We arrived in Montreal, greeted by a record breaking storm that pummeled the city with frigid, wafty white mountains of snow. Even for Quebecers, the footage of powder was insane. After nine seamless hours of slow cruising through the wintry Adirondacks from Connecticut, unpaved street after unpaved street thwarted us from reaching our cozy airbnb.com Mile End apartment. The blizzard had literally settled upon our arrival. On two occasions we spent an hour heaving the car to and fro. We were yelled at mercilessly by a plow truck, who we tempered with a box of chocolates. The Montrealers redeemed themselves when several boys and men emerged from their homes to add their weight and eventually, shovel and kick us into a parking spot by 11 p.m.

Miraculously, the apartment owner is a food critic, and had suggested an “upscale” diner around the corner.Nouveau Palais, you were our saving grace!

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Numb and starved, we tumbled over the snow to the nearest main drag, lost without iPhones or Lonely Planet maps. We asked several passersby for the discrete diner; no one had a clue where it was. We erupted in hysterics to discover that we were standing right in front of the bedraggled, glowing sign, and nearly fell over ourselves running inside.

The host greeted us with the most welcoming smile, and sat us in a nondescript booth. The walls were covered in fake wood panels, and a stuffed fox perched in the corner of the ceiling. Hipsters crowded into benches near us, huddled over a pint of beer. Everything about the diner was, well, a shabby diner. Except the menu. WOW. What a menu!

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We tucked into McAuslan ales on draft, foi gras with toast and the most delicious burgers I have ever noshed on in my life. Yes. True story. The suspected secret: a bun lathered in butter. The coleslaw was divine and fresh – no hint of mayo here. The fries insanely delicious! Bobby’s lamb and vegetable stew was warm and tender, with a toasted biscuit to mop up the broth. Our server tried hard to seal our dinner with a sweet potato pie or milk and cookies, but after two ales and a full plate each, we were drifting off to sleep at the table. Nouveau Palais, we’ll be back!

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