Bars + Nightlife

Montreal’s Best Bars

The joie de vivre in Montreal has been the stuff of legend every since the city’s Sin City days, when exotic dancer Lily St-Cyr was world-famous and Montreal was the party town of choice for teetotalling Ontarians and Americans alike. Decades later, the party still lives on in this town, as evidenced by the regular lineups outside the clubs. But if clubbing isn’t quite your thing, tasteful drinkeries abound, and often come with kitchens worth the trip in themselves.

4807 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2T 1R6, Canada
Montreal’s wine bar par excellence, Le Comptoir gets its name from the long counter that extends on the small space’s left side, with bar seating that gives onto the open kitchen. It’s a show in itself, to see how well (and fast, during rush time) the delightful food is prepared. The far-reaching international wine list has something for every occasion, be it a quick glass after work or an evening of imbibing and feasting with friends. The menu is in constant evolution, but some recurring crowd favorites are the lobster tart in the summer, and the snout-to-tail house-cured charcuterie platter, ideally accompanied by a private import vino verde. (Note: they also make a mean weekend brunch.)
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.
32 Rue Beaubien E, Montréal, QC H2S 1P8, Canada
Regulars at this Little Italy joint (and there are lots of regulars) flock here more for the friendly atmosphere and the cheap drinks than for the two bowling lanes that gave it its name (“quilles” is “bowling” in French). Games do happen though, usually more as the night goes on, unless it’s one of the nights when a band uses the lanes as a stage. The drinks are nothing special except that most moments in this down-home haven end up being special, and they go wonderfully with the vegetarian burritos made on the spot. Take a spot at the bar to keep the pints coming, or find a nook in the back or in the turquoise-painted side room to wile away the hours.
6731 Avenue de l'Esplanade, Montréal, QC H2V 4P9, Canada
This summer-only bar in Mile Ex (a ten-block area between Mile End and Parc Ex) is a festive place to end any warm-weather day. Basically a big concrete space with communal picnic tables, string lighting and a garage-door opening, the sum of those parts equates a mystical sort of feel-good feng shui. The terrasse on the sidewalk is particularly popular, as are the veggie dogs grilled fresh on the barbecue. The signature cocktails bring people in from far and wide. The Ginger Lime Sake marries biting fresh-ginger sake with tonic and fresh-squeezed lime juice – it’s the reason summer was invented. The bourbon lemonade is another top seller.
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.
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.
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