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May 27, 2006 04:27 PM

Best Coffee in Montreal?

  • j

Could someone please tell me the best place to go for coffee in Montreal. I've been to Cafe Artigano in Vancouver which was awesome. So someplace along those lines. Thank you.

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  1. The closest thing to Artigano is Caffè ArtJava on Mont-Royal Blvd., a couple of blocks east of the metro station. Excellent espresso and superb microfoam in their milk-based drinks.

    The espresso at Café Italia in Little Italy, on St-Laurent just south of Milano, the great Italian supermarket, is darker and less suave but every bit as good.

    Olympico (aka Open da Night) on St-Viateur a block or two west of St-Urbain also has many fans. I agree that it's the best shot in Mile End.

    28 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      My wife is the coffee drinker in the family. Last weekend, during a quick visit to Mtl. she discovered the coffee at Patisserie Gascogne (the Sherbrooke near Victoria branch). She pronounced it nearly as good as the coffee served at Torrefacteur Verlet on rue St. Honore in Paris. Next time she will have to try the other suggestions.

      BTW does La Vielle Europe actually serve coffee in addition to selling the beans and grinds?

      1. re: VivreManger

        Yes, Vieille Europe will make you a cup of coffee -- a limited range of espresso-based drinks, IIRC. There is no seating except for a plastic bench outside in summertime.

        1. re: VivreManger

          Surprising. I've been avoiding the Pat Gasc (Laurier) since encountering a terrible tarte Tatin purchased there that bore little resmblence to the classic dessert and looked and tasted like it could have come from Provigo. Would never have thought of it as a coffee option but now you've piqued my curiosity.

          1. re: carswell

            I have had Gascogne Westmount's espresso, it is fair at best.

            I love Art Java & Benelo, especially if the little round guy is pouring.

            He has the best gossip in town.

            I was surprised by the great espresso I had the other day Le Duc De Lorraine.

            It was so good I had to have another to make certain I wasn't dreaming.

            Fun little place if you are in the area.

            1. re: RL

              >I love Art Java & Benelo, especially if the little round guy is pouring.

              Not sure I know who you're talking about. Lately the lovely Sylvana has been behind the counter whenever I've dropped by (tends to be late afternoon). The food's good too. All in all, there's a European feel to the place.

              Would never have expected to see great espresso and Duc de Lorraine in the same sentence. Total prejudice on my part, as I've never even thought of ordering a coffee there. That'll change soon and I hope you're right, 'cause despite the plethora of coffee bars in the 'hood, I've yet to find anything approaching ArtJava or Italia bliss.

              1. re: RL

                The espresso at Gascogne in my opinion is weak and comes out of an automatic machine, quite tasteless.

              2. re: carswell

                don't bother ,Carswell. Trust your first instinct. Although Gascogne is a nice little pastry-shop, their prices are high and the quality of their pastries is not always up to scratch, as you have found out. However, by no stretch of the imagination are they to be considered a good coffee joint, except if you buy the French-Paris snob appeal. Stick with Caffè Italia. (i don't know about the others.)

              3. re: VivreManger

                getting a good cup of coffee in France is a crap shoot at best and emphasis on the word crap. I had one good coffee there and it was in Nice (formerly part of Italy) while waiting for the bus. It was an Italian coffee shop.

              4. re: carswell

                Are there any places in the downtown core that are better than others, either in terms of better preparaton or a larger than average variety of brews available?


                1. re: Fritzy

                  Despite its concentration of coffee shops (surely the densest in the city), finding a decent espresso downtown can be pretty hard. I usually end up at Benelo, a café-cum-beauty salon at 2145 Crescent. The espresso there is soft, Northern Italian-style. The Persian pastry shop Nocochi (2156 Mackay) pulls OK shots using Illy coffee. A California-based coffee fiend I once went on an espresso crawl through little Italy with says he had a decent shot at a café/resto that serves good panini on the east side of Montaigne between Sherbrooke and de Maisonneuve, but he couldn't remember its name and I haven't done any follow-up. The new kid on the block (Ste-Catherine, right across from Simon's/Paramount) is Segafredo Zanetti. I went twice right after it opened and was disappointed both times by the long wait and botched drinks. It's a bit surprising since the mother store in Little Italy (corner of Shamrock and Casgrain, across from the Jean-Talon market) got its espresso act together a long time ago. Maybe the new store was having start-up problems and a reassessment is in order.

                  If you're looking for variety, your best bet might be the Brûlerie St-Denis shops. There's one in the basement foodcourt of Simons/Paramount and another in the Maison Alcan. I've not had drinks at either but their stores on St-Denis and Côte-des-Neiges sell a wide range of fairly fresh beans, any of which you can have ground and served in a french press. That said, I doubt their espresso is worth making a detour for.

                  1. re: carswell


                    Thanks for the informative (as always!) response. I will certainly try out a couple of these downtown suggestions when I am in Montreal next month.

