The Jean Talon Market opened in 1933, and remains one of the largest public markets in North America. Though it’s partially an open air market, part of the market is indoors so that it can be open all year round. Other shops like La Fromagerie Hamel and William J. Walter Saucissier surround the main complex of the market but still contribute to its charm. A typical Montreal debate is which is better, the Jean Talon Market or the Atwater Market, but our heart belongs to the Jean Talon Market. Sorry folks!
Its peak months are from May to October, vendors from all around Quebec can be found selling their wares; it’s a public market with a lot of character. Susan Semenak, a food and lifestyle writer for the Montreal Gazette, wrote and compiled, Market chronicles: Stories & recipes from Montreal’s Marché Jean-Talon. If you’re interested in the history and stories from the market check it out. It’s both a cookbook with a splash of Montreal history. But this post is about our personal experiences at the Jean Talon Market, our favourite stalls, and why we love it so much.
The Jean Talon Market is where you go to buy fresh chicken eggs but you leave with goose, quail and duck eggs. Perhaps it’s the rustic ambiance that makes you want to experiment in your kitchen, perhaps the tantalizing eggs simply look appetizing, or perhaps you’re just a curious cook. When you go to a stall or enter a kiosk at the Jean Talon Market you meet the farmer, butcher, fisherman or simply an expert in what’s being sold. You’re advised on the freshest fish for a tartare, or the tendered meat for a stew. As Susan Semenak said: “Our roads might be crumbling, but we have fabulous restaurants and we love to eat in them.” That’s the essence of life as a Montrealer.
If you follow the Montreal Food Divas on social media or read our posts, you know that we absolutely love La Boîte aux Huîtres. This specialty oyster booth is located in Poisonnerie Aqua Mare, in the Jean Talon Market, during the winter months, but it has its own outdoor kiosk in the late spring until early fall. Talk to the guys at the booth, they’ll not only help you choose oysters based on your taste, but also recommend new varieties that you have never tasted.
You can take your oysters to go and shuck them at home, or you can have them shucked for you and enjoy them at their oyster bar with varied mignonettes. We just can’t get enough of La Boîte aux Huîtres, all summer long we keep returning to the market for a light oyster snack. Click HERE for our review of our favourite booth in the market!
The Jean Talon Market has all sorts of little kiosks filled with treats, a favourite of ours is the Portuguese natas booth that is bursting with rows of the most delicious natas. The place doesn’t even have a sign but the natas are always fresh and we like to eat them before dinner. Now that we’re adults we get to choose when to eat dessert 😉
Another favourite spot in the market is Le Tartarin which is THE spot for the best vegetable samosas. We can’t get enough of these spicy and packed samosas in the crispiest shell. They are vegan and baked in the oven instead of fried. They aren’t greasy at all! Served warm, they are the perfect snack to take on the go while you shop around the market. We love Indian food and we can’t resist a samosa from Le Tartarin.
What’s absolutely amazing about the Jean Talon Market is that it embodies Montreal culture, it’s a very ethnic market with many authentic shops. Fine little markets and shops are opening up all over Montreal with specialty ingredients in fancy jars with shiny labels, but the Jean Talon Market brings you back to your roots. The market isn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing, instead it’s rustic and charming, and it hasn’t changed much over the years.
At the Jean Talon Market, it is often the farmers themselves selling their wares at their respective kiosks. It isn’t about selling via 21st century marketing technique, but rather authenticity. A lot of the fruits and vegetable stalls even allow you to taste their produce before committing to buying them. This is the home of heirloom carrots, Quebec strawberries, colourful cauliflowers, and more.
Délices D’Asie is so authentic that their sign is written on a poster board that you would use to present a project in high school. Rows of fried imperial rolls and the freshest spring rolls are offered as a tantalizing option. We love their spring rolls stuffed with noodles, lettuce and coriander, and wrapped with rice paper; they are so fresh. You can have your rolls stuffed with mango or avocado, but we adore the rolls stuffed with shrimp.
Délices D’Asie specifies that they don’t use MSG, which bodes well with the natural fresh farmer’s market atmosphere of the Jean Talon Market. Anne Le owns and operates the stall, her story is also told in Market chronicles: Stories & recipes from Montreal’s Marché Jean-Talon, along with many others. As you walk around the market you see specialty stores that sell spices, butchers, cheese shops, and more. Each stall is not a one-stop-shop, the entire market is your stop and each stall offers specialized wares.
Les Pops is a fun kiosk in the Jean Talon Market, they sell homemade popsicles in varied flavours with all natural ingredients. We fell in love with strawberry mint, but there was also mango with coconut milk and coconut flakes, strawberry mango, pineapple basil, etc. It’s the perfect refreshing treat in the summer, and who doesn’t like refreshing gourmet popsicles?
Qui Lait Cru? Fromagerie is a cheese shop that also sells a variety of sandwiches like a beer grilled cheese made with potent cheeses. They have a panini press waiting to grill your sandwiches so that your cheese is perfectly melted and decadent. It’s nice getting your sandwich from a cheese shop so that you can stray away from the usual cheddar and Swiss cheeses that you find in sandwiches. The Jean Talon Market is a cheese lover’s paradise!
Our favourite sandwich from Qui Lait Cru? Fromagerie was the Junior. Fig bread hugged the gouda fin renard cheese, and the gruyère with ham. Certainly not your typical ham and cheese sandwich. The gouda fin renard had a slight hazelnut flavour that complimented the gruyère cheese rather well.
The Jean Talon Market has plenty of stalls within the market but also shops surrounding the market that are still part of its culture and spirit. William J. Walter Saucissier is one of those places. This butcher shop specializes in sausages. Though Boucherie Prince Noir is the most popular butcher shop in the Jean Talon Market, William J. Walter Saucissier is known for its gourmet sausages and its outdoor grill in the summer months.
We love going there for a sausage sandwich with plenty of sauerkraut and a pickle of course! William J. Walter Saucissier is a Quebecois family owned business specializing in gourmet sausages that range from fresh or smoked, made from a variety of meats and other ingredients. You can get your usual sausages, or combinations that you have never even heard of. Definitely worth a visit!
Other favourite Jean Talon Market stores include the Canards Lac Brome duck shop with rows of duck meat prepared in various ways. You can buy everything from a whole duck to duck wings, rendered duck fat, to BBQ Hickory boneless skin-on duck split breast, to duck stock etc. You can buy your duck meat raw to cook or just re-heat, and they have tons of pâté flavours. Canards Lac Brome is your go to stop to satisfy your duck needs. Definitely one of our favourite stops in the market!
La Fromagerie Hamel is our absolute favourite cheese shop in the Jean Talon Market. A cheese lovers paradise, we can shop in here for hours and spend tons of money because everything is absolutely delicious. So many variety of cheeses to choose from!!! During the holidays, La Fromagerie Hamel usually has a man cooking duck confit, in tons of glistening duck fat of course, with a massive cheesy potato purée next to it. He places them both in a takeout container for you to enjoy, and trust us, it’s an orgasm in your mouth!
Sure there are other markets in Montreal but the Jean Talon Market truly captures the ethnic essence of our city. Different cultures and farmers come together under this simple and non-commercial market. It isn’t fancy, it isn’t swanky… it’s simple, rustic and honest.
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