Our Former Food Writer Alice Levitt Is Back for a Gustatory Trip North of the Border | Québec Guide | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Our Former Food Writer Alice Levitt Is Back for a Gustatory Trip North of the Border


Published June 21, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated June 29, 2023 at 11:50 p.m.

Alice Levitt at Reuben's Deli & Steakhouse - TYSON BATEMAN
  • Tyson Bateman
  • Alice Levitt at Reuben's Deli & Steakhouse

My life has changed a lot since I left Seven Days for Houstonia magazine in 2015, after seven years of eating in — and writing about — Vermont. I'm still obsessed with meat and quirky international desserts, of course. But I've also traveled the globe, gone freelance and gotten married.

With so many places in the world to visit, I didn't know if I'd ever return to Vermont and Québec, but my heart and my taste buds pulled me back in May for a belated birthday trip.

Seeing friends and eating well were the goals, and I did both with gusto. On my Canadian road trip, I retraced my steps through some of my favorite destinations. Call it nostalgia, but even after spending time in China and Singapore, I still consider Montréal's Chinatown one of my favorites in the world.

Below is my ideal eating itinerary. Nothing too expensive. Visiting one place on the list is great, but to achieve a food writer-style crawl, I recommend hitting them all in a very hungry day or two.

Note: All prices listed are in Canadian dollars.

Pizzeria Bedford

41 rue Principale, Bedford, 450-248-2880
Pizzeria Bedford - ALICE LEVITT
  • Alice Levitt
  • Pizzeria Bedford

When my mother and I would hop the border to shop at the Metro Plouffe grocery store in Bedford (prepared Béarnaise sauce and cans of perfectly round carrots for her, Québécois meats and cheeses for me), we would always stop at this kitschy pizzeria for lunch. Though it boasts local specialties pizza-ghetti, pizza-sagna and even pizza-violi, my go-to since the late '90s has been another idiosyncratic take on a pizzeria classic: chicken parmigiana ($20). The version at Pizzeria Bedford features a chicken cutlet covered in tomato sauce and brûléed cheese, yes, but also a hulking pile of spaghetti buried in lightly anise-scented meat sauce. Even the accompanying Caesar salad is punctuated with bacon bits.

Reuben's Deli & Steakhouse

1116 Sainte-Catherine Ouest, Montréal, 514-866-1029, reubensdeli.com

If you like standing in line, get your smoked meat at Schwartz's. I'm more of the camp that wants to fill up on karnatzel (Jewish Montréal's signature skinny beef sausage, descended from Romania) just a few minutes after I'm seated in a comfy booth. The towering smoked meat sandwiches (from $26) here are more expensive than you'll find elsewhere, but you're paying for luxury — and hefty portions of melting brisket.

Le Petit Alep

191 rue Jean Talon Est, Montréal, 514-270-9361, restaurantalep.com
Le Petit Alep - DAIRA BISHOP
  • Daira Bishop
  • Le Petit Alep

This Syrian Armenian restaurant inspired my obsession with muhammara years ago. For $5, the pomegranate, pepper and walnut dip has miles more personality than any hummus and will have you salivating even after you've demolished a bowl. The chiche kebab terbialy is similarly earthshaking. Filet mignon is deeply marinated in a garlicky tomato sauce and showered with tangy sumac and spicy fléflé. It's one of the most ideally balanced kebabs I've ever sampled. And, at $17, the price is positively pre-pandemic.

Pâtisserie Coco

2 rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, Montréal, 514-861-3388, patisseriecoco.business.site

This new-to-me bakery has all the Hong Kong-style pastries I've missed now that I live in Virginia, but it's the chefs' takes on European delights that won me over. The chocolate éclairs ($3.50) risk floating away if not weighted down. The mango cake roll ($3.50) is similarly light and as redolent of mangoes as its Day-Glo color would suggest.

Qing Hua Dumpling

1019 boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montréal, 514-903-9887, qinghuadumpling.com
Qing Hua Dumpling - ALICE LEVITT
  • Alice Levitt
  • Qing Hua Dumpling

I've been a devotee of this place since its early days in the neighborhood surrounding Concordia University. Back then, I used to go for lamb neck, served with rubber gloves and listed on the menu as a salad. The restaurant now has a more streamlined bill of fare (i.e., no lamb neck) and a Chinatown location, but the unusual flavors of brothy dumplings are still in full force. Get curry chicken with coriander ($12.99) and pay $1.50 extra to have them pan-fried into a crispy lacework.

Bao Bao Dim Sum

83 rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, Montréal, 514-875-1388
  • Tyson Bateman
  • Bao Bao Dim Sum

You could go to Kim Fung for sit-down dim sum. But I come here for the cute signature buns (from $3) that resemble everything from Doraemon to a spiny hedgehog. Get one for Instagram cred, then order dim sum with abandon. The cha siu bao, sticky rice and dumplings will all delight as much for their flavor as for their bargain price tags. Two can easily grab lunch here for around $20.

Kem CoBa

60 avenue Fairmount Ouest, Montréal, 514-419-1699

I couldn't resist adding one more Asian dessert, because this is the best soft-serve I've ever had. Sorry, maple creemees. These cones filled with candy-colored twists of rose and raspberry-lychee or dulce de leche and mango sorbet (from $5.30) are among the most delightful things about summer in Montréal. I break my own rule about avoiding queues here, but it moves quickly enough and the result is, you guessed it, worth waiting for.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Alice Eats Québec | Our former food writer is back for a gustatory trip north of the border"

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