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Jun 18, 2008 02:51 PM

Mile End finds - 2008

Cycling down Avenue du Parc, I happened to see a bakery with two old bicycles hanging overhead, just opposite Caffè in gamba, at 5288, avenue du Parc. Semi-basement, two fellows, one youngish, one well into middle age, chatting outdoors.

Went in - Aux deux vélos is rund by a Serbian guy - or two - who used to be a football (soccer) player. Espied some boureks, or boreks (many variations in spelling). Big, thick wedges for 2,99$ - cheese, spinach/cheese and meat (the latter with onion, of course). He said the spinach and cheese was most popular so I bought one to take home. Mild, not strong tasting, with the bourek filo that is thicker and a bit tougher than the Greek or Arabic varieties - but somehow very satisfying. The owner also gave me a little "buttery" bread roll that looked like a miniature challah - I'll only eat that tomorrow morning, and it won't be an ideal circ. Pretty little thing.

I also crossed a new Italian café on Bernard, corner Waverly, south side (where one of the Chinese flower lady's shops was - she is on the other side now). Pleasant looking place, perhaps it will benefit from the spillover from the two places on St-Viateur; for me a halfway point between Petite Italie and friends farther south in Mile end and Plateau. Showing Euro-2008 matches.

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  1. I'm quite a fan of a leek pastry they have at Aux deux vélos. It's not like quite like the boureks, but it's quite close. They're generally cut into squares and are flakier and slightly more like a Greek filo pastry. I don't know what they're called, but they're quite satisfying when taken home and paired with a hearty soup. It's not really summer food, but I made a point of going in every so often during the winter to obtain either the leek pastry or the spinach and cheese bourek, which is also quite tasty.

    1. Lagatta, thanks for starting this thread!

      Trying to remember the name of the vegetarian cafe on the corner of St. Laurent and St. Viateur, southwest corner. They do a delicious vegetarian chili, one of the tastiest veggie chilis I have had in a long time. Very filling, very satisfying and very inexpensive. I normally don't like veggie chilis as I find them bland, but this one is nicely spiced and filled with a nice variety of vegetables. Anyone know the name of this place?

      26 Replies
      1. re: moh

        It used to be called Esperanza and is now called Cagibi--the food there is ok if granola but the coffee is terrible. Stick with the chili!

        1. re: daimon4

          Yes. that is it! Thanks for the warning about the coffee. Shame to drink bad coffee when Caffe in Gamba is so close...

          1. re: moh

            Now I know this isn't a coffee thread but I'm so done with caffe in gamba. The coffee is amazing, no question but the guys there (where it's one of the brothers or the new guy) are letting the beans down with their lackluster barrista skills. Also sometimes the temp in the machine is totally off (my shot shouldn't be lukewarm) and I've had quite a few allonges that were pulled for too damn long (casting a watery spell). The final straw was a week or two ago when I ordered a single allonge and the gentleman (not one of the brothers) ADDED HOT WATER to my coffee and told me that an allonge was the same as an americano!! I smiled and drank the thing but really I'm done with the place. call me a late night venting coffee snob but I'm more satisfied with the well made espresso (illy) at grazze mille on fairmount and clark or even the espresso at Open da night. Cafe in Gamba is dead to me! um...but that said it's not as bad as Cagibi. Good night.

            1. re: daimon4

              Hmm, you know, I usually just buy my beans there, tend to do coffee at home. But this pent up frustration: perhaps warrants a separate thread?

              1. re: daimon4

                I would totally agree. While the person whom I assume is the manager (a 30 something man who is almost always there) pulls of good shots and is extremely friendly and polite, some people who work there are usually clueless about making a drink. In fact, I have only had one decent (read: not mind blowing, but pretty good) espresso from there, and it was made by the assumed owner/manager. I also have problems with the 'tude of some of the staff. Quite recently we took some cupcakes from youknowwho a little bit down at Parc and went up to to Gamba with the expectations of an orgiastic afternoon of nibbling on cake, reading the paper and drinking coffee. We had the courtesy to ask the woman behind the counter whether we can consume them in the premises, while ordering our coffee. She gave us an attitude that could be paraphrased as "Ummmm noo because we also have food here. Why don't you just buy something such as a sandwich? Umm I don't care if your cupcakes are special or that with this attitude I am ensuring that you will never come back again. Gosh i hate my job...I hate you more". Now I totally would have understood if she said something like "sorry, we are not allowed to do that" and I understand that this is sometimes a problem due to health codes (although if she had good intentions, she would have offered our coffees "to go" and asked us to have them outside at the bench). She was so dry and dismissive that we drank our coffee and left as soon as possible. In hindsight, I should have cancelled the order. My partner decided that he'd never go there again.

