This isn't a timely post. I visited the restaurants mentioned here almost ten months ago. At the time it was with my boyfriend, and the truth of the matter is that we broke up on this trip - a story more suited for Part III. I suppose I needed time to recover from the trauma and putting words to these pictures just wasn't part of the self-induced therapy plan.
But, time has done it's thang, so here we are (were). In Montreal! For Osheaga!
What I'll first say, is that if you're going to Montreal GOOD LUCK finding accommodating GF places. From my experience restaurants were noticeably less informed and less accommodating to my gluten-less needs than other major cities I've traveled to. Not to say it's not possible - because, I ate, every day, three times (or more) - but you can't really "wing it." In fact, DON'T "wing it" in Montreal.
One resource I did find immensely helpful was this girl's blog. She's a celiac living in Montreal and has some great reviews of restaurants throughout the city.
This should be your go-to. Go there every day.
This family-run Venezuelan restaurant is 100% gluten-free or "sans gluten" as you'll need to get used to in Quebec. The arepas are f*cking amazing. So amazing you need expletives to describe them. I'm not being dramatic. They are warm, filling, delicious, and they come with this super tasty sauce. Plus you can even order plantain chips and avocado dip on the side.
It's a small joint with around ten tables, so if you can't get a spot just get it to go. They're quick with their service and most importantly everything is SAFE.
While we dined there I overheard another out-of-town family explaining their kids' gluten-less dietary needs. It's the GF mecca in Montreal... or at least ranking the highest on a "GF Montreal" search.
Let's talk about why you should do your research before traveling.
This bakery was literally two blocks away from the Airbnb we rented, yet I didn't find it until THE LAST DAY OF THE TRIP.
Every morning, I'd resign to a banana and peanut butter at the apartment, or energy bar, or some other lack-luster, pedestrian "meal" when I could have had a plethora of baked muffins, cakes, sweets, and grilled cheeses (YEAH THAT'S RIGHT. Grilled cheeseS. Multiple.) just a five minute walk away. One of the said grilled cheeses is shown above. That has bacon and onions in it, and YES I did tear up with joy at the near orgasmic experience it was devouring that cheesy, greasy mess. To which my then-boyfriend rolled his eyes and said, "I mean, it's just a grilled cheese..."
You can probably see why this maybe didn't work out for us.
One morning before the festival we attempted to eat at this hip little place called Olive et Gourmando. I couldn't find anything about it on the Find Me GF app, or Yelp, but my boyfriend really wanted to eat there so I obliged after scanning the menu online. Sure, every dish seemed to be sandwiched in gluten, but I figured they could probably make some modifications to help a sista out.
Lolololol. When I asked for scrambled eggs and a side of fresh fruit after explaining my severe intolerance - not an unreasonable request in my opinion - the waiter scoffed at me and said they do not make menu accommodations. I settled - no, more like shattered - for a small bowl of fresh fruit, while my boyfriend devoured a large, cheesy, eggy, bread-covered masterpiece in front of me.
Yes, I had back up snacks to tide me over one hour after the fruit wore off, but what can I say? Sometimes I just get sick of relying on snacks.
Some people may think of crop tops, flower headbands, flowy dresses and beer for days when they think of festivals. I think of my lunchbox.
Yep, my lunchbox.
I knew there would be food on the festival grounds, but I couldn't find any information about dietary accommodations, so I packed my lunch for the first day. Upon a full scan of the venue I concluded that everyone BUT the celiacs could eat and eat well at this festival. So, lunchbox it was for the next two days as well.
When we first arrived in Montreal I stopped by a grocery store and picked up a box of rice crackers, packaged deli meat, and sliced cheese. My lunchbox had a small ice pack so I used that to keep the meats and cheese cold while I was at the sets. If you guys can keep yourselves full on protein and fruit bars, KUDOS to you - that might be a simpler option. But I cannot, so, on I went lugging my charcuterie lunch around.
I disguised it in this cute, black leather backpack I got from Target, so it's not as completely embarrassing as it sounds, but it definitely took some shots at my self-esteem. It was a little challenging planning when I'd eat while also compromising with my boyfriend about what artists he wanted to see. There were a lot of great shows at the festival, but I needed almost a complete set (45 minutes) to make my way to the locker we had rented, grab the lunchbox, find a place to eat, actually eat, and then make my way through the throngs of people back to the locker.
It definitely wasn't the most fun part of every day, but I didn't go hungry at the event. So isn't that the ultimate win? Festival days are long days, and if I hadn't had my lunchbox I would have crapped out before sundown, which is not sexy or fun or cool. So, a dorky 45 minutes with a lunchbox? Sure. I can deal with that.
As far as the drinks go, I picked gin and ginger ale. Light, refreshing, summery and pretty damn normal.
What I learned from dining at the these restaurants and navigating the food situation at a festival is what I always seem to learn - I need to be with someone really supportive of my dietary needs, and I need to be better at vocalizing them. I wish my boyfriend had wanted to eat at Arepera du Plateau every day, and I wish I had asked him to. I wish he hadn't belittled my delight for the grilled cheese sandwich, and I wish I had done my research to find that bakery sooner. I wish he would have offered to go to another, safer, more accommodating breakfast place after I ate that measly bowl of fruit. And I wish I would have asked him to go to another, safer, more accommodating breakfast place to reduce my stress about not having enough to eat.
All in all, none of these things were our relationship's horcrux. He was gracious enough to let me pick just about every restaurant we ate at in Montreal, and he even did some research himself before we left for the vacation. The things I've mentioned here are merely accessory moments in which I can clearly see now are the lights shining through the holes of our compatibility.
Montreal wasn't a fairytale or gluttonous place for me, but, that doesn't mean it can't be for you. Best of luck out there. Don't forget your lunchbox. ;)