I would love some suggestions for dinner and/or lunch for a group of 10, including2 9 year old grandchldren. We will be in Montreal from 7/30-8/4. Toque is NOT an option--they do not offer an a la carte menu for a group of 10 and their typical tasting menus (which they were kind enough to fax me)were much to limited for the mix of foodophiles and foodophobes in my family. I'd appreciate any suggestions. Thanks. J. KantorP.S. Is it true about the bagels?
SIGHTSEEING: Above, patrons do that St.
Laurent thing, sipping a drink and people
watching from one of the street's many cafés;
right, one of Montreal's best culinary secrets is
Toqué, which offers great value and québécois
cuisine; below, things sometimes get crazy at
Nantha's Kitchen, but the owner, seen cavorting
for the camera with friends, always makes you
feel at home; bottom, beer lovers can't miss Le
Cheval Blanc, where they make exotic beers on
Montreal by weekend
Where to eat, drink and get wild during that perennial visit to the great city
By Sonia Verma
Toronto Star Staff Reporter
Friday, 6:45 p.m., Kirsti's T.O. apartment
Collect Kirsti in car. Friends since the age 6 (she's the one who chipped my front
tooth in an 'accidental' monkeybar mishap), Kirsti and I weathered three years
together as roomates at McGill before moving to T.O. and going our seperate ways.
As we drive west, talk turns to the tired rivalry between Montreal and Toronto, which
eventually disintigrates into a messy puddle of clichés. This, we conclude somewhere
north of Oshawa, is because they are true. Montrealers dress better, live better and
have infinitely more fun.
Saturday 12:17 a.m. Montreal
The mountain, the river, the cross. We're here, ready to take a bite out of the
croissant-shaped island we once called home. We ditch our bags and, more
importantly, our wheels, since Montreal has a well-greased 65-station Metro system.
With four major summer festivals - Jazz, Just For Laughs, Francofolies and World Film
- there is always something going on. (This weekend Gay Pride week kicks off with an
expected attendance of half a million for the Pride Parade on Aug. 6.)
Saturday 1:15 a.m. rue St. Denis
Nobody comes here for a good night's sleep. We head to the heart of the Latin
Quarter, a vibrant neighbourhood straddling Rue St. Denis and Rue Sherbrooke,
which is part student ghetto (McGill and University of Quebec at Montreal aren't far)
and part bohemia.
We duck into Le Cheval Blanc (809 Rue Ontario E.), a smoky, sparsely decorated
'40s-style bar where conversation percolates in French and English. Simon, our
bartender, brings pints of beer brewed on the premises. He insists we sample all five
Saturday 4:37 a.m. Mile End
After helping Simon close up shop, we pile into his blue station wagon seeking a cure
for a severe late snack attack. Too often these evenings end in a 99 cent free-for-all at
Pizza Madonna. Thanks to Simon, we end up at Arahova Souvlaki (256 St. Viateur W.)
for gyros and greek salad. The Mile End area is an oasis for post-last-call asylum
Saturday 5:47 a.m., The Old Port
Early morning, the best time to wander through Le Vieux Montréal. This is where the
city was founded almost 360 years ago. The sun rises over the river, spreads through
the narrow streets and bounces shadows off the angled granite buildings. This is the
quiet before the Old Port transforms into a summertime riot of roller-bladers and street
performers. Before McGill students working in the cluster of cafés can practice their
best fromage French on the tourists.
Kirsti and I down a couple of shots of expresso before heading home. Tomorrow, she
says, we should go jet-boating at 9 a.m. sharp!
Saturday 1:00 p.m.
We hit Beautys, a Montreal landmark, for breaky (smoked salmon and cream cheese
on bagels) then wander through a city of ``petite patrie.'' Many of Montreal's
neighbourhoods remain worlds unto themselves, many of which have served as the
stomping grounds to a cabal of literary icons. We stroll through Michel Tremblay's
Plateau, an area North of Sherbrooke St., east of St. Laurent Blvd, lined with
Montreal's signature triplexes, with their death-defying staircases. Then for a quick
slice of Montreal life, we turn up The Main, or St. Laurent, in Mordecai Richler's old
neighbourhood, which is still home to some of the city's best clothing stores.
We weave in and out of them, lingering in our favourite, Boutique Scandale (3639 St.
