Here's what finally going to Joe Beef was like as a lifelong Montrealer

Sep 27 2022, 8:34 pm

Since opening its doors in 2005, Joe Beef has become a gastronomical landmark. Not just in Montreal but in Canada at large.

With their revolutionary style, unique approach to country cooking and Anthony Bourdain’s seal of approval, they’ve expanded to the realm of international expertise and acclaim.

As a lifelong Montreal — who now writes about the city for a living — I had never eaten at the renowned Little Burgundy restaurant, until fairly recently. Firstly because getting reservations has always been notoriously difficult. And primarily because it is, by no means, cheap.

My lobster spaghetti virginity was finally lost, though, when a group of friends and I decided to spoil ourselves in celebratory fashion. And rather than throwing money in the garbage casino’s slot machines, we decided we wanted to have the meal of a lifetime. Once Joe Beef was suggested, there was no looking back.

The only question that remained was whether it was worth the hype.


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A reservation for five was surprisingly easy to get. We booked a table a mere 48 hours before, probably a stroke of luck due to a last-minute cancellation. Sure, it was a weeknight, but the tastefully decorated vintage dining room was full nonetheless.

Once we arrived, we agreed to go all out. Shutting the menu, we turned our eyes away from the list of specials hand-written on the chalkboard and asked the staff to give us the full experience. And boy did we get it. Preparing to fork over an arm and a leg, what followed was one of the most decadent and gluttonous meals I’ve ever had.

Standouts from the French steakhouse’s ever-changing and locally sourced menu include the following must-have appetizers: calf’s brain served with foie gras, Canadian-farmed oysters, and a delicate salmon and cucumber salad. This was followed, of course, by their famous lobster spaghetti — which at $70 a plate — is as rich in flavour as it is in price.

Our family-style meal included a massive piece of steak in a sweet, heavenly gravy and seasonal vegetable sides (sauteed mushrooms and corn on the cob), all of which were paired with the perfect French wine, the server’s suggestion.

Dessert didn’t disappoint either. The boys and I shared pieces of apple tart and their famous layer cake, known as the Marjolaine Classique. This was, of course topped off with an appropriately boozy digestivo.

We left full, happy, and without regret.

As for my question of whether the institution still lives up to its massive hype, my answer is yes. Obviously, the steep price is reason enough to be hesitant. But if you put things into perspective, skipping out on three or four outings a year is worth saving up for the Joe Beef experience.

But if you’re going to go all out, get ready to lose track of calories and the price of the bill.

Al SciolaAl Sciola

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