5 Jewish Restaurants in Montreal You Must Experience Before You Die

Move over, New York! If you want to experience the best Jewish cuisine in North America, look no further than these five Montreal restaurants.

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Montreal restaurants
Photo: Robert Liwanag/Reader’s Digest

Montreal Restaurants: Wilensky’s

Between the soda fountain, retro green paint and no-tipping policy, eating at Wilensky’s is like stepping back in time. Even the signature sandwich—grilled beef salami, beef bologna and a generous schmear of mustard on a cornmeal-covered kaiser bun—has remained the same since the luncheonette first opened in 1932. Addictive flavours aside, it’s that adherence to tradition that makes this iconic Montreal restaurant an essential attraction for foodies from around the world. Still very much a family business, you’ll find the late founder Moe Wilensky’s daughter Sharon, son Asher and granddaughter Alisa running the counter these days (Moe’s widow, Ruth, passed away in March 2018).

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Pastries at Boulangerie Cheskie in Montreal
Photo: Robert Liwanag/Reader’s Digest

Montreal Restaurants: Boulangerie Cheskie

Located in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood is Boulangerie Cheskie, a renowned kosher bakery that sells an array of Eastern European treats. Owner Cheskie Lebowitz often works the register himself, doling out the likes of cheese danish, cookies and rugelach—crescent-shaped pastry of Ashkenazic Jewish origin—to a loyal legion of customers from all walks of life. The bakery’s specialty is its chocolate babka: a rich, layered creation of doughy goodness that’s highly habit-forming. If you’re not a fan of sweet treats, order the challah breads. You’re welcome.

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Smoked meat sandwich from Lester's Deli in Montreal
Photo: Robert Liwanag/Reader’s Digest

Montreal Restaurants: Lester’s Deli

A trip to Montreal isn’t complete without a serving of smoked meat, and for many, Lester’s Deli has the city’s finest. Opened in 1951, the famous Outremont restaurant has built its reputation on comfort food done right: its meat, made from brisket, is cured, smoked, steamed, hand-cut and finally served on delicious rye bread with yellow mustard, a slice of salmon and scrumptious chopped liver. Lester’s smoked meat poutine and beef salami on rye are also popular picks. Owner Billy Berenholc, whose father purchased the eatery in 1956, has been working at the deli since 1972 at the age of 16.

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Salmon gravlax from Arthurs Nosh Bar in Montreal
Photo: Robert Liwanag/Reader’s Digest

Montreal Restaurants: Arthurs Nosh Bar

Think Jewish restaurants in Montreal are limited to old-fashioned diners and charming retro bakeries? Think again. Enter Arthurs Nosh Bar: a trendy brunch spot serving fresh takes on traditional Jewish cuisine. Among the standouts on the menu are the organic salmon gravlax (served with brunoised shallots, beets, lemon vinaigrette, caviar and Russian black bread) and the hearty matzah ball soup with chicken, noodles and dill. As if the food wasn’t reason enough to visit, Arthurs’ penny-tiled floors, bistro chairs and letter board menus are a sight to behold—and worth getting up early to beat the long lineups. (No reservations allowed!)

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Baked goods from Hof Kelsten in Montreal
Photo: Hof Kelsten

Montreal Restaurants: Hof Kelsten

Hof Kelsten is another Montreal restaurant putting a new spin on Jewish classics. You’ll find plenty of baguettes, challah and croissants here, as well as updated takes on Eastern European deli classics like bialy (small rolls topped with caramelized onions) and rugelach (opt for the strawberry-walnut version). Need more convincing that the pastries of Hof Kelsten are top-of-the-line? The bakery just so happens to supply bread to some of Montreal’s best restaurants, and its owner and operator, Jeffrey Finkelstein, once worked at the legendary El Bulli restaurant in Spain.

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