                    As for your friend’s partial memory, an Internet search turned this place up as the only place meeting the description you posted:

                    Café Tramezzini
                    2125, rue de la Montagne,

                    1. re: Fritzy

                      Thanks for doing the legwork, Fritzy. Will run the name by my LA correspondent and see what he says.

                      1. re: Fritzy

                        I tried an espresso here at Cafe Tramezzini yesterday. Definitely better than average: intense, but no bitterness, smooth clean finish with no aftertaste. Pleasant surroundings too.


                      2. re: carswell

                        I tried the espresso at Benelo's today. It was great! Light, complex and smooth. Thanks so much for the tip Carswell, I would never have found this place otherwise. It is hard to find even with the address and not at all the sort of location one would be looking for for a great drink.

                        Also had an espresso at Segfredo Zanetti downtown: better than average but nothing to write home about. Checked out Brulier St-Denis downtown. Although they had plenty of variety on their blackboard, they were actually only serving two "varieties of the day" -- decided to pass.


                        1. re: Fritzy

                          Thanks for the reports, Fritzy. Glad to hear you liked Benelo.

                          Since our last exchange, I've been told the coffee situation downtown should change for the better this fall. Don't know if there's an embargo on the deets but I'll publish them as soon as I know it's OK to.

                          1. re: Fritzy

                            OK. Someone on Coffeegeek spilled the beans. Caffè ArtJava is going to open a second shop on the corner of University and Président-Kennedy sometime between now and the end of September. Shots will be pulled on a spanking new three-group La Marzocco GB/5. This is fabulous news for downtown coffee lovers.

                            1. re: carswell

                              Has this Caffe ArtJava opened yet?

                              1. re: Fritzy

                                It hasn't opened yet. Somebody here could have more details.

                                1. re: BLM

                                  well,I'm glad to say we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel!! I can estimate a soft opening of Caffe Art Java(Président-Kennedy)for the week of the 24th of October.Carswell was dead on about the La Marzocco GB/5 and i've also added a SWIFT La Marzocco grinder and a Mazzer Super-Jolly to our arsenal.We've finalized the slate flooring today and all the restaurant equipment as well as the mill work is being delivered this week.We are really anxious on opening and serving the downtown core.


                                  1. re: maltoni

                                    I went by the new Caffe Art Java location yesterday. It's still not close to opening. Any new schedule opening day?

                                    1. re: BLM

                                      I see that in Maeve Haldane's review column in Hour this week, she laments the disappearance of Jarpitou Sandwich at Caffe Art Java. It was their thick fatty veal sandwich, with a side of rich tomato sauce. Served with a roasted marrowbone. Sounds decadent & delicious. Sorry I didn't know about it before. Here's the link to the column(the Caffe Art Java item is at the bottom)

                                      1. re: BLM

                                        Went to the new Caffe Art Java location tonight after work, to check it out & try their coffee(I was told they opened Monday of this week). The owner was gracious enough to show me around, including showing me their equipment. Been to their Plateau location before, so well aware of their outstanding coffee. I'm not a coffee connoisseur yet, so I won't comment any further.

                            2. re: carswell

                              Sunday, I tried out the Persian pâtisserie Nocochi (2156 rue MacKay, near Sherbrooke). I found their rendition of their Illy-based espresso highly agreeable. The physical setting is quite pleasant, but best of all they have a very large selection of very exotic cookies and pastries: I am putting their crumbly little chickpea and pistachio cookies down as my all-time favorite accompaniment to a short espresso. I’ll definitely stop by whenever I am in the neighborhood.


                              1. re: carswell

                                I guess everyone has their favorite style of espresso. Really, my favorite is the light Northern Italian style served at Benelo’s I stopped by yesterday and had a shot: light golden crema, a delicate, tasty drink without a trace of bitterness. Perfect! I didn’t eat anything, but one glass case was full of various quiches; there was very little in the way of sweets although there were custard-like offerings in one of the coolers that I probably should have asked about.

                                1. re: Fritzy

                                  I was curious about your description of "the light Northern Italian style" of espresso - would appreciate elaboration here:


                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    I am sure you can find people more expert than me to answer that question, but it is my impression that it is primarily the roast, with northern cities in Italy preferring lighter (brown rather than black) roasts.

                                    Try this link for that hypothesis:

                                  2. re: Fritzy

                                    Well, Trieste was one of the Italian outposts of the Austro-Hungarian empire. I do miss the more Viennese style coffee available at the old Central European cake and coffee places in west-central Montréal. I would be interested in knowing if there are any current incarnations thereof.

                              2. re: carswell

                                ....only real answer is "Cafe Italia".....others may prefer Cafe Internationale"....south of C Italia,...same side/same your own taste test.....skip all the others!

