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With its modern take on rustic Italian dishes, Nora Gray, which opened in 2011, exemplifies new Montreal dining. (Photo: Nora Gray).

Thinking of Montreal’s cuisine brings to mind plates piled high with saucy meat, and that infamous late-night cheese-and-potato mess, poutine. While those heavy dishes do fare well in bone-chilling weather, summertime is the perfect opportunity to experience the lighter side of Montreal dining and the bounty of organically grown asparagus, mushrooms and strawberries from Quebec’s countryside. Montreal is also a city of fantastic patios and gardens — the locals know how to maximize the few months of warm weather they get. Here are a few places that are particularly lively in the summer months, when, depending on where you decide to spend the evening, you could mistake the setting for a Paris bar-à-vins or a New Brooklyn bistro. But the ingredients will show off Eastern Canada’s excellent soil and farming culture, and the atmosphere will remind you that you’re in a city where people like to party.

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Fresh oysters are just one of the many delectable finds at Marché Jean-Talon. (Photo: Rachel Signer.)

Marché Jean-Talon
You could come every day to this sprawling market and never tire of the various fromageries, butchers, produce vendors and foragers representing the best of Quebecois terroir. But you’d be remiss if you didn’t also treat yourself to a light meal while shopping at the Marché. Choose from a selection of the saltiest, freshest, briniest oysters you’ve ever had, or fried calamari that tastes like it jumped out of the sea a few hours ago. And then keep walking — there’s more: charcuterie, a Middle Eastern purveyor offering pastries savory and sweet, grilled sandwiches made with amazing local raw milk cheeses. If you have access to a kitchen during your stay, give yourself the opportunity to shop at Jean-Talon so you can taste Quebecois produce at its most flavorful: Three varieties of asparagus, crunchy purple radishes and tiny juicy strawberries are highlights in the height of summer. 7070 Avenue Henri-Julien, Montreal, QC H2S 3S3, 514-937-7754; marchespublics-mtl.com/marches/jean-talon

Le Petit Alep
Meet friends here to share a plentiful Syrian-Armenian mezze featuring house-made dips and scrumptious falafel sandwiches on the patio of Petit Alep, the sister restaurant to more robust Alep. The wine list is impressive enough to please the nerdiest drinkers (even that stalwart of “unicorn wines,” a Jura white by Pierre Overnoy, is on the list) and has a low markup, too. Everything here is fresh and light, and the mood is perfectly casual. Try a lunch here on the sunny patio along a quiet street, before a long stroll through the city or shopping in the nearby Jean-Talon market. 191 Rue Jean-Talon East, Montreal, QC H2R 1S8, 514-270-9361; petitalep.com/EN/

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Socca (chickpea flatbread) with crushed tomatoes at Le Vin Papillon

Le Vin Papillon
The food and wine menus are written on chalkboard at this wine-centric, chic sister restaurant of Joe Beef, which is on the same block and globally reputed for its indulgent “foie gras double down.” But at Vin Papillon, the chalkboard isn’t even necessary for ordering. The servers here are so knowledgeable that you can just tell them how hungry you are and what you’re in the mood for, and they will take charge of providing you with the feast of your life. Compared to the rich and hearty foods at Joe Beef, Vin Papillon offers shared plates highlighting seasonal bounty, like zucchini flower tempura that comes with a creamy fish-based sauce; smoked sea urchin in the shell; thinly shaved ham alongside hard, salty cheese; asparagus right off the backyard grill. Speaking of that backyard, it’s a true scene in the summer, with local revelers mingling with visitors from afar. They have come to enjoy the hospitality of partner Vanya Filipovic, a strong proponent of natural wines who knows how to make guests feel truly at home (and keep their glasses full). This is the place to stay late, drinking wine and nibbling cheese. For the adventurous eater, there even may be horse tartare, depending on when you come. 2519 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal, QC H3J 1N6, vinpapillon.com

Nora Gray
Come for the impressive array of natural, Old World wines, stay for the beautiful handmade pasta and modern interpretations of rustic Italian dishes. It’s a cozy place, with modern decor, low lighting and slow-paced service perfect for dates. With walnut-stuffed rabbit, deep-fried ricotta balls and pork trotter with farro on the menu, Nora Gray’s is not an entirely light meal. But the restaurant, which opened in 2011, has earned a reputation for being exemplary of new Montreal dining and tops in food and service alike. Oh, and the cocktails are proper. 1391 Rue St-Jacques, Montreal, QC H3C 4J4, 514-419-6672; noragray.com

Au Pied de Cochon
If you’re feeling up to a spread of pigs’ heads and foie gras in various forms, including foie gras poutine, then grab a spot near the open windows on a warm evening for a classic Montreal cuisine experience. Located in the heart of the trendy and picturesque Plateau neighborhood, surrounded by humdrum restaurants beckoning you to “apportez votre vin” (BYOB), Au Pied du Cochon provides the ultimate indulgence, including about nine different ways of serving foie gras and double that many ways of presenting pig — and the restaurant also brews its own beer. 536 Avenue Duluth East, Montreal, QC H2L 1A9, 514-281-1114; aupieddecochon.ca

Reservoir
Of all the random things you might encounter in Montreal, a vegetarian brasserie is probably one of the least expected. But there is one: Reservoir, a gastropub located just a few blocks away from Au Pied du Cochon in the Plateau. Along with its house-made beer, Reservoir offers various Canadian brews and an array of creative small plates. By night, enjoy beers on the rooftop; by day, enjoy brunch on the rooftop. Either way, finish up with some sweet and crusty petit beignets. And if you’re worried you couldn’t stand to make it through your trip to meat-heavy Montreal without a kale salad, fret not; you can have one at Reservoir. 9 Avenue Duluth East, Montreal, QC H2W 1G7, 514-849-7779; brasseriereservoir.ca