Being a cosmopolitan city that’s fairly big, there are few things that Montreal does not have. Pointedly, one thing it’s missing is casual street food. Actually, from 1947 through 2013, there was NO street food of any kind in Montreal thanks to a street food ban enacted to reduce litter and to protect restaurants from unfair competition. Of course, Montreal being Montreal, we went from having no food trucks to having multiple food truck festivals, including one called First Fridays, the biggest gathering of food trucks in the province of Quebec.
Go big or go home, eh? 🙂
So, what is First Fridays? Well, during the summer months, the first Friday of every month features a gathering of food trucks at the Olympic Stadium for food-lovers to visit and nosh from.
Something else to note about Montreal food trucks: They’re fancy. You’ll certainly still find burgers and fries and other things commonly associated with food trucks, but the city made sure that their food trucks have higher-end fare. In fact, even the aforementioned burgers and fries are more “refined” or at least more unique.
And then there are things like chicken schnitzel, organic alcoholic beverages, and steak tartare.
Having gone to a few First Fridays (and likely to go to more even still), we have some thoughts and tips to share with you all.
Our thoughts about First Fridays
First Fridays has a real carnival atmosphere about it. From the moment you approach the Olympic Stadium by car, public transit, or foot, you’ll see and hear the unmistakable sounds of a huge gathering of people (also, pro tip: Don’t drive there if you can help it! Finding parking during this event is akin to discovering lost treasure).
Crowds of people are milled about from the entrance of the venue, and all end up in long, long lineups to get… well, basically, anything. As it turns out, there’s usually about 20,000 people who visit First Friday, and we swear that you will feel the presence of every. Last. One. Of. These. People.
Don’t get us wrong – that’s not a bad thing. However, if you’re hungry, you may find yourself at least slightly restless from the seemingly endless lineups or the sparse space in which you can sit down to eat the food that you waited so long to get.
That said, it’s worth it for the food discoveries that you can make. We’ve found restaurants here that we would have just about never found otherwise. And believe us when we say that we will be visiting them!
Standout food trucks whose restaurants we’ll visit:
- CRémy Pâtisserie
- Traiteur Belgo
- Le Casse-Glace
- Grumman’s 78
- Route 27
Every last one of these food trucks had food that were real standouts. They had food whose flavours were unexpectedly interesting or ingredients and preparation that were just a cut above. They enticed our taste buds, and merit our repeat business 😀 .
Our top 5 tips for First Fridays
1. Come in a small group and then divide and conquer!
If you’re here by yourself, you’re going to wait a loooooong time to get even one or two things (unless you go for broke and order a ton of food at your very first pit stop). Our advice is that you come in a group of four or six, and then divvy yourselves up to grab food from five different trucks while one of you holds down a table. This way, you’ll be able to taste a whole host of different delights in a much shorter time than you would were you just one or two people.
2. Come either really early or really late to avoid lines.
One of the things we’ve discovered is that getting there around supper time (i.e., 5:30pm through 7:30pm) is going to guarantee lineups that are even longer than expected. By contrast, if you’re among the first, you’ll beat the rush (kinda). Alternately, if you come about 90 minutes to an hour before closing (i.e., 9:30pm-10pm), you’ll practically have the run of the place to yourselves. The only downside of arriving late is that some of the food trucks will be completely sold out. But hey, with over 40 food trucks, you’ll still be sure to find things that’ll tickle your fancy!
3. Bring your own hand sanitizer and napkins.
The food truck festival does provide facilities with which to wash and clean your hands. There’s only one problem: The water tanks that feed these facilities run out fast.
4. Take public transit if you can help it.
We’ve taken our car here once. Aaaaand that’s it. We’ll never do that again. Ever.
Not only did we have a super hard time finding parking, it was then next to impossible to find our car again when all was said and done. Seriously – finding a spot entailed many, many, many false starts. We’d park, and then discover we weren’t allowed to park at that spot. We repeated that cycle at least five times. When we finally did find a spot, it was in a hidden corner 15 minutes away by foot. And then, when we tried to find the car again, it took us a solid 45 minutes of trudging from street to street to street before we found the car.
Honestly, unless what we just described sounded like fun, don’t drive here!
Finally, given the sheer volume of people that attend, we can’t emphasize enough that you should prioritize getting food from the food trucks you want to try first. Items can and do sell out quickly, and it’s happened to us a few times where we thought we could wait for a particular dish only to have that dish disappear in the time it took us to turn around. Honestly, when you see something you like, seize the day! Well, the food, at any rate 😛 .
Some final thoughts
We went some long years without food trucks, and even now, it’s a bit unfortunate how limited they are in availability and choice. It’s all the more reason to check out Montreal food trucks when they’re around. We’ll certainly be doing that!
To help you out, here are the remaining dates this year for which there’ll be a First Friday event at the Olympic Stadium:
- September 7
- October 5
And if that’s not enough, you can use this handy dandy site to look for the food trucks roaming Montreal for the rest of the year. Enjoy! We know we will 🙂 .
How to find First Friday (Esplanade Financière Sun Life)
Phone: (514) 252-4141