3 Food Halls That are Changing Montreal’s Downtown Dining Scene

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For many visitors, Montreal’s Underground City might bring to mind something akin to Paris’ catacombs instead of the series of malls and mostly sad food courts that lies beneath the downtown core. That’s all changed since last fall, when three new gourmet food halls brought much-needed light to the ends of these tunnels.

Le Central kicked things off on the eastern edge of downtown and is home to well-known chefs along with plenty of attention-worthy newcomers looking to experiment. Time Out Market (the brand’s fifth outpost), quickly followed, creating a hungry buzz in a downtown mall – even on cold Sunday nights – where brand name chefs serve more casual versions of their high-end dishes. And finally, Le Cathcart Restaurants and Biergarten opened in January, bringing elegant trendiness to Place Ville Marie’s 650-square-metre glass-roofed pavilion, complete with a tropical motif and chic leather benches. The restos here are, by and large, Montreal success stories and downtown visitors now have access to some of the best this food-loving city has to offer.

September 18, 2020
Patrons enjoying cocktails at Heirloom's bar in the Le Central food hall
Le Central.   Photo: Pété Photographie
Non-dairy beverages served on tap and a tray of donuts at Le Central
Patrons gathered at the food court in Le Central
Le Central.   Photos: Pété Photographie

Le Central

Feast at 23 stalls, including La République Démocratique du Jambon for all things pork and award-winning chef Mirko D’Agata’s Morso for Roman-style square pizza. If you’re in the mood for a plant-based bite, order potato-filled taquitos served with spicy cashew sauce from Bonita’s Taco & Deli to pair with Laotian stall Thip Thip’s sautéed mushroom laab. Save room for ice cream or sorbet from Bagadó.

Diners at Le Club Chasse et Pêche in the Time Out Market
Time Out Market.   Photo: JF Galipeau
Diners enjoying a meal in front of the Romados counter in the Time Out Market
A salmon plate from Time Out Market's Le Club Chasse et Pêche
Time Out Market.   Photos: Patricia Brochu Photographe

Time Out Market

Reservations are a must here, where you can dig into well-established local favourites, like crispy Vietnamese chicken and shrimp imperial rolls at Le Red Tiger, Paul Toussaint’s fried plantains served with Haitian pikliz (spicy pickled veggies) and Moleskine’s Neapolitan-style pie with bacon and marinated mushrooms. For dessert, try one of Dalla Rose’s thick ice cream sandwiches with surprise fillings, like salted caramel.

The wooden stall of Karma Poke in the Le Cathcart Restaurants and Biergarten food hall
Le Cathcart Restaurants and Biergarten.   Photo: Patricia Brochu Photographe
The blue and white counter of Akio in the "Le Cathcart Restaurants and Biergarten" food hall
Potted plants and pink dining chairs in the Le Cathcart Restaurants and Biergarten food hall
Le Cathcart Restaurants and Biergarten.   Photos: Patricia Brochu Photographe

Le Cathcart Restaurants and Biergarten

Here, two cafés and nine grab-and-go joints, including James Beard nominee Michael Lewis’ Korean fried chicken counter Chikin, share the floor with sit-down options like open-kitchen Akio (where Antonio Park and Olivier Vigneault dish out Osaka-worthy sushi and grilled skewers) and chic Mirabel (which serves Italian-accented brasserie fare). Don’t miss the rooftop biergarten where a glass ceiling lets in all the light while you sip sake or craft beer.

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