                              3. For roasted beans La Vielle Europe is amazing. They roast on the premises and the coffees range from Hawaiian Kona to a very respectable house expresso roast. They also have a decent selection of cheeses, pates and sausages.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Ed

                                  Sounds interesting: 3855 St-Laurent.

                                  Here is a link below:


                                  1. re: Ed

                                    Boston Chowhound wife and I can not leave the city on any of our trips to Montreal without a visit to La Vielle Europe for their Cuban brown and Cuban black coffee beans. There is nothing like it here in the Boston area. Last trip we took over 5 pounds across the border. (And unlike smoked meat, they are not looking to confiscate it.)

                                  2. Cafe Milano in St. Leonard is a fave for me.
                                    Sandwiches & biscottis are great. Rowdy & informal atmosphere (especially during World Cup!) - neighbourhood cafe type. But deserts are very mediocre.

                                    1. Hi there, i have been in this new awesome European Coffee Shop called Testa Rossa caffe at 2110 Crescent. I love coffee but the espresso they offer is just amazing.
                                      They have also some nice Italian Paninis:)

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Nich

                                        Granted I'm a cynical old git, but raves from first-time, one-time posters always set my spam alarm ringing. So this afternoon I dropped by Testa Rosa for a double espresso ($3.00) and a panino ($7.50).

                                        The premises are sleek, stylish and clean as a whistle. Small terrace out front; a few tables in the front section of the cafe proper; a long bar running the length of the remaining space with display cases for sandwiches, salads and desserts near the entrance; a few more tables and banquettes in the back; a veritable constellation of halogen lights; faux marble walls; LCD TV playing the BBC news channel (volume turned off), meaning you can dine to images of the devestation in Lebanon; innocuous muzak. For the time being you can see a pic on the Testa Rossa website

                                        The panino -- a vegetarian number featuring eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, basil and mozz with a sweetish (balsamic vinegar?) dressing -- was OK, though they made it on ciabatta because they were out of panini bread. Plated with three olives and a few sprigs of parsley. My goblet was kept filled with ice water and they asked if I wanted lemon in it, a nice touch.

                                        The espresso was well made. The barista flushed the group head, rinsed and warmed the portafilter with the flush water, tamped the grounds just right and hovered over the machine -- a Faema three grouper -- as the shot was pulled. Extraction was good, crema was pretty good, flavour was intense. The pitfall of sourness was avoided and the coffee's bitterness was natural, not from overheating. What it lacked was depth and, above all, roundness, natural sweetness. I suspect the culprit is the beans, which I assume are roasted in Italy and imported to Canada, much like Illy beans (cans of Testa Rossa coffee are prominently displayed in the cafe). Other people appreciate Illy more than I do, and I expect the same will be true for Testa Rossa.

                                        While I wouldn't call the espresso "amazing" (Caffè ArtJava has nothing to fear) and will probably continue to favour Benelo just across the street, Testa Rossa certainly pulls one of the better shots downtown.

                                        The cafe opens at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. on Sundays. No closing hours were specified.

                                        1. re: carswell

                                          The ambience, well-described by Carswell, was pleasant enough – the television mercifully was turned off. However my espresso macchiato was so insipid that further vocabulary to describe it escapes me.

                                        2. re: Nich

                                          Well not sure about how they taste, but the espressos in Testa Rossa burn you pretty well.

                                          I was at there with a group of friends, and our server dumped a double shot on me while trying to pass it to the person next to me. You know what? Shit happens, I am clumsy too (in fact too clumsy to work at any kind of food service). And I was fine with some acknowledgment of "bad" since I didn't suffer much physical or psychological trauma afterwards. Well my poor belly was red for a day or two, but I've seen worse sunburns. However, whatever happened afterwards was kind of odd.

                                          I washed myself up in the bathroom and regained some dignity (which is hard when your chest and ass is covered in a brownish stain, but oh well). I decided to forget about all because I was in good company of friends and just had some good chow. After we finished our drinks, our server (who dumped the coffee on me) came back and asked if we wanted something else, "on the house". We were full from a giant meal, and we had just finished our coffees, so what else would one want? We politely declined. Then another server came back (the one who took our orders) and asked if we wanted separate checks. We said "fine".

                                          To my surprise, I was presented a bill of some two dollars some cents (what my coffee had cost). I paid all in change, and left. I am not a cheapskate, or I am not trying to score some freebie, but I thought the norm was to comp the person that was done bad in this case, non? It is just too cheap to charge someone (especially when it is a couple of bucks) after accidentally scalding them. I am overreacting here?

                                          PS: Having had some other really odd coffee shop experiences recently, I am thinking that I got into some "barista blacklist" in this town. Ouch!

                                          1. re: emerilcantcook

                                            «It is just too cheap to charge someone (especially when it is a couple of bucks) after accidentally scalding them.»

                                            That's one way of looking at it. On the other hand, you got two coffees for the price of one... ;)

                                            Glad you survived without a trip to the General's burn unit.

                                        3. The original comment has been removed