Montreal's McGimpsey shares how to act and eat like a local

Published On 06/21/2013 Published On 06/21/2013
McGimpsey, Montreal, author
D. McGimpsey

There aren't too many things that Montreal native David McGimpsey hasn't mastered. On top of being a totally successful musician, comedian, and author of acclaimed books (incl. Sitcom and Li'l Bastard), he's also an avid foodie who knows exactly what you should be puttin' in your mouth when you're in Montreal. We broke some bread with the multi-talented man himself and got a rundown of how to get the most from your Belle Ville experience:

Favorite Restaurant
Dic Ann's Hamburgers. Pretty working-class stuff, and not celebrated like poutine or smoked meat, but still unique to Montreal. They're these tiny hamburgers pressed really flat and they use a weird Swiss steak sauce on them. You need a popsicle stick to lift it up! They might surprise people looking for American-style hamburgers because they're not that. Higher end, I like Moishes Steakhouse. Not contemporary at all but still excellent.

Best Cheap Eats
I go to Wilensky's all the time and I love that place. I also go to Punjab Palace a lot. Their mulligatawny soup is one of the best soups in Montreal, and I kind of have an obsession with soup. I also go to Dilallo Burger. They have a burger called a "Buck Burger", which I guess started back in the 70s. You can use the price of a burger to see the rate of inflation in Montreal; it's still cheap, but now it's probably like $4.25 or something.

Best Breakfast
La Binerie. The baked beans there are insanely delicious. It's the very foundation of Quebecois food, historically speaking, but they're the only place that makes those classic Quebecois dishes. They do breakfast so well, and it's remarkably inexpensive.

Best Late Night Grub
A Chinese restaurant called La Maison V.I.P. in Chinatown, off of Clark and LaGauchetiere. Classic Cantonese food, good chow mein, BBQ duck -- always open late.

Best Poutine
Chez Philippe. Their poutine is amazing, and they've also got a really great hamburger made with fresh meat they grind on the premises.

Best Smoked Meat
Schwartz's. Anyone who says anything else is just ridiculous. It's clearly the best. Order medium. Only a terrible rookie would order the smoked meat sandwich lean.

Best Hot Dog
Decarie Hot Dog. That place is amazing and their fries are so good. I'd even say they have the best French fries. I mean, just a plate of fries!

Weirdest Food
Montreal is not as good for weird food as one might imagine. I think the absence of food trucks and outdoor counters has a lot to do with this. The salad at Ty-Briez may be a little weird -- appearing almost like a whole head of lettuce -- but it is delicious!

Best Place to Watch a Sports Game
Pub Laurier. But only if it's the Habs.

Best Dive Bar
Verres Stérilisés on Rachel Street and La Petite Idée Fixe on Park Avenue.

Best Brasserie
Brasserie Capri in Pointe-Saint Charles. The food is great and it represents what Quebec culture feels like to me: working class, mercifully unpretentious, friendly, and absolutely comfortable.

Best Coffee
Olympico and Caffè Italia. I like Caffè Italia the best. They also have my favorite sandwich in Montreal and that sandwich is just a peanut butter sandwich on toasted Italian bread. Having a latte and that sandwich there is just heaven.

Best Comedy Club
ComedyWorks on Bishop Street. But, I also love the brave pioneers who shepherd the floating stages that appear suddenly in Portuguese restaurants and abandoned buildings.

What would you say are Montreal's unofficial food groups?
Poutine, smoked meat, and steamed hotdogs. Hotdogs and French fries were, to me, always the soul of Montreal cuisine.

If you have a free afternoon..
I would go for a long walk. The best walk you can take in Montreal -- and I'm a fan of epic walks -- is the entire length of St. Laurent. Takes about 5 hours with stopping and eating in different places.

If you could take a Montreal food item into space...
It would have to be the Wilensky's special. It's a pressed sandwich. I don't know a better way to call it other than a "Jewish Panini." It's got salami pressed into an onion bun and it always comes with a pickle. It's always got mustard too. It'd be a shame to not take the soda fountain into space though...

Photos: Katherine Sehl

Best Street
Ontario Street. That's like the heart of the traditional east end of the city.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Dic Ann's Hamburgers 10910 Boul. Pie-IX, Montreal, H1M 1S8

Dic Ann's Hamburgers holds two world records for the number of hamburgers and cheeseburgers served in an hour -- impressive, but not as impressive as the burger itself! A flattened patty soaked in their secret sauce is the place's specialty, and with over 15 locations across Canada, you can get it nearly anywhere in the country.