Laurent.) Robert de Niro's wife shops here, where costume designer Georges
Levesque makes no two dresses the same. Then on to space fb (3632 St. Laurent) for
a look at inexpensive classic designs by Montrealer Francois Beauregard. Next is the
obligatory lineup at Schwartz's (3895 St. Laurent) - with it's all-over linoleum and
unforgiving fluorescent lighting - for the smoked meat sandwich that made this place
Saturday 4:30 p.m.
Beverage break at Le Sugar Bar (3616 St. Laurent). Kirsti orders a Guru energy drink,
which promises to invigorate the body and mind. She decides to get her hair cut.
Short. While Kirsti gets shorn, I cab over to Montreal's Museum of Fine Arts (1379
Sherbrooke St. W). Despite a vibrant local art scene most Montrealers, not to say
tourists, still shell out admission prices to art gaze at the big institutions. The
Sherbrooke St. complex is best known for its big-ticket shows, which have ranged
from Modigliani to a Snoopy exhibit. Through Oct. 15, the Museum is showing an
81-painting exhibit including Cézannes, Renoirs and Picassos, on loan from the Paris
Musée de l`orangerie.
Saturday 6:30 p.m. Toqué, 3842 St. Denis
Kirsti and I regroup for dinner. As McGill students, we ate less quiche and crême
brûlée than we did falafel and Kraft Dinner. When we did eat out, our faves included
Peruvian cuisine and wine at Restaurant Pucapuca (5400 St. Laurent), or Egyptian at
the Nil Blue (3706 St. Denis). Tonight, we choose Toqué, an elegant québécois
restaurant featuring chef Normand LaPrise's cuisine: maple-syrup glazed quail,
roasted lobster sauteed in green garlic and red wine vinegar and fois gras, which
melts on your tongue. Dinner, plus lots and lots of wine, rang in at $175.
Saturday 9:39 p.m. Various locations.
With one night left, we do the bar crawl at light speed, hitting Upstairs (1421 Bishop),
a jazz-filled joint located downstairs, moving on to Else's (156 Roy E.), a perfect place
for a not-so-quiet pint of Guinness, Copacabana's (3910 St. Laurent), just because we
always end up here with the other half of the city.
Sunday, 1:49 a.m. Bagel Etc. (3420 St. Laurent)
We go for a midnight snack at Bagels Etc., where Montreal's poet-laureate Leonard
Cohen hangs when he's in town. Servers are fountains of Leonard knowledge (ask
about Rebecca de Mornay). With '30s decor and New York diner menu, it's open till 6
a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. When he needs a break from the monastary, the Ladies
Man resides across the street, on the south side of Parc de Portugal. (The second
floor apartment with the gauzy white curtains). This is more meaningful to me - who
used to drop the odd letter into Leonard's mailbox during my undergrad years - than
to Kirsti, who majored in psych. We move on.
Sunday, 2:50 am, Nantha's Kitchen (9 Duluth Ave E.)
We arrive at Nantha's just before last call. The kitchen has long-since closed. But
Nantha, our patron saint decked out in Thai fishermen pants and frosted pink lipstick,
immediately brings us ice water, samosas and another round. Others arrive later. A
visit to Nantha's is a bit like hanging out in your own living room - with a DJ who
spins old-school hip hop till the wee hours. From the second floor, we watch the night
sky lighten. We leave at 7:13 a.m. with Nantha promising to feed us Malaysian food
before we leave for Toronto.
Sunday 4:00 p.m.
Officially we abandon plans of jet-boating, bongo drums at Mount-Royal Parc and a
bike ride along the eight-mile path from René Lévesque Park to the Père Marquette
Promenade. The Botanical Gardens, one of the world's largest with over 20,000 plant
species, also falls by the wayside.
Kirsti finds my notebook, which made its way around the table the night before.
``Here's the beautiful thing about Montreal,'' reads one chicken-scrawl excerpt from an
author known only as the Ordinary Seaman, ``You can end up in a bar @ 3 a.m. that's
filled with your friends and they'll stay open until you are dragged home kicking and
screaming. Parties outlast you.
``There's always more than you can do, see, drink and take. It's a city of abundance.
More. More. Stop. No, wait. More.''
I was searching the web in hope of finding a Space FB website, and I stumbled upon your Message Board. I am a very proud Montrealer, and I just wanted to say that i really enjoyed reading your article. I go to boarding school and tend to really miss the city, and so I printed this out to read when I get homesick. I have to say you realy pinpointed it...maybe one thing you left out is the amazing vintage shopping in Montreal...check it out on Mount Royal St....the cliches have been well established.