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Foodie Tour: Delicious Montreal Quebec Canada

Bonjour Delicious Montreal!

While it was not my first visit to this part of Canada, I’ve been to Montreal a bunch of times before… for F1 as well as “just because the flight was cheap” visiting for the very first time in the freezing cold of Quebec’s winter in January. This trip however gave me an amazing opportunity to check out some of the best the city has to offer in terms of delicious food. I got to try the poutine. I got to try the bagels, the smoked meat sandwiches and much more.

Some may laugh but for one of my Formula 1 trips I decided to bring a dozen bagels for my gracious host on CouchSurfing. I figured bagels is something New York has that’s unique… and not really replicated elsewhere. Well, little did I know, Montreal is famous for it’s own style of bagels. And on this trip I committed to try them out. Visiting both of the places that claim to be “the best!” (for scientific research purposes only, of course…)

Since I had three days of sightseeing before Formula E activities kicked in, the first order of business on Day 1 was to check out St. Viatur and Fairmont Bagels in the Jewish neighborhood of Montreal. I had bought an unlimited metro-card pass for three days, so it was easy to get around. I made a list of places I must visit, and checked them off one by one.

First stop: St. Viatur Bagels:

The atmosphere was no different than many deli’s in New York… however these guys sold bagels and all the add-on’s separately. If you want to schmear your bagel with some cream cheese you gotta do it yourself. Want locks, smoked salmon… buy your own separately. It’s all good. I ordered a sesame and a poppy bagel and ate them on my way to my second stop:

Second Stop: Fairmont Bagles

Yesterday’s bagels anyone?

Same scheme in this place. Small counter. Big line outside. Some benches to sit down and relax in the shade. I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two sessame bagels. But they are certainly different from the New York style bagel…. not least the size… I think the Montreal bagel is significantly smaller and far more sweet than what we find here in New York/New Jersey. They’re like a snack more than a meal.

My favorite was a blueberry bagel which was bursting with flavor!

For lunch I went for poutine at Frits Alors! But it was not particularly good, so I’ll skip this step…

For dinner I joined my buddy Denis who gave me a tour of Old Montreal near to where he works. We ended up at the Old Port and luckily there were some food trucks bringing delicious restaurant food (restaurants that are spread around the city) to the masses at the very touristy part of town.

Here we sat down for a delicious sampler of poutine which was much better than Frits Alors! but still, in my opinion, not as great as the little food truck I go to in Ontario near Mosport… (that is sure to piss off some Quebecoise foodies).

Desert was a delicious few scoops of strawberry ice cream:

That I got all over my shirt lol

Walking back through Old Montreal you could see many restaurants of various caliber clearly targeting many tastes of tourists. One thing that popped out at me was a Thai Poutine place… WTF?

Next day I decided to do a Jewish deli for breakfast.

I took the Metro to Berri-UQAM central stop and walked the rest of the way passing many restaurants along… as well as a filming for a Formula E car on the streets of Downtown:

My destination was Schwartz’s Deli with their delicious serving of smoked meat for under $10 bux ($12 with tax in CAD)

This sandwich was super tasty… and once again I’m going to compare it to NYC food because just a few days earlier I visited Katz’s deli in Lower Manhattan with friends and ordered a similar pastrami sandwich… this was much cheaper though.

Walking to/from Schwartz’s you could see many eastern European storefronts selling different meats/foods. There was a Slovakian joint, a Polish place, a Hungarian one, and many others.

For lunch I decided to expand my tour of the island of Montreal and put my public transport pass to good use. So I took the train to the very northern tip of the island, and then another ten minutes on a bus to arrive at Dic Ann’s Hamburgers. I saw their food truck in Old Port / Old Montreal but wanted to check out the original:

The tiny hanburgers were very good… I ordered one, and then one more to sample this unique delicacy. And then visited Petro-Canada gas station on my way back to the bus stop for some Coke to help with digestion lol

Once I crossed the traditional dishes off my list, I ended up going to random places my friends from the Formula E event were in a mood for (typically during dinner). We spend a lot of time near the circuit, hanging out on Saint Catherine Street in Gay Village and going to places in that area.

The street is closed to vehicular traffic in the summer time and an excellent place to go for food and entertainment, though some of it was a bit out there. Go with an open mind!

One stop was Thai:

I had Massaman Curry which seemed to be way off, not spicy at all, but cheap and very filling at Bangkok Cuisine Restaurant.

Sticking with Asian theme we ended up at a Viatnamese place:

Here finally we found the clear spring rolls and a tasty bowl of Pho, which was just spicy enough and had a ton of sliced beef in it which was a great value for the money. The location was near to the Berri-UQAM stop on Boulevard de Maisonueve.

The food at the track was outstanding. The marshal organizers did an excellent job feeding the volunteers. I’ll write more about it in the Motorsport post, but will mention one little snack I enjoyed a lot, Bear Paws… soooo good!

Oh and I of course guzzled down many cups of Tim Horton’s french vanilla cappuccino’s along the way. Love that stuff!

Thanks for treating me so well Montreal… I will be back for more!

Foodie Tour of the D… Detroit’s Obsession with Coney Islands (that’s Hot Dogs with Chili + Onions)

Wanna make a lunch decision you will instantly regret?

