Spicy beef and vegetable soup from Shabu Shabu
If you’re tentative when it comes to tolerating spice, Shabu Shabu’s spicy beef and vegetable soup will make you want to plunge your head into a bucket of ice water and cry to your mommy. It is served in a giant stone bowl continuously heating a heaping pile of beef strips, glass noodles, seaweed, bamboo shoots, egg and scallions in a chili-based broth. I’m usually kind of a wimp when it comes to heat, but this happens to be my go-to dish because the Korean cooks created it so that its spice never overshadows its flavour. The soup’s zest hinges on its balance of spice, salt and a touch of creaminess, and you can call in advance to request a meatless version. Once you get to your third spoonful of the soup, just when you get this burning need to call the fire department, find solace in the complimentary (and refillable!) bowl of rice and side dishes that include kimchi (fermented cabbage), pickled seaweed, alfalfa sprout salad and potatoes doused in some sort of honey glaze. Finishing this soup, despite its colossal size, won’t be a problem because it’s exciting to discover all of the cool exotic veggie treasures hidden at the bottom of its sea. Unless you’re a wimp.
Located on 6180 St-Jacques St.
Empanadas from Barros Luco
Stephanie La Leggia
Ever since my first visit to Barros Luco, a Chilean eatery named after a former Chilean president who had an appetite for steak sandwiches, I find myself craving their homemade dishes. Everything on their menu is savoury and fresh, but the empanadas are little bundles of pastry delight and stole my heart. The crust is thin, flaky and perfectly golden. The beef is my favourite, and the most popular. It’s stuffed with ground beef, caramelized onions, salty black olives and a hard-boiled egg. They serve the empanadas hot with a useless warning because I always seem to burn my tongue with anticipation. What really makes Barros Luco’s empanadas different from other places is the fact that you don’t have to eat your way to the middle of the pastry before you get to some stuffing. The best part is the secret ingredient, their homemade salsa they give you with every order. It’s flavourful and spicy, but not to the point where you can’t taste your food. I like to put some in my empanadas, in my sandwiches, and on my plate for extra dipping — it’s that good!
Located on 5201 St-Urbain St.
Poutine taquise from La Banquise
Creation of beauty is not an easy deed. It requires experimentation and creativity, and La Banquise has done exactly that with their poutines. With over 25 different types of poutine on the menu and over 200 positive reviews online, it’s evident this family-owned business is making poutine very well. There’s a line of people outside the door almost every time I stop in. My favourite poutine on the menu is the poutine taquise. It is served with cheese and gravy of course, but on top of that is a dollop of sour cream, guacamole and a sprinkling of cubed tomatoes. Skeptics could argue that guacamole and gravy wouldn’t taste good together, but let me tell you, it is a match made in heaven. The pistachio green guacamole is refreshing, and the sour cream adds a smooth buttery taste. Tomatoes only increase the freshness of the meal, and oddly trick me into thinking what I’m eating won’t go straight to my thighs. Combined with the salty, warm gravy that is poured on the homemade fries and melts the cheese to perfection, the poutine taquise at La Banquise is a beautiful delicacy.
Located on 994 Rachel St. E.
Smoked meat sandwich from Reuben’s
When it comes to delicious foods, I’m not ashamed to tell you that I’ve been around. A lot. However, as I continue on my trek for the most delicious foods in our gluten-rich city, there’s always one place with that one particular dish that can always bring a smile to my face, even at the toughest of times. There’s a certain emotion that emerges from within my soul when I describe the smoked meat platter at Reuben’s on Ste-Catherine Street. Mark my words, in a city famous for the quality of its smoked meat, Reuben’s gives every single smoked meat restaurant, including Schwartz’s, a run for their money. There is nothing better than Reuben’s smoked meat sandwich, fresh french fries and an old-style dill pickle. Montreal on a plate. Honestly, without exaggeration intended, you feel like a champion after finishing off a smoker at Reuben’s. Not recommended if dieting.
Located on 1116 Ste-Catherine St. W.
Philly cheese steak panini from Joe’s Panini
Great job Joe, your paninis are perfect. The ends are perfectly tucked in to keep the delicious contents from slipping out from one side. The Philly cheese steak is simply ecstasy. There is crunchy lettuce, fresh tomato, mayo and the star of the show — the thinly-sliced, smoky, tender shredded steak. The cheese melts so perfectly against the steak and compliments the light and creamy mayonnaise. The bread is another wonder. The inside is soft and moist while the crust is crunchy but not flaky. Warning: do not bring to class unless you want the heavenly meaty aroma wafting in the air to make the whole class salivate and hate you for tempting them. In my opinion, they are the best paninis in town, and all for the affordable price of $5.50! Joe’s Panini is open 24 hours, so when you are having a bar night and craving a tasty midnight snack, forget McDonald’s and head to Joe’s and do it right.
Located on 1404 Drummond St.
Mini lamb burgers from L’Orignal
You know an appetizer is good when it becomes the sole purpose of your visit to a restaurant. That is the case with the mini lamb burgers from L’Orignal. So what makes this simple-sounding dish special? The meat is tender, juicy and cooked to perfection. Even a die-hard beef fan will be conquered. The burger is so moist and flavourful, you do not even need sauce. Topped with gooey mozzarella, it literally melts in your mouth at first bite. The ratio of bread to meat is on point, with the meat being the main star and the bread a solid supporting actor. And let’s face it, anything that comes in miniature format is more fun to eat. The sliders are accompanied by kettle cooked chips that become addictive when dipped in the mayo. You can order three mini burgers for $9 or four for $12, which is very reasonable for a higher-end restaurant like this one.
Located on 479 St-Alexis St.
Cannolis from Patisserie Alati
Alyssa De Rosa
Many bakeries and restaurants around Montreal claim to have the best cannolis in the city. As someone who is not fond of ricotta to begin with, finding the perfect cannoli was a challenge, but I managed to do it. The best cannolis I ever ate are the ones at Patisserie Alati in St-Leonard. Usually bakeries display their pastries including the cannoli, but the difference with Alati is they are made fresh upon order. It’s one of the main reasons why they are so yummy! If you’re in a rush you may not appreciate the wait, but then again you’re silly if you don’t. I would rather wait 10 minutes for an Alati cannoli than have them boxed in five. The shell is darker than usual, but so crispy. The dough doesn’t even taste fried. The filling is whipped to perfection and super light. There is just something about the way the sugar, cream and ricotta blend together that creates an explosion of sweet goodness in your mouth.
Located on 5265 Jean-Talon St. E.