Montreal Institutions: The oldest restaurants in the city
Many institutions in this city offer a step back in time! Montreal is full of excellent restaurants that have made the city’s reputation on the international culinary scene. Many of these restaurants date back to a bygone era and have become true symbols of the city. Many tourists seek out the gastronomic essentials during their visits, and many of these stops are institutions that have built their reputation over time.
Tastet has prepared a list of Montreal’s oldest restaurants to guide you in your exploration of places that are a testament to the Montreal of the past. Whether by their quality, consistency or timelessness, these Montreal institutions have left their mark on the history of the city. Many of them bear witness to the various historical periods that have marked the city and to the multitude of cultures that have forged the city’s identity through multiple waves of immigration. Many of these institutions are also synonymous with a sense of going back in time.
Among these addresses, you will find establishments of all kinds. Many have been serving Montreal classics such as poutine, bagels and smoked meat for years, while others offer Portuguese, Italian or Breton cuisine. It’s up to you to choose which unique and timeless dish you want to discover!
Please note that Tastet has prepared a multitude of lists to guide you in your exploration of the gastronomic jewels that the city offers. Among others, you will find on our website the list of 8 Montreal brunch suggestions that impress visitors, the list of the most beautiful restaurants in Montreal and the list of the most beautiful bars in town.
Here is our list of Montreal institutions: the oldest restaurants in Montreal. Happy discoveries!
Montréal Pool Room
Opened in 1912, the Montreal Pool Room is a mythical place that seems to have been around forever. As one of the most famous snack bars in Montreal, the establishment had to leave its original location in 2010 to move across the street to a new location that has maintained its decor from the past. We come here to taste its famous Quebecois snack dishes and especially, its excellent steamed hot dogs that have forged its reputation over the years!
Schwartz’s is a Montreal institution that has been offering some of the best smoked meat in town since 1928. Opened by Reuben Schwartz, a former Romanian immigrant, the establishment has built its reputation around its excellent smoked meat prepared in a lengthy process that can take up to 12 days. We love how this place, with its decor that hasn’t changed in 90 years, takes us back to the 1920s in Montreal.
Gibeau Orange Julep
The restaurant Orange Julep was opened in 1932 by restaurateur Hermas Gibeau. Famous for its huge orange structure that appeared in 1945, this icon has endured even when the restaurant moved to Decarie in 1966. Once a drive-thru, the retro establishment is still known for its classic fast food menu and, most importantly, for its secret orange juice recipe! It’s also on our list of the best hot dogs in town. Orange Julep is truly a Montreal icon!
Wilensky’s snack bar has changed very little since it opened in 1932 and has retained its original charm. Opened by Moe Wilensky, the house is famous for its internationally renowned sandwich, the “Wilensky Special®”! We love its simplicity: beef salami in a round bun with mustard, served up hot and quickly! The establishment, which still has some of its very first customers, is a must in Montreal and is on our list of addresses where to eat very good lunches for less than $10 in Mile End.
Named after a small traditional Breton pastry, Kouign Amann is a true hidden institution in the city. Having opened its doors in 1990, Kouign Amann offers Breton-style confections, including one of the best croissants in the city. A true Plateau Mont-Royal landmark since its opening, the house offers a wide variety of excellent pastries, delicious desserts, as well as its specialty, the Kouign Amann. This sweet Breton concoction with flaky pastry and butter is a true delight that honours the name of this Plateau address.
La Binerie Mont-Royal
In the heart of the Plateau Mont-Royal is La Binerie Mont-Royal, an institution of Quebecois cuisine in Montreal since 1938! The establishment serves a Quebecois cuisine preserved among the international restaurants of the metropolis, making it one of the oldest restaurants in Montreal. Run by the friendly owners Philippe S. Brunet and Jocelyne G., the place offers dishes straight out of Quebec tradition and history: excellent “bines” (beans), tourtières, fish and chips (unfried), shepherd’s pie, poutines and much more. We visit this institution to be brought back in time and to eat comforting dishes in a friendly atmosphere.
