Montreal is known as a very European city. The pace, the architecture, the joie de vivre and the café culture and abundance of excellent coffees that comes with it. There are countless cafés to enjoy, but for authentic atmosphere and gourmet blends, here are 5 of the best…
Caffè in Gamba, in the heart of the Plateau’s Mile End district, is a relatively new addition to the list, but for the past few years owner Jean Francois has been pulling some of the best espressos this side of Italy. The café is a part of the Third Wave movement and specializes in espresso (of course), offering some of the world’s finest beans with respect to the Italian tradition. At Caffè in Gamba, you can expect world class beans from roasters like Canada’s own 49th Parallel, Intelligentsia, Zoka, Novo and Vergnano, as well as local beans roasted in Montreal. The coffee is brewed to perfection and served in the comfort of the plush café where you can sit at the bar or cozy up near the fireplace with your state of the art coffee.
Some of the finest coffee this city has to offer is just a short walk from Caffè in Gamba at Café Olimpico, which is nestled on the corner of St-Viateur and Waverly in Mile End. The café has been in business since 1970 and the name has since become synonymous with the best coffee in town. Café Olimpico is a landmark in Montreal and is known for its perfect coffees served in the authentic Italian café. The café itself has been run by the same family since it opened its doors decades ago. Every coffee they make is delicious, but the latte is the staple. The café itself is always packed to the rafters with regulars and nothing beats Café Olimpico in the summer when the terrace is open.
Heading North to Little Italy is a sure way to find a great cup of coffee. The gem of Little Italy is Caffè Italia on St-Laurent. The café opened in 1956 and like Café Olimpico, it’s an institution. There are usually clusters of men in their golden age playing cards and drinking coffee all day long. It’s also a popular lunch joint because they serve delicious sandwiches at a good price. Being at Caffè Italia feels like travelling back in time, the TV is the only clue that you haven’t found a wormhole to a classic cappuccino. Of course, I had the cappuccino and it was nothing short of perfection. The foam was frothy and thick and the coffee itself was bittersweet. Getting a coffee in Little Italy, a major part of this foodie tour of Little Italy, is an absolute must.
Downtown Montreal also has lots of delicious coffee, you just need to know where to find it. Simply look for the throngs of people at Café Myriad and you’ll know you’re in good company. Café Myriad is a West Coast café bringing a relaxed, West Coast vibe to the heart downtown Montreal. It’s a scene for a younger crowd but that doesn’t mean that they don’t take coffee seriously. Café Myriad is considered one of the best new cafés in Montreal and it’s not hard to find out why. It’s always packed (it’s across the street from Concordia University) but the service is competent and the coffee (Ritual and 49th Parallel among others) is worth it. Magically, at Myriad they’ve got coffee down to a science, so it’s never burnt and always delicious. Go to Café Myriad for a pastry and one of their many varieties of coffee, or if you’re not in the mood for a caffeine, try their chocolate water (seriously).
Nocochi is a sleek and modern café/patisserie located on Sherbrooke and Mackay in downtown Montreal. They’re known for their fine selection of coffee and tea and their complimentary mini cookies that they pair with your coffee. The menu offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and of course dessert. Go to Nocochi to indulge. Everything at this café is made to perfection with a great attention to detail. I ordered a café mocha which was robust and sweet without being saccharine. This place knows how to do it, without over doing it.
Caffè in Gamba, 5263 Parc, (514) 656-6852
Café Olimpico, 124 St-Viateur West, (514) 495-0746
Nocochi, 2156 Mackay, (514) 989-7514