Chowish neigbourhoods for living in Montreal?
Me and my partner will be moving to Montreal this summer. I will be working at Concordia downtown campus and he will hopefully go to grad school at McGill. The neighborhoods around our work/school seem boring, almost Times Squarey. We are looking for a place that is abundant with casual chowish restaurants (we eat anything) and quality food shopping (being around CSA drop location is a plus). It doesn't have to be too close to campus as long as it is a reasonable subway commute (<30 minutes, if that is reasonable for M). We won't have cars. We don't want to drive. What are our options? Thanks in advance.
There is always the Plateau but you might want to consider the up-and-coming NGD and Westmount annex. It's quaint, easier to access downtown because unlike the Plateau there is a good network of public transportation and there are some really nice and interesting restos and food stores. Very multicultural, not to mention less expensive than the Plateau.
just to clarify for ya, it's NDG, not NGD.
My SO and I don't drive either, and we like the west as well. In NDG, just be sure not to look below the tracks, where things get a little sketchy. Look for Monkland Village, and Sherbrooke St. area between Victoria and approx. Cavendish. There are upper duplexes for rent everywhere on the side streets, and some decent apartment buildings.
Also very nice is little Italy. St. Laurent St. up near Jean-Talon. Extremely close to the Jean-Talon Market, and close to the metro Orange line.
As a non-car person, I'd definitely suggest being close, or at most one short bus ride away from the Metro. It's a very fast and efficient way to get around.
For the sake of proximity to downtown, definitely the NDG-Westmount area is good, Sherbrooke between Victoria and Cavendish having some great Indian restaurants and a fantastic middle eastern grocery (Akhavan), and the Monkland village definitely having some charming restaurants. The Westmount restaurant/grocery scene is considerably less interesting.
I would still recommend the Plateau/Mile End area (having lived in NDG and worked in Westmount for many years), as there is much greater variety. I now live in the Eastern Laurier neighborhood near Papineau and am always finding new discoveries. Downsides are that depending on the part of the plateau it takes considerably longer to get to downtown, and depending on how east you go, if you do not speak french it can be a bit challenging. I think CSA drop locations and delivery options are relatively easy to find in all these areas.
The Plateau is the hippest 'hood and has the highest concentration of restaurants. It's also, in certain blocks, way romantic and ineffably Montreal -- a point driven home to me last week when I walked down St-André Street. Prices are accordingly high -- assuming you can find a flat, that is. While there are some interesting food stores -- Laurier East between Christophe-Colombe and Papineau is the hottest spot -- it's not a district I often find myself making special shopping excursions to. Still, for pure *bohème* it's hard to beat. Ability/willingness to speak French is, I'd think, pretty much de rigueur.
The district I *am* constantly trekking to is the area around Jean-Talon Market. Not only do you have the farmers, green grocers, bakers, butchers, cheesemongers, fishmongers, eateries and other resources at market, which many foodies characterize as the best in North America, there's the stores, bakeries, restos and cafés of Little Italy, a cluster of excellent Asian markets on Jean-Talon and St-Denis and some Latin/South American shops and restos on Bélanger just east of St-Denis. Downsides? Although it's served by the metro, it's at the upper limit of your commute time to downtown; the closest decent liquour store is on Beaubien, which is a schlepp; and like the Plateau, it's a neighbourhood much in demand, so flats, especially affordable nice ones, are hard to find.
Mile End/Outremont is worth a look, provided you're willing to take the bus downtown. Lots of excellent albeit pricey merchants (Anjou-Québec, Yannick cheesemonger, etc.) and eateries (Milos, La Chronique, etc.) but also lots of affordable options (Marché P.A., Latina supermarket, Chez Vito the butcher, Nouveau Falero fishmonger, the bagel factories, etc.), restos and bars aplenty along the Bernard, Laurier, Van Horne, St-Viateur, St-Laurent and Park Ave. strips, and the city's top brewpub and one of its best wine stores. A wide range of housing styles and prices, proximity to the mountain, the Plateau and downtown, an appealing mix of ages and ethnicities, and the overall cool vibe make this a good bet.
Lastly, let me put in a good word for my 'hood, Côte-des-Neiges. Quick and easy access to western downtown (i.e. Concordia) via the 165 bus and to the Jean-Talon Market via the metro, some excellent food stores (butchers, green grocers, pastries though short on fishmongers), plenty of affordable eateries (though few high-end ones) and a large ethnic presence with the wealth of food options that brings.
I love the eastern plateau, East of St. Denise, becuase it is so French, which means it is alive and fun. Mount Royal and Papineau is a great area, jam packed full of restaurants, bars, little fruiteries and you can practise your French. It is young and fun.
I agree with bitetoeat but the commute from Mount Royal/Papineau will probably be longer than 30 minutes, as it is a good ten minute walk to the metro with irregular buses.
I love love love my neighborhood, very close to the Jean-Talon metro, with the market, tons of Vietnamese choices, sushi restaurants, middle-eastern choices, and Asian grocery stores. Since I moved here from Mile End and then Snowdon, I could lower my food budget because the neighborhood has so many affordable places to eat. I can get to Guy-Concordia metro in about 25 minutes and McGill in about a half hour.
Mile End was great for food but relying on the 80 bus drove me batty. Others will probably disagree but I found the area a little inconvenient.
Hope this helps...