                However, the beans sold there is a totally different story, so I will probably go there. I have been obsessed with Intelligentsia ever since I had the privilege to have a few shots at their flagship store in Chicago, and I am so happy that they sell their beans there. But unfortunately the peeps at Gamba do not make the best of their beans when it comes to making the drinks, a proof of which occurred to me when I visited Diesel at Somerville, MA and had one of those golden shots with an almost flowery taste, no roughness at all, rather possessing the feeling of licking a really really good chocolate syrup without any sickly sweet aftertaste. All made from a custom Intelligentsia blend, said the barista was it Black Cat, dunno?). It reminded me of why I was obsessed with coffee a few years back. Now that is a coffee that I would probably take all the attitude for.

                Edit: Oops, I just read moh's suggestion. It is fair. Perhaps we can move this discussion to a new thread, rather than *weep* deleting it.

                1. re: emerilcantcook

                  Give Gamba's new location at PVM a chance, if you haven't already. The barista working there pulled me an espresso (coincidentally, it was also Black Cat, emeril!) that was just utter ambrosia in a cup - truly the best espresso I've ever had from Gamba, probably one of the best I've ever had in the city (perhaps it's the equipment?)

                  1. re: cherylmtl

                    «perhaps it's the equipment?»

                    More likely her. She's an experienced barista trained, IIRC, on the west coast. Hope her great shots and personality are enough to compensate for her weak French.

                    1. re: carswell

                      I'll second that (the part about her well-pulled shots)

                  2. re: emerilcantcook

                    I obviously have gotten lucky when I've ordered in at C in G. But then re: coffee, I claim limited expertise. After all, I am the goofball that spells espresso "expresso" on occasion...

                    1. re: moh

                      expresso is the french way, no? I had one of the best macchiatos I've ever had at Gamba yesterday, made with Vivace and assembled by Maud.

                      1. re: Anth

                        «expresso is the french way, no?»

                        Yes, much to the chagrin of Italophiles everywhere.

                        Maud is the new, West Coast-trained barista, right? That means you were at PVM?

                        Congrats on your showing at the CBRBC, Anth!

                        1. re: carswell

                          Maud still does weekends on Parc, at least she was there yesterday.

                          And thank you :)

                          1. re: Anth

                            Is this the woman with a strip of bleached hair in the front? I forgot about her. I did have some pretty decent cappuccino from her, but never tried her espresso. Can't wait to... have to go now... booo can't go now.

                            Damn the taste of espresso I had this weekend reminded me of a period where I would have to spend at least half of my day at various coffee shops and occasionally have a quasi spiritual experience in the hands of a certain barista (hmm sounded dirty, but really it isn't). Of course he finished school and went to much warmer pastures, and then Starbucks dried out our town. Then I forgot about how an espresso could taste for a while.

                  3. re: daimon4

                    The overall skill level at Gamba is high. Maybe they add water for volume instead of letting an overextraction destroy the flavour profiles of the blends they stock. After a certain point (40 seconds or so for a double) the only thing being extracted from the coffee is caffeine, which presents as extreme bitterness on the palette and dominates the other flavours. If you want a two minute extraction, go to Social or Olympico, their blends are so muddied anyway that it doesn't matter.

                    1. re: Anth

                      You're right, that could be why they add hot water but a thirty second shot is all I need. At least on St. viateur they make a (shorter) "italian" allonge instead of the french 3/4 cup. Sadly I have yet to have a great coffee at Gamba but will try the PVM location. Thanks for the feedback, now I don't feel like such a whiny ass.

                      1. re: daimon4

                        haha, you shouldn't feel like a whiny ass. I'm pretty sure if people complained / talked about allonges more often, baristas would find a way to standardize them a bit.

                      2. re: Anth

                        On how we do things at CiG.
                        About the ''Allonge''
                        The vast majority of montrealers (french and english alike) that come to CiG for an allonge wants, we have discovered, an americano. It gets so confusing, as an espresso allonge is, at least to me, simply a longer shot of a single espresso (count up to 30 seconds and 3/4 of the little cup). We do put hot water for americanos before pulling the shots because we don't want to overextract.

                        The temp of the water (boiler) is presently set at 199, we flush for a couple of seconds and the temp drops to 198 and this has been giving a generally good extraction (yet not always perfect) with most of our blends.

