10 Plateau Mont-Royal Essentials
Montreal’s coolest neighborhood is also it’s most sought-after; as a kind of love child of Brooklyn, Shoreditch, and Sodermälm, Plateau Mont-Royal is inherently hip and has been setting trends for well over two decades now. Quirky shops, colorful buildings with twirling iron staircases, and third-wave coffee shops are among Plateau Mont-Royal’s most popular things to do, as are having picnics in Parc Laurier and designer shopping on Montreal’s iconic Boulevard Saint-Laurent.
1012 Avenue du Mont-Royal Est
You know how they say that Montreal is a happy mixture of North America and Europe? Well, if there’s one place in the city that’s truly unique, and not influenced by any other colony, it’s Plateau Mont-Royal. Located just a few minutes north of downtown, this neighborhood is lively, colorful, and somewhat eclectic. Here young families, hipsters, and fancy folk mingle together in harmony. In this iconic area you will find everything you need—from French bistros, typical French-Canadian brunch joints, clothing stores, and fine groceries. Nothing is expensive as such, but restraint is in order, because absolutely everything is enthralling!
312 R. du Square-Saint-Louis, Montréal, QC H2X 1A5, Canada
The Carré Saint-Louis (also known as St. Louis Square) is one of Montréal’s most important literary streetscapes. Famed Québecois poets Émile Nelligan and Gaston Miron called this home. Brightly painted Victorian/Second Empire graystone rowhouses line the square—one of the best leafy spaces in the city. (It’s been called “the closest thing to a European neighborhood square you’ll find this side of the Atlantic” by the Project for Public Spaces.) A few blocks away is the fabled Schwartz’s Deli. Grab a “smoked meat” to go, then come here to chow down by the fountain, surrounded by trees and 19th-century façades. (The nearest subway is Sherbrooke station on the Orange Line.)
1300 Avenue Laurier E, Montréal, QC H2J 1H3, Canada
This place is nothing short of a local institution. Bo-Bec has served countless cones and ice cream sandwiches since it opened in the late 1980s, but the owner never changed the warm, genuine smile he offers every customer who walks in. And that makes all the difference. Bo-Bec doesn’t serve just any ice cream. Everything is handmade, and about half of the flavors available at the counter are original concoctions, be it maple nougat or rose water strawberry. They even have vegan ice cream! The perfect spot for a post-dinner treat or to take away and eat in the massive park around the corner.
Avenue Laurier Est
If you only have a day in the city, go to Mont-Royal park for the views. But if you have more time, I strongly suggest you also visit Laurier Park, just a stone throw’s from Laurier metro station. It’s the park Montrealers enjoy the most. Mature trees, beautiful architecture in the surrounding streets and tons of take-away restaurants nearby (not to mention free wifi) make this park incredibly popular from early March to late November, from the first to the last rays of warm sunlight. It really is a great place for a picnic, for a tanning session or even an impromptu volleyball game.
112 Avenue du Mont-Royal E, Montréal, QC H2T 1N8, Canada
We all know the 21st century hasn’t been very kind to the music industry as of yet. But that doesn’t stop À Paul Boutique from being quite successful, although I suspect people go more for the interaction with the exuberant owner and the cute shop rather than the music itself. But that’s simply details. The thing is this: a visit to À Paul Boutique is guaranteed to be a memorable one. Between the constant babbling of Paul and the 20,000 records in the shops, it’s pretty much impossible to be bored. The shop specializes in rare and vintage vinyl, with a heavy focus on hip-hop and old school 45s, and is pretty much a crate digger’s dream. With a name like that—Beastie Boys, anyone?—it’s not that surprising, I guess.
1266 Avenue du Mont-Royal E, Montréal, QC H2J 1Y4, Canada
People who haven’t heard of macarons by now probably live under a rock. Not just yet another French dessert to travel across the pond, macarons are a delightful bite-size sandwich-like treat, with a thin, crusty envelope and a flush, jam-like center. Nothing can boast rivaling with macarons, who knows no equal but perhaps the delicious guilty pleasure they offer. At Le Point G (literally, the G spot, I swear I am not making this up—although the owner, Julien, affirms that the G stands for glutton and nothing else), 22 heaven-sent flavors ranging from the classic pistachio, to the regional maple syrup and the surprising apricot-black tea never cease to amaze visitors, regulars included. A great little spot for a macaron tasting session to take away and eat in one of the nearby parks. Good to know: all macarons are gluten-free.
