Richard DeShantz is the chef-owner of three (soon to be four) Pittsburgh restaurants: Meat & Potatoes, Butcher and the Rye and täkō. Along with a few other young chefs, he's helped revive Pittsburgh's restaurant scene and turn his hometown into a legitimate dining destination.
My buddy Chuck Hughes was in Pittsburgh to film his TV show, Chuck’s Eat the Street, for the Cooking Channel. He told me that I should come out to Montreal. I had never been before and wanted to explore the food scene there. Since it’s pretty close to Pittsburgh, I decided to take him up on the offer. I did a lot of research before my trip and was also inspired by Anthony Bourdain and the places he had been to. I have the Au Pied de Cochon book by Bourdain and Martin Picard. I knew that had to be on my list, since it's known for its rustic comfort food and that’s the food I love to cook. Walking is one of my favorite ways of getting around a new city. And walking in Old Montreal is like taking a step back in time. Cobblestone roads are lined with shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.
WHERE TO EAT
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Indulgent Foie Gras Poutine: Au Pied de Cochon
I knew I wanted to hit up all the staples while I was in Montreal: poutine, smoked meat and foie gras. And what better place to knock two off my list than APC (Au Pied de Cochon)? The Foie Gras Poutine is one of their signature dishes – they take the combination of fries, gravy and cheese curds to another level. I don’t think it gets more indulgent than this.
Another one of their signature dishes is Duck in a Can or “Canard en Conserve.” I really like the attention to detail of this dish – from the custom labeling on the can to the presentation. Your server opens the can at the table and serves the duck right in front of you. Inside the can is half a duck with foie, swimming in an incredibly rich glace de viande. 536 Avenue Duluth E
Incredible Raw Seafood: La Bremner
When I was at Le Bremner, I sat at the Chefs Table in the kitchen and Chuck Hughes and his team took great care of me. I put everything in the chef’s hands. After all, he's the one who knows the menu best. I especially loved the salmon tartare with shishito peppers and the tuna and tahini sashimi. Le Bremner is in Old Montreal and is really close to Notre Dame (Basilique Notre Dame de Montréal). It has a rustic, laid-back vibe and is a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy some really good food. 361 Rue Saint Paul E
Iconic Smoked Meat Sandwich: Schwartz's Deli
Everyone in Canada knows of Schwartz’s Deli – it’s a Montréal classic! It’s probably as iconic as the Montreal bagel. I might even say it is to Montreal what Primanti’s is to Pittsburgh. Schwartz’s is one of the oldest delis in Canada, best known for the smoked meat. It’s a perfect example of taking a few, simple ingredients and using them really well. Their smoked meat is smoked daily, and their sandwiches are served on rye bread with yellow mustard. You can choose your meat based on the fat content (lean, medium, medium-fat or fat). I recommend getting one of their pickles (and fries) with your sandwich… but it’s just as good on its own! 3895 Boul St-Laurent
WHERE TO DRINK
Japanese Whiskey: Big in Japan
Some locals told me about Big in Japan—a really cool cocktail bar with a speak-easy vibe. There aren’t any gigantic neon signs or anything like that out front so it can be hard to find. It’s tucked away behind what others may think is just a random door. It’s a great spot at which to get some exclusive Japanese whiskey. It has dim lighting, funky décor elements like whiskey bottles hanging from the ceiling and maze-like seating. 3723 Boul St-Laurent
WHAT TO SEE
While I’m in a new city, I like talking to the people who live there to see what they recommend. That way, you create this awesome guide from an insider’s perspective. For example, I had a drink at the bar at Au Pied de Cochon before my meal and started chatting up the bartenders to see what they recommended. They were able to tell me about the tam-tams at Mount Royal on Sundays, which I probably wouldn’t have discovered on my own. I wanted to soak up the arts and culture in Montreal and heard Mount Royal is a really cool place to see. The tam-tams is a weekly free festival in Mount Royal Park – it’s basically a big drumming session. You’ll also find artisanal vendors and other musicians as well. It’s a really fun way to relax in the park.