NEIGHBOURHOOD GUIDE: VERDUN
Posted on November 28th, 2014 by Isa Tousignant.
Across the Lachine Canal from downtown Montreal and running westward, Verdun is one of Canada’s oldest neighbourhoods, and it’s in continual transformation: every visit reveals a new hip restaurant or cute bakery. With the path-lined canal running along its southern tip, Verdun is an ideal place for cyclists and cross-country skiers – and, in summer, even amateur fisherman! But it’s also a growing commercial centre, particularly on Wellington Street, the ‘hood’s happening main drag. We suggest you start your visit at De L’Église metro station, conveniently close to Wellington and inches from the visit-worthy Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs church, built in 1914
(chilling) Wellington is the perfect promenade drag, similar to Mont-Royal on the Plateau or Park Avenue in Mile End. There’s something new everywhere you look, and its crowd of wanderers encourage you to do the same, just walk, without trying to get anywhere too fast. When your feet ache or your tummy grumbles, there re a million convivial spots to stop at, whether to sit or to take out for a Canal-side picnic. If it’s the situation calls for brunch, stop by the neighbourhood favourite Ma Douce Moitié, complete with leatherette booths and indulgent specials like the French onion soup sandwich. For lighter fare and an incredible selection of international teas, stop by Cha Noir, a lovely haven of calm and quiet that serves a mean brownie. Le Baobab is a large-scale coffee shop that spread to two storefronts on the corner of Wellington and Third Avenue, and it’s busy because of the lusciousness of its lattés and homemade gelato. And more for the sake of nostalgia than anything, stop by one of Montreal’s only last remaining Dunkin Donuts near First Avenue. Speaking of donuts, try some of the divine jam-filled treats to-go at the polish bakery Wawel – you’ll thank us. The pretty Sweet Lee’s Rustic Bakery near De L’Église metro has a few small tables, but it’s so popular it might be easier to take your sandwiches to go instead. And cheese and charcuterie fans will want to buy every single thing at Copette & Cie artisanal bakery and cheese shop.
(eating) Verdun’s increasingly multicultural demographic is attested to by amazing international food stores like Branche d’Olivier (home to puffy fresh pitas, olives, hummus and so much more) and Marché Inter-Asie, which holds fresh Asian fruit and veggies as well as every sort of tofu you can imagine. Accordingly, Wellington boasts a Peruvian resto (Villa Wellington), a Vietnamese soup joint (Phobac no. 1) and an Indian eatery (Taj Mahal de l’Inde) to choose from! Restaurant Su, a neighbourhood icon known throughout the city, serves up fine Turkish cuisine bridging the Far East and the Mediterranean with signature dishes like mezzes, rack of lamb, and Manti (beef dumplings with yogurt and spicy butter). Another noticeable trend is hipster restaurants – you know, those fashionably appointed all-wood-and-steel places that serve decadent comfort food? There’s a handful of irresistible options here now, starting with a franchise of the Mile End staple, Comptoir 21, home to the most delectable fish & chips in town. BalconVille, not far eastward on the same side of the street, is a super relaxed and welcoming local hangout with tasty cocktails (try the Nun’s Island ice tea) and classic comfort foods (the bacon cheese burger with homemade condiments and matchstick potatoes is beloved). Finally, Blackstrap BBQ will make your dreams of Memphis come true with barbecued pork butts with braised greens and fried mac’n’cheese to write home about.
(shopping) The special thing about Wellington is that nearly all its boutiques are independent, the only chain store being a ginormous and amazing Friperie Renaissance. It makes the shopping experience a very exceptional one, knowing that your finds will be unique. Start with a visit to the men’s wear emporium M.H. Grover & Fils, a fixture in Verdun since 1925, serving the hard-to-fit man in stylish designs by brands ranging from Columbia to Cutter & Buck. La Mistinguette is a very special store, where you can find everything from fashion to accessories to cleaning products that are sustainable, eco-friendly and mostly locally made. (You won’t want to leave without a broach or earrings by Lili Pop, made from cut plexiglass and a generous dose of humour.) Librairie de Verdun is a sprawling independent bookstore that carries books in French and lots of gift ideas, with a particular focus on Québécois authors. Serious gamers and casual players alike will find their happiness at Game Keeper, a gaming centre specializing in trading cards and action figures, or, across the street near First Avenue, Le Coin du Jouet, a sweet toy store for big and small serving the community since 1968. Their collection of Playmobil is impressive. Esprit Vintage is our personal favourite: a beautifully styled vintage store featuring home ware, decorative objects and plain quirky things you never knew you needed but now can’t live without.