If you’ve been to the Gay Village in this past week, chances are you’ve noticed the jaw-dropping decorations of Aires Libres 2011 (unless you walk using your face). 170,000 pink resin balls create a dream-like canopy that stretches the 1.2 kilometers between Berri and Papineau. They provide the perfect ambiance to kicking back and relaxing on one of the many patios of the Gay Village…
Call them what you want: Patios, decks, terraces, courtyards or verandas. Montreal is King of them. Terraces are the butter to Montreal’s summer loaf. It is where locals eat, drink, play, work, and live during the sweltering summer months. And we wouldn’t have it any other way! Montreal’s Gay Village becomes a pedestrian paradise during the summer months, with the closure of St. Catherine for Aires Libres. This allows the restaurants, bars, clubs, coffee shops, ice cream parlors and bakeries to set up patios out on the street. I’m no scientist, but I’d state very confidently that this is one of, if not the, highest concentration of terraces-per-square-fun anywhere in Montreal.
Just taking a quick stroll through the Village, you can get what the locals call “terracirium” which is “terrace delirium”: a very strange state of shock that one can enter when they are overwhelmed with too many fabulous terrace choices. Locals don’t actually use that word, I sort of just made it up. But have no fear! Here is my guide to thwarting the evil powers of terracirium: Top 8 Terraces of the Gay Village!
La Piazzetta (1101 Sainte-Catherine Street East)
As one of the first nice terraces when you enter The Village from Berri, it is the perfect vantage point to people-watch everyone coming in to enjoy Aires Libres. You’ll have to compete for a spot on this terrace, because it can get quite crowded. Who doesn’t like devouring reasonably priced delicious pizza? I would say this is the perfect Saturday afternoon lunch terrace.
Cabaret Mado (1115 Sainte-Catherine Street East)
What the Cabaret Mado terrace lacks in size, it makes up for in pink. Definitely the eye-catcher, but when has Mado ever opted for subtlety? With big windows that open right into Mado’s, this terrace is perfect for an evening hang out during the weekdays. Grab some friends, watch the always-fun drag show, and then sit outside and enjoy the summer breeze.
Bouche en Folie (1117 Sainte-Catherine Street East)
If you’ve seen my Bixi Through the Village video, you’d know the real star is Bouche en Folie. With over 30 mixable flavours of soft serve ice cream, and owned by the most adorable lady on the planet, Bouche en Folie’s understated terrace has to be the sweetest spot in the Village! Imagine this: Sunday afternoon, 25 degrees, Maple Chocolate Soft Serve, watching hot shirtless boys walk by. Bliss.
Java-U (Right next to Beaudry metro)
A new and welcome addition to the Village, and they really went all out with their terrace debut. Can you say C-L-A-S-S-Y? Comfy chairs, relaxed atmosphere and nice varnished wood accents. Could a gay demand anything more in a terrace? The Java-U, which opened only a few months ago, was a much-needed addition to the coffee bean scene in the Gay Village. So their terrace is pretty much the break out star of Aires Libres 2011. Meet me there with a nice book and cool sunglasses and we shall lounge for hours!
Steak Frites (1302 Sainte-Catherine Street East)
A high-end restaurant with a terrace to match. Large and friendly, this terrace is well designed and integrates beautifully to the already chic decor of Steak Frites. Cozy, romantic and full of soft light. I would take someone special there on a Thursday night dinner date. Ask to sit underneath the big red umbrella or the big green tree. Insider tip: Try the steak and frites (duh).
Saloon (1333 Sainte-Catherine Street East)
Tragically small, but they try their best. I just wish they could make it bigger! Someone call an architect so we can create a two-story terrace that can be disassembled in September and stored behind the door. Also, it should have a fire pole. Every imaginary two-story collapsable terrace should have a fire pole. Saloon is a village staple and their terrace is no different. The giant glowing white pots are really there to contain the line that forms in the summer months. Well worth the wait though!
Drugstore (1366 Sainte-Catherine Street East)
Big, friendly and tons of green umbrellas. If the Village had a “Cheers” where everybody knows your name, the terrace of Drugstore would be it. Snappy service, prices to match and a plethora of drinks, this place is classic done right. They have concocted 3 new types of sangria to be enjoyed out on their terrace. My favourite being the one with White wine and Bleu de Curacao. All night, every night, Drugstore is a safe bet to have a good time.
Cafe Kilo (1495 Sainte-Catherine Street East)
Eclectic, friendly service and a cozy, no-nonsense terrace. Pitchers of beer, pitchers of sangria, pitchers of whatever, all paired with their dizzying array of sandwiches, wraps and soups. Casual lunch or a late night snack – Kilo is essential to any trip to The Gay Village. If you can’t see the sign outside, look for the giant faces.