Open since 1942, this famous Montreal breakfast restaurant is a must in town. Over the years, Beautys has remained what it was in its early days: a unique neighbourhood restaurant with authentic decor and great hospitality from the Sckolnick owners. Today, Beautys’ reputation extends beyond Montreal; it offers one of the best breakfast sandwiches in town, generous breakfasts and brunches, bagels, smoked salmon andshakes of all kinds. A trip to Beautys means eating comfort food in a warm, buzzing atmosphere, just like in the old days of Montreal!
Chalet Bar-B-Q is a Montreal classic that has been around since 1944. Over the years, the establishment has built a reputation for not only its great chicken, but also for its excellent fries, which are on our list of the best fries in Montreal. We come here to enjoy their legendary chicken with a unique flavour prepared according to the recipe of the iconic Chalet Bar-B-Q. The period decor also adds to the charm of the experience!
This institution has been part of the landscape of Saint-Henri since the 1940s! In a decor that takes us back to the 50’s, we come here to savour the comforting cuisine of a Quebecois “casse-croûte” (snack bar). Greenspot also serves classic breakfasts (egg, bacon, potatoes) all day and all week long. The place immerses its loyal customers in a nostalgic and warm atmosphere with a friendly staff. Note that the establishment is part of our list of the best hot dogs in town, as well as where to eat a good brunch 7 days a week!
Located in Little Italy, Pizzeria Napoletana has been making Neapolitan pizzas for three generations. It was in 1948 that the establishment was born as a landmark for new Italian immigrants to serve them a comforting Neapolitan pizza that reminded them of their origins. Now one of our BYOB favourites and Bring Your Own Wine suggestions, Napoletana is very popular with Montrealers! We come here to enjoy delicious sausages and meatballs, great pasta and a wide selection of excellent authentic pizzas. We love the family and festive atmosphere of Napoletana.
This family-owned business has been an Outremont institution since 1951 and has served generations of locals! Since its opening, Lester’s Deli has opened a second location in Dorval where you can find the same quality that is the signature of the Montreal deli. You come here for great smoked meat and home fries at affordable prices, among a crowd of regular customers!
Caffè Italia opened in 1956 and was one of the gathering places for the first generation of Italians in Montreal. Since then, it has become an institution in Little Italy! One comes here to drink an excellent Italian cafe in a decor that has changed very little since its opening; to enter here is to travel back in time! This neighbourhood staple has an Italian clientele and people of all generations. We always love the energy of busy Saturday mornings here! The establishment is also part of our list of the best Italian cafes in Montreal.
In Montreal, the art of the bagel is an institution in and of itself. The family-owned Bagel Saint-Viateur has excelled in this field since 1957. First opened and run by Myer Lewkowicz, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor, the business has become a Montreal staple for locals and tourists alike. Bagel Saint-Viateur has been in the hands of the Morena family since 1974. Thanks to its quality, its traditional recipe and the good flavour of its products, the house is a great success and is constantly expanding!
Located in the Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, Paul Patates is a typical Quebec snack bar where you can enjoy great steamed hot dogs, delicious fries and excellent poutine! It all started in 1958, when André Roy bought a place at the corner of Charlevoix and Coleraine streets. Today, Paul Patates has become a must in the neighbourhood, and is on three of our favourite lists: the best poutines in Montreal, the best places to savour a good hot dog and the best fries in town!
La Banquise is one of Montreal’s best known restaurants. First opened in 1968 as a creamery, founder Pierre Barsalou quickly turned it into a neighbourhood snack bar and introduced its first poutines on the menu in 1980. Since then, this family business has become a veritable temple of poutine; offering some thirty variations of this Quebec dish, Montrealers and tourists alike line up day and night to taste this specialty.
Café Olimpico was opened in 1970 by Rocco Furfaro, an immigrant of Italian origin. The founder was looking for a place in the neighbourhood to watch sports games, so he created Café Olimpico, bought a pool table and a special satellite, and broadcast all the sports games there. Café Olimpico quickly became a place to discuss sports, especially soccer. Since then, the establishment has become a Mile-End staple and has a certain je ne sais quoi that attracts customers; whether it be its charming employees, its reasonable prices, its lively atmosphere, or its superb terrace in summer, Olimpico is a true institution.
