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Jean-Talon Market
7075 Casgrain Ave, Tel. 277-1379
Metro De Castelnau/Jean-Talon
Click photos for larger images
Atwater market gets the plaudits. Ooh, the produce is so fresh and the merchants so trendy. Jean-Talon Market has seemed to take on the role of the slightly dowdy, older cousin that doesn't have Atwater's flair and panache. No more.

If you haven't been to the Marché Jean-Talon in a while or, as with most of the crowd, you seldom make it farther than the first couple of rows of market stalls, you may have missed the upscale trendiness that is happening in this part of town.

First note that the Jean-Talon Market is in the geographic centre of the city. Next that it is adjacent to Little Italy which has accrued several outstanding restaurants in the last few years while still giving us that solid 1950ish old Italian style in places like Milano and Café Italia, which still has the best coffee in the city. Why any place else charges more than $1.50 for a cappuccino is beyond me. But that's another story.

The Jean-Talon market is a couple of short blocks east of the intersection of Jean-Talon and St-Laurent. By metro, the Jean-Talon station is closest.

The market is a half block south of Jean-Talon. The northern periphery consists mostly of Sami fruit stands. Look here for imported fruit. There is also a good cheese store and a couple of Italian restaurants. The south side has the trendier action and it starts at the south east corner with Dima, an upscale en vrac (load it up from the bins) food importer at the corner of Henri Julien and Place du marché du nord. Dima also has a shop at the de Maisonneuve market in the east end of the city. This store stocks well known brands and it is a good one stop shopping depot if you are digging through several cuisines. I noted Patak chutneys, La Costeña brand of Latin canned foods, good balsamic vinegar, Valhrona Chocolate, an olive bar, pastas, coffee, teas, and spices. if you are looking for something that may be hard to find, call first (514-274-3962).

Le marché des saveurs du Québec (514-271-3811) is next to Dima. This is a concept we have really needed: one store devoted to Quebec produce and this one is a winner. It is run by the Drouin family and Isabelle Drouin is usually on hand to answer questions. This is a superb place for hard-to-find delicacies by local farmers—locally smoked ham, maple syrup ice wine, mussels from les Îles de Madelaines, chaput goat milk cheese, and a full range of beers from local microbreweries. The store is gorgeous, the packaging giftable right of the shelf. 

Moving westward along the row are two coffee roasters, Louis which has the best quality fruit and vegetables in town (don't take my word—ask the chef at your favourite restaurant), an excellent butcher, a bakery, and a sausage store with a grill outside the door.
There is a superb gourmet grocery store called Boucherie du Marché, with an outdoor crêpe stand on the weekends which should stay open until the weather gets too cold. Turning the corner, is Joe et Basile at 152 Mozart East which is a butcher shop with lots of extras. There is great Italian antipasti, a good selection of cheese, regular olive oil tastings, and freshly made pizza and sausage ready for quick al fresco munching. Their prices tend to be a notch lower than those stores right at the market.
Parking is a pain. We try to get their early (before 9 AM) when there is usually room on site; otherwise, check out the side streets and consider parking a block or two away.

Then there is the market itself. It is a cornucopia and needs at least an hour of strolling to take everything in. At some point we may do a stand by stand assessment but that is not the goal of this report. The dowdy cousin has a new set of threads and is pretty perky. As we step into the fall harvest, this is the place to be. -
Barry Lazar

Note from Lesley Chesterman, food critic at the Gazette:

The big thing about Chez Louis is that all the best stuff is in the back. You have to ask for it. It's also one of the only places where you can find the produce of Pierre-Andre Daignault, Normand Laprise and other top chefs' organic farmer. You'll see his red and yellow carrots, salsify, Jerusalem artichokes, Chinese artichokes and in the summer mizuna and other greens. Chez Louis is a great place (it's near the Pain Doré) and the people are really friendly.

Also at the JT market: a great store called Capitol. Capitol has first-rate Italian stuff including imported buffalo ricotta, and a new store featuring only Quebec products which sells Quebec cheese for less than the great store Hamel.

I love both markets but the Jean-Talon is my favourite. It's a bit more gritty, far more interesting in the summer and there's a ethnic scene there that I don't get at Atwater.

(Nick again:) Poissonerie Shamrock is great. The first thing that strikes you when you walk in is that you don’t smell fish. There are five or six kinds of shrimp. You can get a hansdome pound of Thai shrimp for a mere $18.99—that’s about 40 shrimp, legs and tails still on. Are these inferior to those ones, that look basically the same, but cost eight bucks more a pound?

“They’re all good,” explains the counterman. “As a salesman, I’m supposed to sell you the more expensive ones from Ecuador, but basically it’s a matter of AA, AAA and AAA+.”

How long have they been around? “About 40 years.” That'd be the store, not the shrimp.

There’s a live lobster tank and a live escargot tank. There’s sushi available at the counter. Everything is clean, on ice and ultra-fresh, at prices considerably lower than other Montreal-area fishmarkets.

Javier the register man is from Acapulco. “But I left my heart in San Francisco,” he says conspiratorially.-
Nicholas Robinson
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