Eating Raw, Vegetarian and Vegan in Montreal

I’ve been back to Montreal for less than a week, and more than ever I’m realizing this is a great place for a fruit-eating raw-foodist.

I was born in Montreal, and for most of my life I’ve lived within driving distance of this great city.

When I first became a raw-foodist in 1997, all I wanted to do was to escape to a warm country where I could still find lots of great fruit. I had no idea that right next door in Montreal there’s actually more variety of fruit than almost anywhere else in the world!

For example, here are just some of the fruits you can find in Montreal at different times of the year:

– Over 12 varieties of melons
– 8+ types of fresh figs
– 10+ types of mangoes (including my favorite, the delicious Haitian mangoes)
– Sweet cherimoyas from Brazil (cheaper than in California!)
– Jackfruit, fresh durian, mangosteen, and other types of Asian fruits
– 10+ types of grapes
– Three types of persimmons
– And more

To find these fruits, you have to go to some specialty stores that will also sell fruit by the case if you want (at a very good price).

I used to think that in most cities of the world you could go to similar stores that would sell you fruits from all over the world by the case at a reasonable price.

But after traveling to many places, I realized that most cities don’t have such stores or markets. In fact, the best thing you can do if you want to buy in bulk in most places is to sign up for an account with an organic distributor, and usually they have a minimum order of around $400 or $500.

Montreal is blessed in the sense that there’s big Italian, Greek and Asian communities that are importing all of these great fruits from all over the world and selling them at an outdoor market open 7 days a week.

Canada also has fewer importing restrictions for produce so pretty much any tropical fruit can come in the country.

I am told by my friend David Norman, owner of the raw restaurant Bonobos in New York City that Toronto (where he lives) also has an amazing selection of fruit, which according to David is the best in the world.

If you ever come to Montreal, check out the guide below to know exactly where to go to get fruit and eat raw.

1) Jean-Talon Market

The year-round Jean-Talon outdoor market is probably my favorite market in the world. Everyone knows where it is, and that’s where Montrealers and restaurant owners come to fill up on fresh produce. You’ll find local produce, but also the specialty shops I was talking about that sell imported fruits from all over the world.

My favorite is on Marché du Nord (a street bordering the market), and is called “Leopoldo”. Go there and talk to the friendly Italian owners who really know their fruit. Each week they receive something different so it’s always a surprise to discover what great fruit they have at different times of the year.

Also check out the other stores right next to Leopoldo for some unusual tropical fruits.

2) Gaetan Bono

This is a place where you can buy wholesale quantities of conventional or organic produce.

I actually didn’t know about this place until a few years ago, and then I realized it’s a true Shangri-La for fruit lovers!

Imagine this: a giant warehouse with cases and cases of fruits and vegetables. You can buy what you want, one case at a time, with no minimum order, and it’s open 24 hours a day!

Actually it’s not really advertised as being open to the public, but it is. Many owners of small Asian restaurants go there to fill up on produce.

The prices are really good, but you’re pretty much left on your own to figure out where things are and get your own dolly.

The trickiest part is getting there. The address is 995 Rue Du Marche-Central, but it’s not on the side of the road. You have to go inside a big gated complex of produce distributors. It’s really not obvious but essentially you have to cross a security point that let you in without asking questions. Just drive around that street until you see the sign for “Gaetan Bono” and then drive around the block until you find the entrance.

3) Chinatown

Montreal’s Chinatown is tiny compared to San Francisco, Vancouver or New York City, but you can find some amazing fruit. There are also other various Asian markets all over the city.

If you want to keep it easy and minimize travel time, go to the intersection of Jean-Talon boulevard and St-Denis street. You will find a couple of good Asian markets where you can find a few items.

But the best Asian stores for tropical fruit are in chinatown itself. My favorite is called Pap Pap, and they don’t sell any meat — just produce. Depending on the season, you can find a variety of exotic fruits.

Raw Restaurants in Montreal

Montreal has its own raw food restaurant. It’s called Crudessence and it’s 100% raw and vegan. Get the details at: http://www.crudessence.com

I enjoyed Crudessence although like most raw food restaurants, it uses too many nuts and seeds so the dishes contain a lot fat. The spring rolls with curried nut pâté were delicious though.

Because of the cold climate, juice bars are not as popular in Quebec as they are in Southern California. There is no major juice bar chain but you can find fresh juices at many restaurants.

Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Montreal

Montreal has more vegetarian food than most cities in Canada. Middle Eastern places (For falafel and vegetarian salads) are very popular in downtown Montreal, with one literally every couple of city blocks.

Montreal has several vegetarian restaurants and one completely vegan restaurant.

You can find a full listing at:
http://www.happycow.net/north_america/canada/quebec/montreal/

My favorite vegetarian restaurants are:

Aux Vivres — Formerly a hippie restaurant off the beaten track, this 100% vegan restaurant has relocated to a better location on St-Laurent street. The food is delicious and there are some raw options.

Le Commensal — This vegetarian chain has many locations throughout the province of Quebec. It’s buffet style with a wide range of vegetarian, vegan and salad options. You pay by weight. Although the menu could use a re-haul, you can always find something healthy.

Health Food Stores in Montreal

Health food stores in Montreal are typically very small. You won’t find a Whole Foods Market in this city (like in Vancouver and Toronto), but because there’s such a wide availability of good foods, you probably won’t need it anyway.

My favorite health food stores in the city are Rachelle Bery on the corner of Rachel and Berry (easy to remember!) and Club Organic on Frontenac.

One thing you will find in Montreal is that food is less expensive than in many US states. That always puzzled me because a lot of the produce comes from California, yet it is cheaper here than in California! That’s because the overall cost of living here is lower because of lower salaries and prices of real estate than in California.

Canada may not have great weather all the time, but you can sure find great food if you know where to look. On your next visit to Montreal, make sure to check out some of the resources I listed and let me know what you think!