Who wrote "Top 3 restos" on that ardoise (that's French for blackboard) propped up over there?
The establishments I'm about to profile are indeed at the top of my list -- and should be on yours -- but there are so many great bring your own wine restaurants in Montreal that I'll hold back from calling them the Top 3 or the best in the city. In these Jan Wong'ed times, a contention like that calls for some serious journalistic research to back it up.
No broad strokes here.
No extensive study either. It's just that when I go out to eat I almost always choose one of the city's plethora of BYOW options. So suffice to say that the restaurants mentioned below have been consistently good over the past years, always quite affordable, and I can't ever remember not enjoying myself over the course of repeated visits and various food orders.
Here are my "favourite" three places to bring a bottle to (all you out-of-towners should remember that Montreal's BYOW scene is strictly corkage-fee-free, another big plus!)...
Note: Restaurants are listed below are in no particular order.
- Pizzeria Napoletana
In the heart of Little Italy, there is real authentic pizza -- the best I have had in the city. The Napoletana menu also includes pastas and salads but most folks order themselves one of the thirty-something different four-slice pizzas. Check out the full menu on Napoletana's new web site. Extremely noisy room, no reservations taken, cash only and don't even think of asking for a wine bucket, but despite all that this pizzeria still is a must-visit BYOW resto because it has reliably got the best plates at the lowest prices. There are two SAQ outlets selling copious amounts of Italian wine that are quite close by: St. Laurent, corner Danté or Marché Jean-Talon North. Go for a Rocca Delle Macie Vernaiolo Chianti (the 2004 is delicious) which, at $13-and-change, will cost about as much as your pizza. Share both with friends.
- La Raclette
It's less noisy than the above, but no less colourful or fun. La Raclette is a wonderful neigbourhood restaurant nestled onto a quaint residential street in Plateau Mont-Royal. Always competent seasonal cooking loosely based around Franco-Swiss specialties. And the people-watching is a good as the eating making this a great place to relax. A beautiful green-hemmed terrasse is perhaps the prime spot to dine in all of Montreal during the summer months. You can't reserve a table outside, but you can inside, and indoors the restaurant is laid out in a congenial way that maximizes the camaraderie. And unlike the above, there's always an ice bucket waiting for you. Take a reasonably priced Chablis from an outstanding vintage like 2002. Saint-Martin from Michel Laroche for instance. The SAQ Express is a block south at Mont-Royal.
- La Colombe
Save your better bottles for the refined menu at "The Dove" -- a restaurant that celebrates the subtle fusion of French and more exotic near-Orient cuisines. Reservations are a must for the cozy groundfloor dining room of La Colombe, though the second level welcomes larger groups. Stylish, well-heeled, and conscientious for much less than you'd think you would have to pay. You wouldn't be wasting a $40 bottle if you uncorked it here. I suggest a Pinot Noir to accentuate the dishes that often feature rare and delicious mushrooms -- perhaps the nicely aged Coldstream Hills Pinot you've been saving in your cellar for some time. It's worth it. This is a gem near the end of the Duluth BYOW restaurant strip. SAQ Express, with an admirable selection of reserve wines, is just steps west at St-Denis, corner Duluth.