1045 Mount Royal Avenue East
Chez Baptiste has been open since 1922 and although it recently underwent a rejuvenating identiity change, it still holds that old-world mystique that only places this old can have. Times have changed. Fashion has changed. Residents have changed. And the people to go into Baptiste too. Especially those who are hockey fans -- hockey players are now paid millions, and they even wear a mask. To think of how different things were when Baptiste open is mind-boggling. But one thing I’m certain is that the staff still serve the finest brews with the same sincere smile at their predecessor. Often described as a “best friends hangout”, the watering hole is mostly frequented by regulars, groups of friends that simply want to grab a few pints and make new world domination plans together (that’s what friends do, right?) At Baptiste, the stress is left out of the door and that’s when the fun starts. Good times ahead, folks.
56 Rue Saint Viateur O, Montréal, QC H2T 4K6, Canada
You better have more than just $20 in your pocket when you visit Annex Vintage because it’s assuredly going to cost you more than that - not necessarily because it’s an overpriced place, but because the items are so thoroughly curated and well presented that it’s pretty much impossible to simply walk away. The hipster-friendly thrift store offers a selection of classic retro clothing, shoes, and accessories from anywhere between the 1950s to the 1990s at very fair prices for the quality you’re getting. Nothing is ratty, deteriorated or even in remotely bad shape. The owners take great pride in their selection and they are very passionate about their business, fashion in general, and sustainable living. If you like something, buy it. Everyone knows about this place, so consequently the turnover is quite high; items don’t usually stay around long enough to gather dust.
65 Rue Saint Viateur E, Montréal, QC H2T 1A7, Canada
Welcome to the teeny-tiny atelier of the Montreal-based brand, famous for their iconic crew-neck sweatshirts with a bow. Talk about a souvenir shirt that is neither cheesy (looking at you, moose t-shirts found everywhere in Old-Montreal) nor cheap-looking. Most female Montrealers I know pretty much live in this sweatshirt come wintertime. A high-quality staple that will certainly make for a great conversation starter back home.
5326 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2T 1A5, Canada
Although Montreal‘s Mile End neighbourhood is rife with hip and fashionable restaurants and cafés, this one is different. This salon de thé plays in another league, where lines are blurred between tradition and modernity, and where everyone and their (grand) mother feels welcome. Originally a nightclub, the massive open space was converted to a Victorian tea room a couple of years ago; the love story between Cardinal and Montrealers has not faltered since. Understandably, some would say. With their tall windows, elegant furniture, purposefully mismatched dainty china and their friendly waiters, it’s no wonder people flock to this place. Cardinal serves 20 different kinds of tea, as well as a variety of baked goods including but not limited to the mandatory scones. Salted cakes, sausages and salads and sandwiches are also on the menu for the brunch types. Cardinal is the kind of place where a group of local girlfriends will go on a dark November afternoon to drink tea and catch up on their love lives. So don’t be surprised if you see a couple of them on your visit.
160 Rue Saint Viateur Est
Did you know this is a Montreal-based brand? This menswear maker, specializing in shirts and suits hip professionals actually like to wear, has conquered indie circles all over the world with its web store, but over the past couple of years it has also opened flagship stores in Vancouver and Toronto. The Montreal store was the original, though, and you can soak up that cred in a stylish wood-and-iron shop on Mile End’s Rue Saint-Viateur. You’ll find Frank & Oak’s signature check shirts in both long- and short-sleeve, as well as suits and accessories like ties and a beautiful range of house-designed bags, whose combination of rugged canvas and thick leather has made them a favorite among women, too. Photo: Jocelyn Reynolds
3933 Avenue du Parc la Fontaine
Perhaps due in large part to the city’s notoriously harsh, never-ending winters, Montrealers have a profound appreciation of their green spaces, always jumping at the chance of spending a couple of hours outdoors, basking in the sun. The Mont-Royal Mountain is the most popular, however, simply by its size (529 acres!), its fabulous views over the city and its architect — Frederick Law Olmsted. Parc Lafontaine and Parc Sir Wilfrid Laurier are also local favorites, where sunbathers, young families, BBQ-ers and joggers mingle happily, enjoying every minute of the all too short summer months. The two parks are located near delicious take-out counters (Ma poule mouillée and Lapin pressé, respectively) making it a perfect pique-nique opportunity.
