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Food

Montreal Campus Eats Throwdown, Part 1: McGill vs. Concordia

Posted by Amie / September 6, 2010

Montreal Campus Eats Throwdown: McGill vs. ConcordiaMontreal's two English-language Universities, McGill and Concordia, face-off in a battle of the best around-campus food and drink. Championing affordable, fairly healthy, vegetarian, student-friendly food are Lola Rosa for McGill and Burritoville for Concordia.

The Criteria
: Price, atmosphere, and food

And the overall winner is...

...Lola Rosa.

Price: A main dish at (example: burrito with rice and salad) will cost you $11 at Lola Rosa and $10 for the similarly sized combo of burrito (with rice inside) and a side salad at Burritoville. But quesadillas will cost you $11.50 at Burritoville and only $11 at Lola Rosa. So lets just call it even. Sure, these are both more expensive options than a shawarma plate from Basha or even a wrap and side from JavaU, but you're paying for both quality ingredients (often organic, generally very fresh) and the slightly more inviting atmospheres of the restaurants. It's also less expensive to use high quality vegetables than high quality meats, so these two vegetarian restaurants can give you better quality for your money than, say, the chicken or cow-based wraps from JavaU. At Lola Rosa you're also paying for table service, so you might end up coughing up a little more for a tip and good karma. Still, both places are a whole lot more affordable than all the pubs and restaurants on Crescent (such as Newtown) and de Maisonneuve that suck your non-existent funding like a leech.

Atmosphere: Lola Rosa's owner makes the atmosphere there. He has no idea who I am but I basically think he's about the best restaurant owner ever (see the comments section of this post). Good guy, down to earth, reasonable, professional, and efficient, but also laid back enough to create a relaxed vibe. You can tell he's in the business because he loves it. He respects every customer and I assume he respects every employee the same way. Burritoville has a more bohemian atmosphere. There's often an art exhibit on the main floor that stretches up to the second floor, and sometimes there's live music for your dining pleasure. The big difference is you can sit here with your laptop for hours, and at Lola Rosa you order at the table, so bring your manners and leave your laptop at home.

Food: Honestly I'm not really blown away by Lola Rosa's food, but I blame this on lactose-intolerance. When you skip the cheese on the burrito you miss out on a complete, savoury dimension of an otherwise hot and sticky mess. The really nice thing about Lola Rosa's menu is it tells you right there what's vegan, vegetarian or can be made vegan (unfortunately that usually just means leaving out the trouble-making ingredient, thus making the dish less complete, kind of like cutting off a pinky toe. You don't necessarily need that toe to live but it'll mess up your balance). Without cheese you don't really get the same experience out of Lola Rosa's nachos ($12, or $7 for half), lasagna ($12), polenta ($11 - cornmeal topped with ratatouille, cheese and salsa) or quesadillas ($11). Then there are the ragouts, the chili ($11) where more tomato takes over and runs amok without being tempered by cooling cheese. When mozzarella isn't involved, there's feta to pick up the torch, as it does in the tomato pie ($12) or the Tunisian ragout ($11) of cabbage, tomatoes (again), bulgur, chickpeas and roasted almonds.

At Burritoville you can replace the cheese with guacamole or sweet potato. The sweet potato fails miserably as a replacement since you need something savoury, not sweet to cut the tang of the tomatoes, but the guacamole does the trick, even if it is a little bland and gets lost in the garlic and chili of the burrito. If you're not vegan and you're just lactose-intolerant like me you might even be able to have the raw probiotic cheese that Burritoville uses. It really does make the meal better. Burritoville Three Bean TacoThe "original" taco and burrito at Burritoville is the best option since it's the only one whose refried-style beans have any flavour. The garlic jumps out but the salsas need some work. Despite the restaurant's mandate to use organic or locally produced foods, the tomatillo salsa is made from canned tomatillos (and fresh tomatillos are in season and amazing right now), and the pico de gallo medium-strength tomato salsa is a mix of canned and fresh tomatoes. Seems like price won out over core beliefs...