Go on a foodie tour of the coney islands in the D… Detroit loves it’s Coney Dogs!

They don’t call them coney’s in New York… on Coney Island in Brooklyn hot dogs are hot dogs… Nathan’s is probably my favorite though Hebrew National aren’t bad either, even Ballpark is OK. But that’s something I’d have every once in a blue moon, typically at a BBQ on a summer’s day.

Well in Detroit hot dogs with chili are all the rage. I remember seeing stores along Van Dyke for as long as I remember coming up to visit my friends on 26 mile and always wondered what the fuzz was all about… what is this Coney Island? and why are there so many of them…? on this trip to Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park I found out. So come join me on my little foodie adventure that resulted in nothing more than confusion and a stomach ache… I enjoyed it!

I started out on Woodward Avenue near Pontiac because of a side trip to the Fiat Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills while on a hunt for a Fiata sighting, but more about that in another post. My first stop was Athens Coney Island on Woodward in Royal Oak, MI Naively my plan was to pop into three or four different joints, order a coney to go, and sample it while driving to the next one… that plan was STUPID!

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 1 athens

As I soon found out with Athens coney dog in my car, eating it was messy and I soon regretted the decision of doing this! I also ordered french fries with this dog so I don’t puke all over myself having a hot dog for my first meal of the day and they were extremely bland. But I needed a baseline to compare my future coney’s to, so with a small chili stain on my t-shirt I proceeded to the next place which happened to be the most famous one’s depending on whom you ask.

Downtown Detroit is known for it’s turf war between two family owned coney joints… or at least the family was related when the restaurants opened. Now Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island are two competing businesses working side by side selling coney’s to fans of their rivalry.

I went to Lafayette first just because I parked my car nearest to their entrance… The place looked pretty old school, with two old Greeks behind the counter slapping together people’s orders. I figured for this one I’d sit down to avoid getting any more chili sauce all over me. The order was served on a small plate with a fork and a glass of water which the fella behind the counter insist I take, I didn’t want it. Here’s the famous serving:

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 3 lafayette

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 2 lafayette

Despite my best efforts as soon as I picked up the coney to shove it in my mouth the little dices of onion went flying everywhere. The dog was tasty, chili and mustard added good flavor, but raw onion is not something I normally eat knowing how it typically sends my stomach rumbling… so I was a bit apprehensive. All in all, it tasted like a hot dog something I could probably make sans the chili.

Next stop American Coney Island:

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 5 american

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 6 american

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 7 american

Unlike the previous two stops, this place took their hot dog selling business seriously and looked extremely polished and commercialized. Was that good? Sure… I’d say it looked like a chain now though the owner was clearly running around supervising the staff and talking with some of the customers, that was cool. Still retained some of that mom and pop feel like the diners I visited.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 8 american

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 9 american

I ordered their coney with some fries and found out that if I dip the fries into the chili, I’d save myself from making a mess of it in the end. The dog was good, the chili did taste slightly different and the chunks of onions were much smaller which made them a bit less noticeable in every bite, although clearly the strong taste was still there. I could see why people rant and rave that this place is #1.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 10 american lafayette

The location also captures a small portrait of Detroit in general. While the downtown looked really nice, a lovely place with nice buildings, stadiums and other entertainment venues. A new M-line rail is in development that I’m sure will revitalize the city bringing people from Midtown and other points closer to Downtown. The Bathtub Bar next door looked in complete state of neglect and disrepair. And that sums it up. No matter how wonderful Detroit is there are aspects of it suffering neglect (including those horrible pot hole lined highways, freeways and avenues, so massive I don’t know how I didn’t suffer a blow-out… I will bitch about in another post) which brings the image of the whole city down. It’s not to say other cities don’t have their eye sores to look at, but in Detroit it’s the first thing that jumps out at you and most people tent to talk about. I really love Detroit and I wish the image changes soon! So I praise places like American Coney Island for doing their part in polishing the city’s image.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 4 american lafayette

Now after these three pit stops any sane person would call it quits, but I decided to have a go at one more place for scientific purposes of comparison of course… I visited one of the chains in the suburbs called Kerby’s Koney Island on Woodward in Bloomfield Hills, MI ( I was heading back to FCA HQ for another go at the Fiata ).

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 11 kerbys

Their coney’s were just as messy as the rest of them, but instead of ordering fries I went with fried zucchini sticks or zucchini fries.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 14 kerbys

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 12 kerbys

That was a great decision! The zucchini fries were extremely tasty and I actually managed to notice the different taste of Kerby’s chili. At this place I finally reached for the fork and ate the messy dog as it was probably intended to: in a civilized manner.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 13 kerbys

So all in all… four different places visited, four different coney’s sampled and I am no closer telling the difference between them now then before I started. They all tasted like hot dogs to me.

A funny moment while I was finishing my meal at Lafayette some kids were talking about doing a coney road trip, sampling the different coneys around the State…  made me chuckle a little. If that’s your thing, go for it and enjoy. Personally I’ll probably leave the chili dog experience to my next BBQ or pic-nick. (or more likely one of the cookouts at the race track somewhere, where burgers and dogs are easiest fare to make). Glad I’ve been there and done that now, so I’m not tempted to do it again next time I come back to Detroit!