inhaling the shepherd’s pie they served us every other Thursday in elementary school. I can still smell the thick gravy and taste the sweet corn wedged between mystery meat and fluffy mashed potatoes. Just when I had given up on finding the traditional English meal in Montreal, I discovered Burgundy Lion. Both a bar and a restaurant, Burgundy Lion is the quintessential English pub that’s been missing in our fair city. Oh, and did I mention they serve shepherd’s pie? To my dismay they don’t use corn in their recipe, but the minced lamb and mashed potatoes was just what I needed to bring me back to my days of yore. Not only does this place serve typical English fare, but everything: from the red phone booth, to the black and white photos of the Beatles and the suspender-clad staff, screams England. Albeit while their fish”n’chips wasn’t quite as good as the one I enjoyed in London, the freshness of the cod and its crispy exterior made it a close second. I could have done without the pea puree on the side, but kudos to the chef on the fries and the unusually flavoured tartar sauce. The warm atmosphere, attentive waiters and cool English feel make Burgundy Lion an ideal destination not only for dining, but also to share a few drinks with friends and catch the hockey game. P.S. they’re now serving classic English breakfast. Sausage anyone?
Mains: $8-21. Lunch special: $15 (plus tax)