There was a time in my life where I spent a lot of time on that particular stretch of Saint-Denis between Sherbrooke and Mont-Royal. I’d linger on the terasse of a café, browse the shelves of the many used CD and bookstores and grab a bite at one of the many restaurants on that street….
Saint-Denis is one of the major arteries that bisect the city, from Old Montreal to the south to just beyond the 40 to the north. A few of my old haunts are now gone, but if you ever find yourself nearby these are some of my favourite spots to grab a bite…
L’Artisan Piadineria: A piadina is a typical Italian street food; it’s a flatbread sandwich stuffed with a variety of cold cuts, veggies and/or cheese. Stop by for a snack at this recently opened spot and watch owner Enzo Salvati work the dough by passing it through the roller machine. Your piadina is then cooked on the flattop while you wait and stuffed with whatever delights you may desire from the vast array of high quality Italian salumi, imported cheeses or marinated vegetables. L’Artisan Piadineria, 3421 St-Denis, (514) 508-1433
La Fabrique: La Fabrique’s open kitchen takes up center stage in the middle of the restaurant and is the main attraction. Watching the dynamic kitchen team do its thing is part of what makes this spot fun. The neighbourhood bistro serves up hearty market food in a vintage industrial ambiance that’s always festive. Stop by for brunch and enjoy some of the tasty reinvented classics on the menu. La Fabrique, 3609 St-Denis Street, (514) 544-5038
ITHQ: The Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec is where young minds come to acquire the skills needed to be in the hospitality and tourism industry. These same young minds, specifically those striving to become chefs or excel in the service industry are at the helm of the two Institute restaurants. The Salle Paul-Émile-Lévesque is the ITHQ’s teaching restaurant where students prepare and serve their creations as part of their curriculum under their teachers’ supervision. A 2-course table d’hôte menu will run you anywhere from $10.50 to $15.50, perfect for a casual lunch. The more sophisticated Restaurant de l’Institut is a fully functional 60-seat restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a beautiful space overlooking St-Denis. Restaurant de l’Institut, 3535 St-Denis Street, (514) 282-5120, Salle Paul-Émile-Lévesque, 401 rue de Rigaud, (514) 282-5120 Au cinquième péché: Originally from the North of France, the Lenglet brothers are the owners of this small St-Denis bistro, serving their own take on classic French dishes using local and seasonal produce. The restaurant is most famous for serving seal meat and has been featured in many local and international media including Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and the New York Times. However, don’t get caught up in the hype and give their many succulent dishes and natural wines a try. Au cinquième péché, 4475 St-Denis, (514) 286-0123
La Distributrice: While this place is not technically on St-Denis, it is but a stone’s throw away. La Distributrice has been deemed the smallest coffee shop in the world. Located under a staircase on Mont-Royal Street just east of Saint-Denis, the tiny well-organized space consists of a counter for the espresso machine and a stool for the barista to sit on. Despite the tight quarters, La Distributrice manages to dole out a great cup of espresso or latte through its takeaway window. Don’t forget to grab a cup on your way to the Mont-Royal metro station. La Distributrice, 408 Mont Royal Avenue East, (514) 291-4825
I cannot resist adding this recommendation to the list. While this is not, per say, a place to get something to eat, it can be complementary to your next meal. Opened since 1975, Arthur Quentin is an exquisite household store carrying everything from the latest kitchen gadget to the quaintest French cookbook. Whether you’re a lover of Le Creuset crockpots or are just looking for the latest pastry molds, I dare you to walk out of this unique boutique empty handed. Arthur Quentin, 3960 St-Denis Street, (514) 843-7513