Little Burgundy (formerly the town of Sainte-Cunégonde), which is bordered by the neighbourhoods of Griffintown, Pointe-Saint-Charles and Saint-Henri, is a neighbourhood in the former industrial and working-class Sud-Ouest borough that has been experiencing a major transformation of late. Popular bars and trendy boutiques now share sidewalk space with old antique stores along Notre-Dame Street. A superb concert hall and happening bars have also become part the scenery. A guide that takes you to the heart of this bright and busy neighbourhood.
A bit of history
With an approximate boundary of Atwater Avenue to the west, Guy Street to the east, the Lachine Canal to the south and Saint-Antoine Street to the north, the neighbourhood experienced a major boom in the 19th century with the construction of the Lachine Canal, which attracted a number of industries, particularly the Canadian Pacific Railway yards and the Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) factory. Pretty boutiques opened their doors on Notre-Dame Street and sumptuous buildings went up, most of which are occupied by antique stores today. From 1887 on, jazz was everywhere in Little Burgundy, which was christened “Harlem of the North”. Home to Montréal’s black anglophone working-class community, it gave birth to, among others, jazz legends Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones. Scores of famous musicians would come and play at Rockhead’s Paradise—Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Leadbelly, Nina Simone, Dizzy Gillespie and Sammy Davis Jr., among them—a bar run by Jamaican-born Rufus Rockhead. A street named after him exists to this day.
Since then, the neighbourhood has undergone considerable transformations and a makeover, particularly the opening of many places you won’t want to miss during your Montréal visit.
A stroll through green and steel
Little Burgundy is bordered, in part, by the Lachine Canal Park (today used for pleasure boating), which extends from Old Montréal (east) to Parc René Lévesque (west). By bike, foot or boat, you can take advantage of its budding modern/industrial scenery where echoes of the past still resonate. Follow the old train tracks past the Parc des Marchands-de-Bois, climb up on Charlevoix Bridge for a beautiful 360° view of the surroundings and finish with a picnic at Parc des Éclusiers or simply relax and soak it all in. As you head back north, don’t miss Stelco Park at the corner of Sainte-Cunégonde and Vinet Streets, where you can see sculptures made from steel artefacts from the old Steel Company of Canada factory. Follow Vinet up to Parc Vinet where you can sit down in the stands, ice coffee in hand, and watch people playing baseball on the diamond. A little further along, stop by the Centre Culturel Georges-Vanier to see its free exhibition as well as the Saints-Martyrs-Coréens Church, the rounded back of which is an architectural treat. Swing onto Coursol Street to see a succession of cute little colourful houses then come back to Notre-Dame Street for some delicious eats.
Little Burgundy goes gourmet!
Here is the land of Frédéric Morin and David McMillan, chefs and owners of the much-lauded Joe Beef, a restaurant that has been heralded by American chef/author/TV celebrity Anthony Bourdain that occupies 81st place on the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (51-100). Ever since, the star of two other establishments, Liverpool House and Vin Papillon, shines bright here too. These creative restaurants, whose unique flair follows the seasons and the market, guarantee to dazzle your taste buds.
More gourmet discoveries await elsewhere in the neighbourhood: the culinary poetry of Candide, which showcases a stunning array of fresh produce, the gourmet sandwiches of Bon Vivant (whose co-owner, Geneviève Guertin, will be opening the El Gordo taco/cocktail bar just next door), the affordable meals and generous Caesars of L’Gros Luxe and the seductive Italian cooking of Pizzeria Geppetto.
Got a sweet tooth? Go to Patrice Pâtissier, a temple of scrumptious confections helmed by Patrice Demers, Québec’s darling pastry chef, and the mouthwatering Mamie Clafoutis bakery. If you’re in the mood for a leisurely coffee, try Lili & Oli or the brand-new September Surf Café. And to sate your mid-morning cravings, head to Resto-café Quoi de N’Oeuf for copious breakfasts or brunches.
Little Burgundy lives it up!
Solve the world problems over a drink at the truly beautiful Drinkerie Ste-Cunégonde, a “new old tavern experience” whose decor rocks a mid 20th-century vibe, or bask in the authentic Brit pub ambiance of Burgundy Lion. End the night on right note at the Théâtre Corona Virgin Mobile, whose stage is regularly headlined by major international artists.
Little Burgundy’s got style
Stylish, you say? Absolutely. With antique shops and trendy new boutiques filled with “it” brands, Little Burgundy has something for every taste. If you’re the type that likes to go antiquing, hit up Antiquités Zofia or Grand Central. For furniture that’s says now, go to Beige, Karibu and SDA Home. And who can resist big-name brands that break the piggy bank? Stockmarkt, which opened in 2013, features the best of up-and-coming international designers at up to 70% off (James Perse, Maison Kitsuné, WANT, Acne and company). If you’re feeling peckish, pop by Itsi Bitsi for fresh butter cupcakes, whoopie pie or homemade cookies while browsing its selection of pretty souvenirs: one-of-a-kind cards, Pantone cups or pretty tea towels. And to really relax after a day of chock-a-block browsing, bliss out with the environmentally responsible products of Spa Vert.
Find out more about Little Burgundy
Up next: Meet a Montrealer: David McMillan