What to expect at the new gourmet food courts in downtown Montreal

Take your pick: braised pork jowl risotto, popcorn turbot tacos, pulled duck coleslaw — the list of unusual and enticing options goes on and on. 

Starting today, Montrealers have a new downtown option in lieu of sad pad thai and other more typical food-court fare: Time Out Market is open for business in the Eaton Centre. 

The food market has recruited some of the city's most popular chefs to its 40,000-square-foot space, seen as key to the shopping mall's overhaul by the developer, Ivanhoé Cambridge.

The culinary lineup includes Le Club Chasse et Pêche, Olive et Gourmando, Foxy, Le Red Tiger and Grumman '78.

"It's not like a food court at all. You have a good ambiance," Paul Toussaint, chef at Agrikol, a popular Haitian restaurant in the Gay Village, said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"Everything is fresh," Toussaint said.

He said the new food court is a positive for local chefs, as it offers a low-risk access to a new market and brings high-end food to more people. Plates run from about $9 to $22.

Time Out, which started as a cultural magazine, has opened similar markets in Lisbon, Miami, New York and Boston.

The company's CEO, Didier Souillat, said the goal is to make "fine dining casual, and casual extraordinary."

It is one of three high-end food markets set to open in the centre of the city.

Another, Le Cathcart Restaurants et Biergarten, is planned for Place Ville Marie, while a third, Le Central, recently opened at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Ste-Catherine streets.

Dan Pham, owner of Red Tiger and Kahme, which has a stall in Le Central, likened the new projects to a "food court on steroids" — in a good way.

He said the new spots are especially good for families with young kids, who have room to move in such a big space.

A boost for the area

Some merchants along Ste-Catherine Street are hopeful that an upscale food hall in the district will draw more foot traffic to the area, after construction along the strip kept away shoppers and diners all summer.

"For Montrealers and the tourists, it's another reason to come downtown, even if there is a construction site," said Emile Roux, executive director of Destination Centre-Ville, the downtown merchants' association.

CBC

"I think this is a super-nice place," said Sophie Ray, a student who stopped by the market's opening event Thursday.

"The prices are relatively high. It's as if you are going to a restaurant, but there's such a unique atmosphere," she said.

Construction along the nearby section of Ste-Catherine Street is supposed to be done by 2021.

Time Out in the Eaton Centre won't close until 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and at midnight, from Thursday through Saturday. It will be open for breakfast, starting at 8 a.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. on weekends.