All the Best Places to Eat Haitian Food in Montreal
In the summer of 2016, I drove up north from New York City with my parents, who are both Haitian and French-speaking, and a good friend to visit the francophone city of Montreal. One of our main objectives was to eat (and drink) well and plentifully, a goal I’m happy to say we accomplished with ease. The tone was set on our first night when we accidentally stumbled into the newly opened Agrikol, a hip and impressive Haitian restaurant in the Gay Village whose owners just happen to be the two founding members of the acclaimed Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire.
There we enjoyed modern interpretations of staple dishes I grew up eating, including accras, yummy fried malanga fritters, and griot, spicy, succulent fried pork, among other things. We also polished off a whole bottle of Barbancourt, Haiti’s best known rum, which makes it a little difficult to remember everything we ate. We went in hard! The experience was so amazing that I’ve wanted to take a deeper dive into the city’s Haitian food scene ever since.
While nose-to-tail dining and ultra-heavy Canadian comfort foods might get the most press, Montreal has an incredibly diverse culinary scene, reflecting local immigrant enclaves originally hailing from Central America, Northern Africa, Portugal, South and East Asia, and the Caribbean. Montreal’s Haitian community is a thriving population that grew significantly in the 1960s and 1970s, when many of Haiti’s elite (doctors, teachers, etc.) fled to the French-speaking city to escape François Duvalier’s infamous dictatorship. Today the Haitian population in the greater Montreal area rivals that of NYC and Miami. As a result, Haitian culture, and by extension food, has had a strong foothold in Montreal’s cultural identity.
Much like the Montreal food scene itself, Haitian cuisine is a great amalgamation of various cultures and influences, here namely French, West African, and Caribbean culinary traditions. In Montreal, Haitian food complements the bold and rich flavors in French Canadian cooking; you can also find fusion dishes you won’t get anywhere else, like griot poutine or a burger with fried plantain buns. In recent years, thanks to restaurants like Agrikol, it’s become quite the popular fare in Montreal, with new places popping up at a staggering rate.
Growing up in a Haitian household myself, Haitian food is by and large my go-to comfort food. My childhood was all about cooking and eating with my family, which meant consuming a healthy dose of bannann peze (plantains that are pressed and double-fried with a touch of lime and salt), rice and beans, stewed or fried meats, and a ridiculous (even dangerous) amount of Scotch bonnet peppers. In other words, I know a good griot when I see it. Recently, I spent a weekend in the French Canadian city, scouring the streets (and my Google maps) to find some of the most creative, inspiring, and noteworthy options of Haitian cookery in town. From local favorites like Méli-Mélo market, which has some of the best pork in the city, to hole-in-the-wall joints like Merson’s Patisserie, which offers up what may be the best Haitian beef patties I’ve ever tasted, here is just a modest sampling of where to eat Haitian food in Montreal.