                        The food policy is generally pretty relaxed. We always have people coming in with bagels and other sandwiches and we don't mind. Although just like any human being, we do have our good and bad days and I'm sorry if anyone got a bad attitude from one of us.

                        Carswell, Maude is quebecoise, her mother thong is French.

                        The word "espresso" comes from 3 words put together that formed "epresso". Espresso means "Estrazione sotto pressione" which means extraction (or brewed) under pressure. I don't like the french equivalent simply because it's not equivalent. "Expresso" is a bad translation that referes more to speed then the actual coffee making process.
                        I'll start saying "expresso" in french only if someone can find me the french version for spaghetti. Untill then an esresso is an espresso.

                        All that being said,there are plenty of both good and bad reasons to like and/ dislike our approach, and I totally respect this :-)

                        1. re: jfbleduc

                          Thanks for the clarification JF. I really appreciate what you are doing. I guess it was a bad day for her, but she ruined the day for us as well. It seems like your baristas have different levels of experience, varying from beginner to advanced. I understand that this is essential for the training for less advanced, but it also increases the risk of inconsistency. Don't know what is the resolution to this though since on hands training is perhaps the only way to advance the art of pulling. On one hand, the less experienced baristas need to train; on the other, we the addicts need our perfectly executed crack (oops coffee), everytime. But then maybe when we get that special shot every time, it won't be that special. Anyhoo, just babbling. Need coffee.

                          1. re: jfbleduc

                            Hey, JFBL!

                            «Maude is quebecoise, her mother tongue is French.»

                            Then I've got her confused with somebody else. When encountering someone new in a store, I always default to French. Last time I was at CIG to buy beans, I had to explain two or three times that I wanted a rain cheque for the free espresso and finally had to switch to English to get an answer to a gelato question. I also noticed the next client -- a francophone, IIRC -- switched to English.

                            Congrats on *your* finish at the CBRBC, guy. Sorry I didn't get a chance to taste your signature drink.

                            1. re: carswell

                              Thanks Carswell :-)
                              You might be reffering to Megan. She's been with us for a good 6 months already. When she came at CiG (from Alberta) she didn't have a word of French (or very few), but she had experienced plus I liked her style/personnality. CiG has been paying for her French class ever since, so come back again to see how she's improving :-)

                            2. re: jfbleduc

                              Thanks for the reply--I agree with your version of the allonge--this seems pretty standard to me. Why would you make an americano instead unless someone specifically asked for it? I go out and have two espressos a day (would have three but hey--everyone needs sleep) and like to know what i'm getting when I go to a cafe. Of course not every coffee shot will be the same, that's why it didn't bother me when my coffee was a little colder or longer/shorter but the adding water thing was just crazy (esp since it hadn't happened before). Sadly I have to agree that the service is also uneven and slow. You have a beautiful cafe but to build up customers and a reputation things have to be consistent. That said I appreciate your writing and explaining things to us so I plan to come in tomorrow and see how it goes. Hope you're the one making the coffee!

                          2. re: daimon4

                            I have also noticed that the shots are lukewarm and my cappuccino or latte winds up tepid. Also, a small annoyance: they give priority to take-out orders and have you sit around waiting while they serve the never-ending stream of walk-in customers. Just because I choose to sit down for my coffee does not mean I can wait around all day for them to serve people that came in and ordered after I did.

                            1. re: hungryann

                              You guys are getting my little competitive self all challenged up, aw-right! You should all come to see me at PVM, and I will pull you some godshots a la Maude! You will be mesmerized. Hum, first time's free (tee-hee). I'm on this wed. and fri. 8 to 4.

                              1. re: MaudeLL

                                you're on lady :) be there friday!

                                1. re: MaudeLL

                                  Maude where were you when I need you at the PVM location today(Friday)? The barista working the PVM location, that served me was clueless. She even admitted it to me, she didn't know really know how to do either the macchiato or caffe latte. Eventually she told me, she would try to do it, & give me the caffe latte for free(I give her credit for that). Come on Caffe in Gamba people, you got to have competent people at all times!

                                  1. re: MaudeLL

                                    I stopped by the PVM location of Caffe in Gamba around 10:30 Wednesday morning. I was the only customer at that hour. I went up to the counter and asked the barista her name; it was Maude. I asked for a double espresso. We had a nice chat as she pulled my double shot of Kid-O. It turned out to have a dark copper crema which lasted incredibly long. Overall a rich, full-bodied, well-balanced cup. Very satisfying. Keep up the good work Maude!