McGill Plaza is a no-nonsense, traditional, casual restaurant that is the only one of its kind in the area. It's been around a long time, but its storefront is inconspicuous and it's easy to pass it by and not even realize it's there.
The generous entryway helps shield diners from the cold in winter. The fact that it's also the home of two bubblegum machines is a good clue as to the age and style of the restaurant. The front room has booth seating only. Tiffany style lamps hang in the windows. Simple tiles cover the floor. Two televisions show hockey and football. Flags hang from the ceiling. Hockey team pennants line the walls. Ornamented mirrors fill the space. McGill Plaza even has a refrigerated dessert case in the dining room and a display of chewing gum for sale.
The tables are topped with paper placemats that read "Bienvenue/Welcome", condiment packets, and small signs that look like place cards, but actually tell customers what the soups of the day are.
The traditional atmosphere that permeates the room is reinforced by the staff uniform of black pants, white button-down shirt, and black vest. The servers are friendly and efficient.
During the week McGill Plaza gets a good amount of business. When I visited on a Sunday at noon it was also hopping. The front room was nearly full. There were families with kids and people from the neighborhood. Three guys held tables alone, each reading a newspaper while eating a plate of breakfast food. Some tourists were sprinkled around, including a group of guys from New York who benefitted from the bilingualism of the staff.
Menu and food
The menu at McGill Plaza is nearly endless. It starts with soup and appetizers, continues with eggs and omelettes, and then dives into the heart of the line-up with sandwiches, burgers, souvlaki, smoked meat, pizza, chicken, Chinese dishes, and Italian dishes. There are also desserts, of course!
Each of the sections of the menu offers a plethora of choices. Take the appetizers, for instance, where you can choose from dishes like snails, fried mushrooms, tzatziki, garlic bread, and poutine.
McGill Plaza is a breakfast-all-day kind of place, so I went for a spinach omelette with Swiss cheese.
My dining partner went for a smoked meat sandwich with fries and coleslaw.
The food is simple. McGill Plaza is not exactly foodie heaven, but the overall quality is acceptable for the price and category of restaurant.
Should I pay a visit?
If you want handcrafted plates of local, organic food, or you tend to be drawn only to the newest, coolest places in town, McGill Plaza Restaurant is probably not for you. If, on the other hand, you want a break from that sort of thing, are interested in trying Montreal classics like smoked meat or poutine but don't want to go across town to get them, or don't want to pay an arm and a leg for lunch, you might consider giving it a try. McGill Plaza is unpretentious and honest.
488 McGill Street
Metro: Square Victoria
Dress: Very casual
Price: A mid-range hearty breakfast or lunch with beverage runs about $20 per person, including tax and tip.
Highlights: Simple diner food in an old time atmosphere.