Discovering Montreal Through its Food

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Jean-Talon Market and Los Planes are great places to start

Jean-Talon Market has been going strong since 1933. 

America’s neighbors to the north are celebrating a milestone anniversary of one of their oldest cities. Located in the Quebec region of Canada, Montreal is celebrating the 375th anniversary of its founding. Since its establishment, the city has flourished into a vibrant and cultural hub for the country, including renowned restaurants and museums.

“What makes great cities is the people who live there and their culture,” Danny Pavlopoulos, co-founder of Spade & Palacio tour group, told us. “Urban travel is on the rise. Montreal has a beautiful multiethnic vibe that lets us travel the world through food.”

It seems daunting to delve into a new city like a local, but tourists can sign up to explore the culinary delights with Spade & Palacio. Launched by Pavlopoulos and Anne-Marie Pellerin, the company offers intimate tours of Montreal’s food scene with groups of ten people. The duo brings an authentic feel to every tour and is the only way to experience the city in local style.

Culinary enthusiasts can register for the Beyond the Market tour, which takes them through the famous Jean-Talon Market and nearby restaurants. “People visit the market then go back to downtown or Old Montreal,” he said. “We wanted to showcase the areas around it, where we live.” People are taken on a cultural trip of the neighborhood eateries, including Vietnamese, Salvadorian, and Italian cuisines.

Situated in the Little Italy area of Montreal, Jean-Talon Market opened in 1933 and is one of the oldest and largest public markets in North America. Spade & Palacio introduces people to the regional delicacies and meet producers of locally grown ingredients, including cheesemongers, maple syrup producers and horticulturists.

Residents are not the only people that shop at the market, but many restaurateurs flock to the market to find their ingredients. The farm-to-table belief is a popular restaurant concept in the city, which allows restaurateurs to create a welcoming atmosphere for diners. “You don't go to good restaurants to be seen here, you go to eat and leave full, content and often pretty tipsy,” he said. “The prices compared to other big cities are lower, making it accessible to a wider variety of people.”

One of the restaurants that is featured on the tour is Los Planes, a Salvadorian pupsueria that’s been a neighborhood staple since the 1980s. While people enjoy chicharron, frijoles, and queso pupusas with horchata, they learn about the traditional Salvadorian dish consists of handmade corn tortillas and filled with a variety of ingredients. “The owner has been Montreal's pupupsa lady since the 80's,” Pavlopoulos said. “It is hands down the best of the dozen or so in the area.”

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Like the other restaurants in the tour, Los Planes reflects the spirit of Montreal. “All of our stops have a connection to our city and province,” he said. The city is full of a variety of neighborhoods, and Salvadorians are a large part of the Hispanic community. Visitors are constantly surprised with the choice of restaurants. “Most flip out over the first stop, sometimes we joke that we'll end the tour right then to end on a high note,” he said. “The vast majority of our visitors have never had a pupusa before but we convert them.”