Montr?al is a great place to sample authentic French and Qu?becois cuisine, sure, but did you know that its second biggest ethnic influence was Eastern European? Outside New York, Montr?al has the best kosher (and non-kosher) delicatessens, specializing in heavenly smoked meats, as well as (are you prepared for this?) bagel shops. Yup. Montr?al is also the bagel capital outside you-know-where, and they do them right. Italian, Greek, and Asian food is also plentiful here, owing to small but strong ethnic enclaves of each culture. The Gay Village's newer restaurants can be seen as entries in the hot category of "world cuisine" or "fusion cooking." Restaurants such as Area (see below) are, perhaps for the first time, drawing diners to the Gay Village for the food and not the crowd or location near gay nightlife -- something of an anomaly in gay ghettos in Canada and the States.
Making a splash on the restaurant scene is Area (1429 rue Amherst, The Village 514-890-6691; C$21-34) the first chef-focused restaurant in the Village, in a beautifully designed space. Chef Ian Perrault fuses many different flavors, and uses fresh, local products to produce elegant food, and all of this is served in a luxuriously minimal room. There's nothing splashy about gay-popular O Thym (1112 De Maisonneuve Est, The Village; 514-525-3443; C$19-32), a BYOW (bring your own wine: Apportez votre vin) restaurant tucked away just off Amherst, a short walk from Ste-Catherine. With less than 50 seats and its name simply scribbled on a chalkboard in the window, it's easy to overlook -- but that would be a mistake. From the cozy ambiance and friendly staff to the gorgeous food (the curry tuna and rack of lamb are exceptional), this bistro doesn't hit a wrong note.
Back on the main drag, popular gay dining spot Piccolo Diavolo (1336 rue Sainte-Catherine Est, The Village; 514-526-1336; C$6-24) is a hip Italian eatery with New Italian cuisine served in an innovative manner and moderate prices, though we've heard it can be hit or miss lately. Next door is DSens (1334 rue Sainte-Catherine Est, The Village; 514-227-5556; C$13-30), offering classic French fare with Italian influence. They serve good pastas, crepes and salads. If the weather's nice, opt for a table on the lovely back patio. Across the street, Saloon Caf? (1333 Sainte-Catherine Est, The Village; 514-522-1333; lunch: C$18-24) is a very gay- and lesbian-popular designer burger joint catering to the hipster crowd. The food is tasty and the main dining room offers great people-watching opportunities. Avoid sitting upstairs, where the low ceilings make for a noisy meal.
Bato Thai (1310 rue Sainte-Catherine Est, The Village; 514-524-6705; C$9-16) is the place to go for reasonable Thai food in a wonderful setting with lots of gay boys and girls. One of their signature dishes is the chicken with peanut sauce and fried spinach. There are several BYOW restaurants in Montr?al that are the cheaper budget alternatives but many of which still serve mammoth portions. Among the best in this category is Mozza (1208 rue Sainte-Catherine Est, The Village; 514-524-0295; C$10-22) for Italian in the heart of the Gay Village.
Another standout just off Sainte-Catherine is lesbian-owned ?lla-grill (1237 rue Amherst, The Village; 514-523-5553; C$11-26), serving upscale Greek food in a minimalist black-and-white space, with hip lighting and a stylish crowd. La Piazzetta (1101 rue Sainte-Catherine Est, The Village; 514-526-2244; C$6-20) is a gay-popular pizzeria, serving oven-baked pies with a variety of toppings. Le Plan?te (1451 rue Sainte-Catherine Est, The Village; 514-528-6953; C$9-29) serves a variety of cuisine that reflect the restaurant's global concept to a young and mixed crowd in the Village. La Strega du Village (1477 rue Sainte-Catherine Est, The Village; 514/523-6000; C$7-16) is a good budget choice for no-frills Italian.
For those with taste buds that crave more traditional American fare, head to Ben's Delicatessen (990 blvd Maisonneuve Ouest, The Village; 514-844-1000; C$11-20), an authentic New York-style deli specializing in smoked meat sandwiches and homemade cheesecake. A Montr?al tradition since 1919, as evidenced by decades' worth of the framed photos on the walls.