So the burrito at Burritoville is better than the burrito at Lola Rosa, but most of Lola Rosa's other options are better than the burritos at Burritoville. There are only a few options at Lola Rosa where you can get away from cheese and tomatoes (but that's a few more options than Burritoville). The curry ($11.50) is made with coconut milk, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, raisins, and chickpeas, and come winter it's the kind of thing you crave. In summer, however, you're better off sticking with the hemp burger ($11.50) where a patty of mostly tofu and hemp seeds gets slathered with barbecue sauce and melted brie, to give you sweet and spicy flavours from the sauce, and a melty, oozing, tongue-cooling cheese (not the same without it, unfortunately) on a surprisingly convincing patty. I'm really tough on meat-less burgers (for example, skip the $9.50 "veggie burger", the only thing not made in-house), but when you dress them up as pretty as the hemp burger it's hard not to like them. Kind of like dousing your broccoli in cheese sauce or pouring ketchup all over...well, everything.

I'm not the type to dance a jig over a salad, but Lola Rosa's ($11, or $7 for a worthy half salad) is maybe reel-worthy. Good quality, fresh romaine lettuce is the base for chickpeas, freshly grated carrots, a few pieces of green pepper, tons of green onion, pickled hot peppers (the only questionable addition), crisp purple cabbage, non-canned kalamata olives and two slices of freshly cut orange for garnish. Nothing was prepped hours in advance, which you could tell from the lack of wilting or browning edges. This was all well and good, but the salad dressing made the dish - maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and a delicious grainy dijon mustard. It's true, I'm a little obsessed with dijon, but the dressing wasn't too sweet, it wasn't too vinegar-y, and it wasn't too oily. You could taste it on every bite and for awhile I was convinced it was raspberry, that's how fruity the balsamic was. Maybe they should do more with balsamic and less with cheese. The sprout salad and quinoa salads at Burritoville are fine, but they're very much side dishes and aren't supposed to steal the burrito show.

Then there's dessert. Lola Rosa does have a vegan chocolate cake ($4) but it's dry and certainly not the best in the world. If you're not vegan or lactose-intolerant you're going to want to go with the key lime pie ($4.75), or the cheesecake ($4.75) if you like pineapple. Burritoville has some decent (not great, but just fine) ginger cookies and lemon cookies. They taste fresh and they'll maybe satisfy your sweet craving, but they won't give you the addictive sugar rush of Lola Rosa's apple crisp with vanilla ice cream ($4.25).

Lola Rosa definitely beats Burritoville in terms of an affordable and satisfying near-campus restaurant experience, but there are a few other things and places to keep in mind:

