We walk along it time and again, on a whim, to go for a stroll, shop, run errands, eat in an excellent restaurant, have brunch or coffee, or chat over drinks. Bustling, lively and primarily francophone Mont-Royal Avenue is a veritable beehive of activity. More small boutiques are starting to pop up along it, some with European influences. Think you know all its secrets? That’s exactly what we wanted to scope out for you: the little treasures tucked along it and some new kids on the block. Here’s an east to west guide of this amazing artery.
Affiche en Tête, 2034 Mont-Royal Avenue East
Caroline and Mathieu have an eye for little gifts to bring back home and they love encouraging Montréal artists. A poster, a painting or a cute illustrated greeting card: the selection is spectacular. Culled from Montréal’s best markets (like Puces Pop), they are also affordable and showcase local artists, with a small description and photo of each. A unique little initiative that puts a face to a name and a story to the poster you hang up at home. Bonus: the boutique features exclusive partnerships with certain artists, like the works of illustrator and designer Magalie Robidaire, whose beautiful compositions of photographs and drawings bring together colours, textures and geometric forms. Sold!
Boucherie Père & Fils, 1881 Mont-Royal Avenue East
The singsong accent of Marseille fills this butcher shop, where the animal is cut and prepared on the premises. Olivier Dupuy is quite the character. Passionate about his trade, this master butcher, voted four times the “Best butcher in France” is at the helm of a carnivore-centric, ethical and family business, keeping close ties with some of Québec’s best farmer (the Ardennes pig farm in Mont Saint-Grégoire, for example). Proudly showcased in the shop window like trophies, the meat—presented whole or in cuts—tempts passersby. A must and mouthwatering stop to pick up rillettes and charcuteries to devour in the Parc des Compagnons close by.
Le Pétrin Fou, 1592 Mont-Royal Avenue East
“You never leave here empty-handed,” says Mario Pariso, grinning broadly. The baker, who has been busy plying his trade for the past 30 years, talks proudly and happily about his first new place, an airy, light-filled shop that joined the Avenue a mere nine months ago. Here, he bakes organic bread from ancient grains that come from the Moulin A. Coutu in Lac Saint-Jean. On the racks, beautiful loaves of chia, teff, kaniwa, kamut or red clover bread. Mmmm! “Other bakers come here to buy their bread,” he confides, mischievously. Added feature: you can buy bread by the pound, if your goal for the day is to make a sandwich from products picked up along the Avenue. It’s also a great option trying out house specialties like lavender and chocolate bread… such a delectable thought. Recently, Mario has started featuring gluten-free recipes: there’s absolutely everything his mix!
Les hauts et les bas, 4487 Fabre Street
With her expert eye, Josée can size up your bra size in a second. When you step into this cozy little boutique on Fabre, just a few steps south of Mont-Royal, you immediately feel at ease. And that’s really what Josée and her team want to cultivate: extra special attention for and a bond with her (very loyal) clientele. You can leave with lovely lingerie from local brands like Sokoloff or Blush, or stunning classics like Simone Pérèle, Voilà pantyhose or Bleu Forêt socks. A friendly and discreet atmosphere, where ooh-la-la underwear await.
Aux 33 Tours, 1373 Mont-Royal Avenue East
If Ali Baba’s cave were crammed with vinyls, it would look like this. One of Canada’s biggest independent music stores, Aux 33 Tours houses rare albums and particularly, an imposing selection of some 3,000 Japanese vinyl records that, every three months, join the store’s perfectly ordered and labeled shelves. The only only place to find these kinds of vinyls is Los Angeles, which makes 33 Tours the only official seller in eastern North America. “They’re the best vinyl presses on the market and the sound quality is impeccable,” explains Mathieu Morin, himself a collector and employee of the store. Bonobo and even Caribou have come here to stock up. May the listening joy be yours also.