451 Avenue Duluth E, Montréal, QC H2L 1A5, Canada
Where in Montreal can diners hope for an affordable meal that isn’t drenched in oil or entirely free of flavors? At L’Gros Luxe, that’s where. This stylish neighborhood watering hole may look like a hip, Victorian-inspired and overall super cool place but the truth is that anyone is welcome; from ladies who lunch, young families who brunch or friends out to celebrate a birthday. Portions at L’Gros Luxe are smaller than a regular meal but bigger than tapas, and yet prices are always under $8 per plate. L’Gros Luxe strives to bring its customer the freshest, locally-sourced produce available, and the way they can afford to cut back on prices is by making literally everything in house - from sauces to veggie patties from scratch. Their poutine is quite a mouthful - tater tots, cheese curds, veggie gravy and green onions. A nice change, and something poutine aficionados should not deprive themselves from. Their legendary Ceasars, which are topped with a mini grilled-cheese, are simply mindblowing. And easy on the wallet.
Yes, there is Old Montreal and the shops of rue Sainte-Catherine. But Montreal is much more, especially in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, a place famous for its alternative atmosphere. Here you find tons of street art, each piece more delightful than the next. Most murals aren’t spontaneous works by local artists but are part of the many street art festivals taking place on Boulevard Saint-Laurent throughout the year, like MuRAL. Artists come from all over the world to paint, lending an international vibe to the city but also some amazing pieces. This here is one of my favorites, located on the corner of Saint-Laurent and Des Pins streets.
34 Avenue Fairmount O, Montréal, QC H2T 2M1, Canada
Wilensky’s is sort of an institution in the Mile End. Family-owned since its opening in 1932, the place is famous for its extremely cheap snacks, no-nonsense approach, and retro decor. Pressed tin ceiling, Kik Cola clock, ring-up cash register, old-fashioned soda fountain—this place sometimes feels like a time warp or, at the very least, a museum. Perhaps what makes Wilensky’s so special is, incidentally, the Special ($3.90): “All-beef salami with all-beef baloney grilled to mouth-watering perfection on a tasty roll with a hint of mustard.” But don’t try to change anything in it—the owner, Ruth, will not have it. The Special is what it is, and no amount of money will make Ruth change it. Hell, she even wrote a poem about it: When ordering a Special, you should know a thing or two. It is always served with mustard; it is never cut in two. Don’t ask us why; just understand that this is nothing new. This is the way that it’s been done since 1932. Amen to that.
3424 Av du Parc, Montréal, QC H2X 2H5, Canada
A Montreal favorite, this wine bar is known for its elegant food and drinks— and comes recommended highly by Ritz-Carlton concierge Simon Bajouk. The wine selection is vast and the staff is extremely helpful in guiding visitors to something that they like. “Trios,” aka flights, are another good way to taste through a well curated selection. (Cocktails and local Quebecois beer are also available.) The food ranges from snacks like gougeres and nuts to porcini arancini and short ribs. A dish of green beens with truffle oil and almonds was fresh, light, and delicious; the charcuterie plate was a generous offering of various local salumi.
219, ave. Mont-Royal Ouest, Montréal, QC H2T 2T2, Canada
With a playful menu divided into sections named “warm-up,” “game,” “set,” and “match” sections, Le Filet volleys some exceptional dishes at guests. Opened in 2011, the restaurant specializes in seafood but does an equally good job with meat dishes, including duck and venison. It comes recommended highly by Ritz-Carlton concierge Simon Bajouk.
74 Avenue Fairmount O, Montréal, QC H2T 2M2, Canada
New York City vs Montreal. Oh, the debate. In the ongoing Great War of the Bagels between the two cities, Montreal has always been the favorite contender, both among the proud locals and the tourists. Let’s be honest here—Montreal wins, and there is no such thing as better bagels than Montreal bagels. If you agree with the premise of this highlight, then you might want to add this to your next Montreal trip: the Fairmount Bagel Bakery in the Mile End area. Founded by Jewish immigrant Isadore Shlafman in 1919, the knowledge was transmitted from generation to generation, and the family still uses the same methods even today. Everything is done by hand, and with love! It’s very rewarding, as a consumer, to buy things locally and encourage an almost-century-old family-owned business. And in this case, it’s double the reward: good conscience, and full stomach. What’s not to like?
3927 Rue Saint-Denis, Montréal, QC H2W 2M4, Canada
L’Express, on rue St-Denis in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, opened in 1980 and has about it the air of a beloved institution. Indeed, with its timeless style, it feels even older than it is. This popular spot serves classic renditions of bistro fare—steak tartare, bone marrow, onion soup—into the early morning hours (2 a.m. except for Sundays, when it closes at 1 a.m.). When the kitchen ventures into new territory, the results are impressive. The spaghetti with mushrooms is unconventional in its presentation (topped with a healthy serving of arugula)—one of those dishes you try on the road and then want to re-create at home. Reservations recommended.