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2. Wilensky's 34 Ave Fairmount Ouest, Montréal, H2T 2M1 (Plateau)

Think old-school -- like, ring-up cash register and old-fashioned soda fountain old-school. Wilensky's opened in 1932, and their "Wilensky's Special" -- a deliciously simple grilled sandwich with all-beef salami, all-beef baloney, and a hint of mustard -- has been a solid local favorite ever since.

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3. Punjab Palace 920 Jean-Talon Ouest, Montréal, H3N 1S6

Sometimes when you're in a French city, all you want is some good Indian food, right?! Punjab Palace has got you covered. With an extensive menu and specials, this affordable fare will leave you with plenty of money to spend elsewhere -- maybe, for example, on the alcohol that you will need to bring yourself, since Punjab Palace lacks a liquor license.

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4. Dilallo Burger 2523 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal, H3J 1N6

The famous Dilallo Burger is a true Montreal institution in the best sense of the word. Be sure to try its famous "Buck Burger." It's not actually a dollar, but at $4 or so, no one's complaining.

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5. La Binerie 367, Av. Mont-Royal E, Montréal, H2T 1R1

True to its name, La Binerie is famous for its baked beans. This place has been serving up traditional Quebecois cuisine since 1938, and it hasn't lost its touch. If baked beans aren't your thing, try the Tourtière (meat pie), Pouding Noir (black pudding), or Soupe aux Pois (pea soup).

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6. La Maison V.I.P. 1077, rue Clark, Montréal, H2Z 1K3

Open late-night, early morning, and every time in between, V.I.P serves traditional and delicious Cantonese-style Chinese food.

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7. Pataterie Chez Philippe 1877 rue amherst, Montreal, H2L 3L7

Pataterie Chez Philippe has a strong motto: "never serve others what you wouldn't eat yourself."Choose from a selection of sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, and poutine, and don't forget to order a side of fries -- cooked in canola oil, they're err... kinda healthy?

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8. Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen 3895 boul. Saint-Laurent, Montréal, H2W 1X9

Montreal is known for its smoked meats, and Schwartz's Deli has some of the best in the city. Order a sandwich -- literally any sandwich -- and prepare for your taste buds to explode from the deliciousness.

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9. Decarie Hot Dog 953 Decarie Boul , Saint-Laurent, H4L 3M3

This hole-in-the-wall hot dog joint serves up some of the best dogs, French fries, and poutine in Montreal. Just don't expect to sit down... as there isn't much room.

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10. La Vieille Crêperie Bretonne Ty-Breiz 933 rue Rachel Est, Montréal, H2J 2J2

This creperie in the Plateau Mont-Royal 'hood has been around since 1959 and has been churning out sweet (think nutella & banana) and savory (sausage, apple, and cheese, anyone?) pastries ever since!

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11. Pub Laurier 266 Laurier E, Montreal, H2T 1G3

With a lime green exterior and disco lights, Pub Laurier isn't hiding from anyone. This dive bar is ideal for drinking a cheap beer, playing some songs on their itunes-like jukebox, and watching a sports game.

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12. Verres Stérilisés 800 rue Rachel Est, Montréal,

This divey sports pub has three plasma screens, a projector, two regular tubes, and an especially raucous local crowd. Add in a few of their cold micro-brewed beers, and it'll feel just like you're watching the game at home!

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13. La Petite Idée-Fixe 4857 ave. Du Parc, Montréal, H2V 4E7

Dim lighting, wooden bar stools, a pool table, and a jukebox are staples of any dive bar, and La Petite Idée-Fixe is no different. You won't find any trendy cocktails here, but you will find a number of affordable cold brewskies.

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14. Brasserie Capri 2172 St-Patrick, Montréal,

Pork knuckles. That's all you need to know about Brasserie Capri. They're a Quebecois tradition, and you should order them!

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15. Café Olimpico 124 rue Saint-Viateur Ouest, Montréal, H2T 2L1

Family-owned since 1970, Café Olimpico brews delicious Italian coffee. Enjoy an espresso, latte, or cappuccino while people-watching on the outdoor patio.

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16. Caffè Italia 6840 boul. Saint-Laurent, Montréal, H2S 3C7

Brewed with locally roasted and blended beans, the espressos and lattes are sure to start your day off right in the Belle Ville.

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17. Comedyworks 1238 Bishop Street, Montreal, H3G 2E3

This Bishop St. venue showcases Canadian and international comedians and has been making Montreal laugh since 1990.