If we could afford to eat at Perles et Paddock every night, we probably would. Alas, we work in media and PR, so some nights require opting for the less expensive option.
The great thing about Montreal is you can go fancy and world class if you want, but there are plenty of places to grab a quick, hot meal that won’t break the bank and aren’t just fast food.
So if ever you’re hungry, not in the mood to cook and looking for an inexpensive spot without settling on taste or ambiance, consult this list of cheap eats we frequent. By cheap, we mean around $20 a person if you hold off the booze and extras. You can definitely go wild at these places too.
1. Satay Brothers (3721 Notre Dame W)
Every winter I get a craving for their surprisingly filling laksa: a spicy chili shrimp coconut milk soup with chicken. Toss in a side of tempeh sticks and pillowy steam buns, and you’ve got a hearty meal that’ll shake off the cold. Satay Brothers in St-Henri is a lively place to eat at, so even if you’re popping in for a quick bite, it feels like a fun night out. It’s one of those rare places that really fits any occasion, budget or group size.
2. Yokato Yokabai Ramen (4185 Drolet)
There was an explosion of Japanese ramen spots and/or Izakayas in Montreal a few years back, and while we can’t say we’ve been to them all, Yokato Yokabai satisfies our occasional need for ramen. Like Satay, the Plateau hotspot doubles as a fast eat or a dimly lit date/group dinner spot. The basic ramen is all we need, though. You fill out your order on a piece of paper, deciding on whether you want it spicy, what protein you want and extras like more egg, bamboo shoots, corn or more. Once it’s ready, they’ll also bring four condiments to your table. Our go-to? The pork belly melts in your mouth, with some fried garlic sprinkled on top. They advise against taking a ramen to go and eating it the next day, but they’re wrong: it somehow gains in strength overnight.
3. Uniburger (multiple locations)
Back when Burger Weeks were all the rage, I yearned for the simplicity of a perfectly stacked and balanced burger. Then Uniburger came along and I knew I never needed another burger again. If you’ve never had the In-N-Out or Shake Shack experiences Americans mythologize about, Uniburger pretty much nails it. And every year they do a charity week with celeb chefs and their creations are bonkers. I had the Joe Beef guys and Matty Matheson slinging me a headcheese burger! OK, that was a special occasion, but every day Uniburger makes their fresh style of burger to perfection.
4. Le Poké Bar (2153 Crescent)
This one’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. Concordia-area restos are all about one thing: volume, and sure enough, Poké Bar’s bowls dwarf their competitors in size. When this place and Venice opened in Old Montreal, they were pretty even and different, but over time, Poké Bar kept adding options as Venice’s got smaller, sadder, and blander. It’s cafeteria-style where you pick your fixings, so temper your expectations, but we’ve never had issues with freshness and we do takeout there pretty much weekly. Even though it’s cheaper than the other poké places around town, it’s comparable in terms of quality and way better in terms of quantity.
Check their Instagram for pics that accurately show off how much they cram into those bowls.
5. Montreal Chinese Crepes and Dumplings (37 Westminster N)
Best dumplings outside of Chinatown, and it’s only the second best thing on their menu. I wrote about the family-owned resto last year and I’m telling ya, it’s worth the trek to MoWest. Jian bing guo, a.k.a. the Chinese crepe, is a quickly made savoury handheld with a thin batter and egg exterior. Inside, there’s veggies and fried won ton along with proteins like jerk beef, fried chicken, or bacon. This is the mythical under-$10 lunch of your dreams. Owner and cook Lan even taught me how to properly boil dumplings at home without having them burst apart: instead of lowering the heat, add cold water whenever it starts to boil too much. Do that three times and you’ll have perfect dumplings every time.
Honourable mentions we’ll save for a future post: Porco, Lloydie’s, sandwich counter at Epicerie Moderne, two slices at Adamo, Falafel St-Jacques.