Old Port in Montreal
I was only in Montreal for 10 days, so I’m not an expert by any stretch. I’m sharing some advice that would have helped me, had I known. Even with Happy Cow, and other helpful veg websites, it’s hard to know in advance where the good restaurants and grocery stores are, and how to make sure you have access to them when you need them. If you’re a vegan planning a trip to Montreal, particularly if you like to eat healthy and/or gluten-free, here are a few suggestions for you.
Where to stay
Don’t get a hotel in the Old Port area. Sure, it’s incredibly charming, but there’s almost no food there. All the good vegan food is centered around Saint Laurent Blvd. and Rue Saint Denis, and west of Sherbrooke St. You might think you’ll enjoy the 30 minute walk, but it gets old real quick. And when the weather is uncomfortable or you have lots of things you’d like to do that day, you want your hotel to be close to your food.
Are you already stuck with a hotel in Old Port or other inconvenient area? That’s OK, so was I! Here’s the great thing about Montreal – it’s super easy to get around quickly if you’re willing to spend just a few bucks on transportation. Learn to love the BIXI bicycle system and/or the Metro subway system. After suffering through about 10 minutes of confusion, both offer affordable multi-day passes that allow you to easily hop on a bike or subway any time you like to get within a few blocks of wherever you’re going. Montreal has truly got public transportation figured out.
On a related note, think twice about booking a hotel through expedia.com. You pay in advance, and the hotel has no way to reimburse your payment if you want to switch hotels. Expedia’s policy is to give no refunds after your reservation has begun.
Where to shop for groceries
Happy Cow has quite a few “stores ‘n more” listed for Montreal, but most of them are not true grocery stores. If you like to keep some food in your hotel room, rather than eating out for every meal (good luck finding a vegan breakfast), there are 3 groceries I found that can get you through your trip. There do not seem to be any Whole Foods type stores here, so manage your expectations.
Tau on St. Denis has the best variety of groceries. If I lived in Montreal, this is probably where I would do most of my shopping. Take the Metro to Mont Royal and walk from there.
Le Couffin Bio at Sherbrooke and Park Ave. is a nice little health food store that has tons of breakfast cereal, frozen meals, energy/breakfast bars, bread, produce, and more. Tons of gluten-free food. It’s the most convenient store to Old Port, if you’re walking.
Rachelle Bery is a chain of health food stores. The one I went to is located at the corner of Rachel and Berri. It’s a bigger store with a lot of variety, but I didn’t find much more there that happened to be to my liking than I found at Le Couffin Bio. Very convenient by Metro – get off at the Mont Royal station.
Where to eat a healthy meal
Weekend brunch polenta at Aux Vivres
Everyone’s definition of healthy is different, even amongst vegans. What I mean by healthy is a meal that is not a pile of carbs, and has little or no gluten. When traveling, I always seem to end up eating a ton of sugar and processed junk, so a few days into the vacation, I’m gittery and dizzy. The following restaurants were life savers.
Aux Vivres on St. Laurent is an all-vegan restaurant. Gluten-free food is plentiful and labeled. They have a nice selection of “bowls” that are healthy and very satisfying.
Liquid Nutrition is a smoothie and juice chain with multiple locations. They have Vega brand proteins available to add to any of their smoothies. It isn’t the most exciting meal, but I ate there a couple of times out of desperate need for a little protein.
Ming Tao Xuan is a tea shop in Old Port that also serves a few light vegetarian entrees. They have a really nice mango and greens salad that is great for a light healthy dinner. Sometimes they’ll put some unsalted cashews on top. The owners are wonderful.
Here’s a separate post listing all the restaurants I tried