Universel Déjeuners et Grillades (Montreal, QC)

(Update: Universel Déjeuners’ location on St-Denis the I review had a bad fire in March 2018 and closed permanently. However, their locations on Rue Peel and Ste-Catherine downtown remain open as of January 2022)

As I mentioned several times, one of our annual traditions is to get together with friends, find a random city with decent walking routes and good food, and hike about 20 miles across the city, eating and drinking as we go. We call it a “Death March”. This year was our first “international” one, in Montreal, picked because it’s familiarity to us (we go to Montreal at least once a year), ease of travel, and the rather impressive array of restaurants, bars, and cocktail clubs available across the city. We also (not completely by accident) managed to book our trip to coincide with Mondial de la Biere, the Montreal beer festival.

But like any of our Death Marches, about half of the eating and drinking happened on the days before and after the march. And thus, after settling into our hotel (the very eclectic, but affordable, Hotel Kutuma, complete with zebra-print sheets, and rich smells wafting up from the Ethiopian place on the ground floor), we set out in search of a great breakfast, settling on the nearby plateau location of Universel Déjeuners et Grillades (one of two in the city, the other on Rue Peel down by McGill).

One of the things that Montreal does quite well is “breakfast”, and they’ve got a bit of their own take on it. Overall, the breakfast tradition here is a lot like the American diner fare: large breakfasts laden with piles of eggs, home fries, and the like. With more than a few nods towards local tradition (it’s rather hard to find a breakfast joint that doesn’t have “smoked meat” and maple syrup (err, “sirop d’erable”) featured on the menu), as well as a few nods towards the French heritage like crêpes.

Indeed, the last of these is one of the things that Universel is well known for: good, affordable crêpes served up with a variety of toppings. And the other thing they are well known for is fruit smoothies, indeed, one of the ever-present sights at Universel is someone chopping up fruit to go into the blender. So that’s what we ordered. Me, I decided to indulge in my sweet tooth and get a crêpe with banana and chocolate, served up with a smoothie of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries, while Carol went more savory with a crêpe with apple, cheese, and bacon.

For my crêpe, I was quite pleased: the crepe itself was well made, having just that right combination of toothsome texture but crisp edges, wrapped around a very ample filling of chocolate sauce and bananas, cooked just to the point of the bananas being cold (I love bananas in a crêpe, but hate when the pleasant warmth of a fresh crêpe is interrupted by cold chunks of banana). Add in a quite refreshing and not overly-sweet smoothie, and it was a pleasant breakfast.

Carol, meanwhile, scored quite well with her breakfast: the crêpe with apple, cheese, and bacon was quite a nice open-style construction of a savory crêpe topped with an thick layer of cheese layered with apple and crisp bacon. Even better: as a “savory” breakfast, it was served up with some most excellent home fries. We’ll definitely call this combination a winner as well.

Overall, I’m happy to add Universel as another great breakfast option in the Plateau, especially if I end up staying down the street at Kutuma again.

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