1. Burritoville delivers...by bike!
Le Frigo Vert Co-op2. For a really affordable and high quality take-out meal, le Frigo Vert is your best bet for vegetarian fare. This Concordia grocery co-op has a fridge section with organic Ethiopian injera and sweet potato cinnamon loaves from the Wassleton Farm (the same family that supplies McGill's Organic campus, now every Wednesday in Three Bares Park).Organic CampusLe Frigo Vert, open everyday instead of Organic Campus' once a week schedule, also offers samosas, vegan muffins, chocolate cake, raw coconut balls, under-seasoned noodle salads, Pousses-Vert prepared sprout salads (including tamari dressing), and tofu or bean wraps (not nearly as good as either Burritoville or Lola Rosa, but cheaper). Also the cheapest, freshly-ground peanut butter around and good prices on bulk dried fruit, nuts, and flours, and sometimes fresh apples, potatoes, garlic and a few other grocery items.
New Crudessence3. Last week a new Crudessence opened on MacKay Street, across from the Frigo Vert and next to Riz en Folie (north of Maissoneuve, south of Sherbrooke).
4. Riz en Folie is closed! It was the place to go for your choice of home-made, luscious rice pudding but now it only offers delivery every Wednesday to downtown Montreal and surrounding areas (free downtown on orders over $10), or you can find it at IGAs. It was like an ice cream shop but for rice pudding - chocolate mint, butterscotch, blueberry, vanilla, apple pie, peanut butter and jelly, etc.
La Patisserie Belge5. La Patisserie Belge on avenue du Parc north of Sherbrooke has been a McGill staple for simple sandwiches on freshly baked breads for a long time. It's not expensive and it's something you can make yourself at home for even less, but it's convenient.
Le Couffin Bio6. McGill boasts two organic grocery stores near campus - Le Couffin Bio on the corner of Parc and Sherbrooke, and Eden in the Galeries du Parc at Prince Arthur and Parc. Their prices aren't as good, though, since they're not co-ops. Marche Lobo is the store on Parc with the apples in the window in layers of what looks like half-egg containers. The door is barred and there's no sign, but it's open and that's the name. It's cheap and a bit sketchy as far as quality goes, but a lot of their prepared foods in the fridge section come from Chantilly Catering. You'll quickly become addicted to her tofu dijonaise, the perfect sandwich spread, dip or snack with pita bread, or her sundried tomato pasta salad. You can also get on Chantilly's "Secret List", a weekly menu of very affordable home-made soups salads, dips, mains and desserts from her kitchen on Milton by contacting her through her blog.
Cafe Myriade7. Cafe Myriade helps Concordia's to victory for best Campus coffee. It's not exactly on-campus, but at Mackay south of Maisonneuve you'll find the downtown core's best espresso (from 49th Parallel Roasters), latte art, siphon pot of $8 coffee, sipping chocolate from Soma chocolate in Toronto and some vegan muffins.
8. Never, never, never go to Kanda, either the Concordia one on Bishop or the McGill one on Ste-Catherine. Sushi, like sex, is about quality, not quantity. At least sex won't make you sick...well, give you food poisoning anyway. Protect your body and your wallet.
8. For Chinese dumplings, a very affordable option is Qing Hua, and for other surprisingly un-greasy Chinese fare check out La Maison du Nord.

Lola Rosa
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30am-9:30pm, Fri 11:30am-10pm, Sat noon-10pm, Sun noon-9:30pm
514-287-9337

Burritoville
Expect To Pay: $11-$15 including tax and tip
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-11pm
514-286-2776
Burritoville Menu

CycleBird Bike Courrier
(delivers from Burritoville and Crudessence)

Discussion

5 Comments

Mathieu Savard / September 7, 2010 at 09:36 am
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Yeah!! Go Myriad go!! Have the double espresso there.. I've had hard time finding better espresso then this. A big slap in the face (a good one) and an after feeling of drug-like high comes to you after this drink. And, it's pretty much on campus if you consider it's lodged right next to the EV building..
Eryn / September 8, 2010 at 07:44 pm
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At least at Burritoville they donate a portion of their sales to the less fortunate... and the owners aren't sleazebags that say derogatory things about the female clientele.
Jake / October 31, 2010 at 07:20 pm
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I find it hilarious that you compliment the service at Lola Rosa. I went there one the suggestion of friends and was greeted by a barrage of sales-pitching fromt he waiter who tried to give me the inside-scoop on what to order. He suggested the hot soup - not the cold - despite the sultry weather. Apparently, even the staff wouldn't go near the all-too-salty cold soup. I ordered it anyway, only ot be told he had just run out. Sensing a trend, I ordered precisely what the waiter (and owner, i Believe) suggested not to order (but which bulked up the menu?) and was not super-surprised to find that all the items were sold out. When I did finally order something he recommended (in order to eat), the food was lukewarm.
Never going back - to be avoided at all costs.
jnthfkvsvv / January 18, 2017 at 11:37 am
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Montreal Campus Eats Throwdown, Part 1: McGill vs. Concordia
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épargne retraite / September 11, 2017 at 07:22 pm
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Bonsoir. Ce post est pas mal du tout. je cherchais tout juste des informations sur
le sujet. Merci

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