1196 Voie Camillien-Houde, Montréal, QC H3H 1A1, Canada
Not unlike the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Empire State Building in NYC, the Mont Royal acts as a natural landmark for orientation-challenged travelers. The “mountain” (some would call it a big hill) overlooks the entire city and offers unparalleled panoramas of downtown and the Eastern Townships south of the city. The entire mountain is actually a city park, with many things to do besides admiring the view: tam-tam jams, bird watching, cycling, forest treks—and even skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and sledding in the winter. Brownie points if you make it to the Kodiaronk lookout at dawn, in time to see the sun rise behind the skyscrapers.
4631 Saint Laurent Boulevard
What started out as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hole in the wall became a full-blown hype restaurant where masses gather to celebrate the joys of vegan cuisine. Thanks to the savoir-faire of brothers Michael and Liam Makhan, eating healthy can be its own reward when the food tastes so good. They use only local ingredients, according to the seasons, to create flavorful dishes that aim to once and for all destroy any myth about vegetarian or vegan food being tasteless. They are famous for their chapati sandwiches, which are cooked to order.
5135 Saint Laurent Boulevard
With local brands like Barilà, Betina Lou, Uranium and Eve Gravel, Unicorn is probably the one-stop shop for all things Montreal designers. The shop itself, cleverly located on Montreal‘s biggest shopping street and in the heart of hipster, artsy Mile End district -- that sometimes feels more like Brooklyn than Montreal --, is a work of art and immediately makes shoppers feel at ease. The owners, Amélie and Mélanie, created a unique minimalist atmosphere where their passion for clothes truly prevails, and where their own individual style perfectly mix. The store recently celebrated its 5-year anniversary, and luckily for us fashionistas, the adventure is nowhere near over. Here’s to 5 more years of wonderful shopping!
1499 Avenue Laurier E, Montréal, QC H2J 1H8, Canada
The atmosphere alone in this Iranian restaurant is a wonderful introduction to any day. The sunny, high-ceilinged space on Avenue Laurier Ouest is decorated with nice wooden furniture and traditional Middle-Eastern patterned pillows, for your ultimate comfort as you sip sweet mint tea served in small gilded glasses and decide what to order. Will it be the selection of flatbreads served with fresh herbs, nuts and fresh cheese? It comes with a selection of house-made jams like kiwi and passion fruit or orange blossom. The “omelets” are also very special – they’re actually scrambled eggs mixed with ingredients such as feta cheese and dill. Photo: Frédérique Ménard Aubin
4869 Avenue du Parc
This favorite spot turned what used to be a dismal block on Avenue du Parc into a happening strip, inspiring a wave of restaurants and businesses to open around it. The bar’s stylish interiors are characterized by narrow, long tables for intimate group gatherings around drinks and one of their delicious roast chickens, served without pomp or circumstance on a wooden board. The constantly evolving wine list is superb and varied in terms of pricing, and their cocktails are straightforward but scrumptious. This is a popular after-work and weekend spot, so expect to wait a bit for a table.
4175 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2W 1Y7, Canada
Not to be mistaken for the popular izakaya of the same name (and same owners) down the street, on Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Avenue des Pins, this Big In Japan is on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Rachel. You may not notice the sign, or even the door – it adds to the sense of mystery of this high-class drinking establishment (look for the black door near the fast-food restaurant Patati-Patata). From the vaporous curtains to the long shiny U-bar, the atmosphere here is distinctly speakeasy, and the classic cocktails maintain that illusion. The champagne cocktail will never go unwanted, and the Tom Collins is fizzy and tart, as it should be. Or you could dip into the house specialties: sakes, prune wines and Japanese whiskeys, used bottles of which serve as the basis for this stylish spot’s contemporary lamp fixtures.
4105 Boulevard Saint-Laurent
This handsome resto-bar on Boulevard Saint-Laurent trades in a fantastical aesthetic reminiscent of old timey circuses featuring mustachioed acrobats in striped leotards. The interior is panelled wood with a stuffed dear head and a long pale-wood bar, with disparate chairs around small tables for intimate get-togethers. Their curvy emblem glasses are filled with house cocktails or good beer, and the plates filled with delights conceived by chef Charles-Antoine Crête, of Toqué! fame. Try their Sunday brunch every week starting at 11 am, featuring a salmon feuilleté that will make your day.