Open since 1946, the Snowdon Deli is a Montreal institution. This restaurant has been passed down from one generation to the next by the Polish Fisherman family. The atmosphere of the restaurant is friendly, jovial and comforting. In a typical 70’s deli decor, one savours traditional Polish recipes and, above all, an excellent smoked meat, which is the signature dish of the house.
The restaurant Alep was opened in 1976 by owners Jacqueline and Georges Frangié. After falling in love in Aleppo, they left Syria and moved to Montreal. The restaurant they opened on Jean-Talon Street was an immediate hit with Montrealers, so much so that the owners opened Le Petit Alep next door in 1995. This institution offers traditional dishes with authentic Syrian and Armenian flavours and very good wines to accompany them. The specialties of the house have changed very little over the years; their dishes constantly find their originality in their textures, flavours and aromas. The atmosphere is lively and the mix of Middle Eastern cultures with the Quebecois joie de vivre gives the restaurant a charm and magnetism of its own.
Chez Doval is an address that has stood the test of time! Opened in 1974 on Marie-Anne Street East by Mr. Doval himself, this charming rotisserie serves traditional Portuguese dishes; charcoal grilled meats, excellent Portuguese chicken, as well as fish and seafood dishes. The place is tiny and doesn’t look like much, but the atmosphere is always very friendly and lively. The quality/price ratio is also excellent. A real institution of the Plateau Mont-Royal to discover!
Milos is one of Montreal’s must-visit restaurants and a gastronomic institution. The popular and chic address was established in 1979 on Parc Avenue and has since contributed to the cultural and culinary history of the metropolis. The 1979 Milos was the beginning of an adventure for its chef and owner Costas Spiliadis. At the time, Parc Avenue was the center of the Greek diaspora in Montreal. Among a panoply of other Greek businesses, Mr. Spiliadis opened his restaurant with a simple goal: to make the true Greek cuisine known, the one he grew up with, the one that does justice to the gastronomy of the country. Milos today has more than 7 restaurants internationally, representing the best of Greek cuisine! Hats off to them!
When we talk about L’Express, it is only natural to mention the word institution in the same phrase. Opened on December 19, 1980, the restaurant continues to honour its reputation by establishing itself as an essential part of Montreal’s culinary landscape. Formerly led by chef Joël Chapoulie, it is now Jean-François Vachon who is in charge of the kitchen. We meet at L’Express to enjoy French-inspired cuisine, such as the sorrel soup and the liver mousse that have been on the menu since its opening.
Nouveau Palais opened at 281 Bernard Street in 1950. Previously called “The Palace”, then “The New Palace”, it was with the arrival of Bill 101 in the 1980s that the restaurant changed its name to “Nouveau Palais”. The address is now a Mile End institution, ideal for savouring a revisited diner cuisine. With an authentic kitsch decor, a very relaxed atmosphere and an excellent and affordable menu, the restaurant is a local classic that we love.
Fairmount Bagel is a true Mile End institution. Isadore Shlafman founded his bakery in 1919, originally located on Saint-Laurent Boulevard. It eventually moved to Fairmount Street, where it has become a neighbourhood staple. We come back again and again to savour the simple and delicious baked goods that have become a Montreal signature throughout history!
Byblos le Petit Café
Founded in 1989 by Hemela Pourafzal, an Iranian immigrant, Byblos le Petit Café serves traditional Middle Eastern dishes in a warm, home-like atmosphere. And it’s not just the atmosphere and the food that make us feel like home: the history of Byblos is a family affair. The owner herself built the tables in her restaurant and painted the wall that the place is known for. Her brothers Hamid and Massoud have also contributed by decorating the restaurant with their paintings, and her daughter Nina is in charge of the management. Truly an authentic culinary experience!