Libraire Bonheur d’occasion, 1317 Mont-Royal Avenue East
Mathieu Bertrand’s got the gift of the gab. He can skip from one story to the next, fueled by the desire to communicate that many bookworms share. A temple for collectors, this second-hand store “where you can find books you can’t find anywhere else” has a really lovely selection of old, art and autographed books. “Our reputation is built on the quality of our books. I select only books conserved in their entirety because a collector won’t buy if there is a page or an illustration missing,” clarifies Bertrand, who is owner of the bookstore. In their quest to offer nothing but the best, he and his team put in a lot of painstaking work: from an exhaustive check of the work to restoring the original binding. It’s rumoured that among his treasures was a Gothic German bible illustrated by the copperplate engraver Matthaüs Merian, sold for $3,500, or “Terres des homes”, a collection of autobiographical essays, dedicated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry to his editor, Bernard Valiquette, estimated at $5,000. Not long ago, they introduced an art gallery to the back of the bookstore where you can go see Mathieu’s amazing art book finds or works by local artists.
Studio Argentique, 1042 Mont-Royal Avenue East
Pierre-Paolo Dori, a former commercial photographer, decided to cultivate his passion for photography and share it with others in his brand-new Studio Argentique, which just opened a few weeks ago. “Here, our specialty is silver halide photography, particularly the wet collodion process, which was invented in 1851.” Your picture is taken with a 1905 Lorillon camera; then, an hour later, you get your photo on a stunning metal plate, which accentuates expressions and appears in a beautiful grey palette in a vintage frame. It’s a great gift idea! Studio Argentique also functions as an art gallery, darkroom and studio rental, training workshop and specialized materials store. For those nostalgic about bygone photos, there’s a new shop to pine for.
L’intervalle, 806 Mont-Royal Avenue East
People who love shoes are going to leap for joy when they learn about this new boutique. Though it set up shop a mere five months ago, Intervalle, a new Montréal brand by Sam Assaf and Vicky Scalia, has been offering stylish and contemporary creations at affordable prices, designed here and manufactured in Europe (Spain and Italy). In their chic, streamlined boutique, you can find little gems of leather shoes that will make anyone with a sandal, boot or pump obsession absolutely green with envy. Every two weeks, a limited quantity of new pairs arrives: exclusive and gorgeous finds that fashionistas are already clamoring for. “Europeans and Ontarians love us,” says Vicky, pleased. The expanding brand has already opened shop in the Eaton Centre and is banking on branching out internationally. A future Montréal success story? We definitely believe.
Restaurant Plein Sud, 222 Mont-Royal Avenue East
Welcome to our house! Well, that’s kind of what it feels like at Plein Sud. The only Corsican restaurant on the Avenue (and one of the few in Montréal) serves comforting and authentic cuisine. It’s been run for the past seven years by Dominique (Corsican) and William (Niçois), a couple that is passionate about what they do and who put a lot of love into their terroir fare. “In Corsica, our specialties are our grandmothers’ recipes,” says Dominique, “that are passed down from mother to daughter.” Corsican cuisine also stands for big, lively family gatherings around a table. “Veal with olives brings us all together,” she adds with a smile. Eating at Plein Sud is soaking up a bit of sunshine as you enjoy your meal. Don’t forget to take advantage of the terrasse while the weather holds!
La Touche – Bar à café, 164 Mont-Royal Avenue East
Follow your feet to another “guy from the south” named Arsène, a Marseillais who woke up one day and decided he wanted to go to work “with a smile”. He abandoned a cushy financial situation to get into the coffee business. “When I arrived in Montréal, I wanted to do things a little differently. So I applied the concept of a wine bar to coffee.” Arsène offers 100% organic, fair trade, specialized Arabica coffee blends from Columbia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica and other countries. An array of flavours that clients can come savour every day. “I like it when people discover that Arabica is different from country to country. It’s like making a custom-made cup for each person,” he adds, a huge grin on his face.
What are your best-kept secrets along Mont-Royal Avenue?