An integral part of the Plateau adjoining Petite-Patrie and Outremont, Montréal’s Mile End boasts its own identity that is unlike anything anywhere else. Often dubbed Canada’s “hipster capital,” the neighbourhood is much more than a simple label. Its singular atmosphere, a product of numerous waves of immigration, and thriving musical community are the envy of many the world over.
Unofficially bordered by Mont-Royal and Van Horne, between Saint-Denis and Hutchison, the Mile End got its name from the distance¾one mile¾between a racetrack once located on Saint-Joseph Boulevard and the Montréal city limit around 1850. This booming neighbourhood was quickly annexed by the city and renamed Côte Saint-Louis. When it went up in 1857, the iconic church Saint-Enfant-Jésus du Mile-End was one of the neighbourhood’s first official buildings. It laid the foundation for the civic hub that would emerge at the corner of Laurier and Saint-Laurent, with a bank, a fire station and a post office. But it was the opening of the Mile End train station in 1876 that really put the neighbourhood on the map. Soon, both the English elite and the French-speaking working class were moving in, followed by diverse immigrant communities, including Italians, Portuguese, Greeks, Irish Catholics and Hassidic Jews. They all found a welcoming home in the Mile End and had a hand in shaping it over the decades. The last major wave of change to hit the neighbourhood came in the 1980s when artists flocked there en masse, drawn by the eclectic atmosphere and affordable rent. Thirty years later, the Mile End is one of the most fashionable and exuberant places in the city.
Although the true origins of the name and the exact geographic boundaries of the Mile End are still up for debate, one thing is certain: the Mile End is a neighbourhood unlike any other and is worth taking the time to explore.
Here are some can’t-miss places to check out during your first visit.
Where to eat in the Mile End
Like everywhere else in Montréal, you don’t leave the Mile End hungry. The local food scene is simply unbeatable, both for its traditional French cuisine (La Chronique, Leméac) and its daring newcomers (La petite maison, Wilfrid sur Laurier, Lili.Co, Larry’s). There are also a handful of classic joints that will never go out of style, like Wilensky’s Light Lunch. Everyone has to eat their grilled bologna with mustard at least once in their lifetime, if nothing else to pay tribute to the famous author Mordecai Richler, a Wilensky’s regular. Next comes the impossible-to-miss Montréal bagel, baked to perfection at Fairmount Bagel Bakery for almost a century now. And while we’re piling on the carbs… the Mile End has numerous renowned bakeries, including Guillaume, Hof Kelsten and Farine. International food lovers will find what they crave at Restaurant Hà with its revamped Vietnamese specialties, Barbounya with its mouth-watering Turkish mezzes, and Milos with its high-end Greek taverna vibe. And for the icing on the cake, visitors can satisfy their sweet tooth at Kem Coba, a popular ice cream shop serving up unusual flavors, and with a decadent Russian donut from Chez Boris.
Where to shop in the Mile End
The Mile End is bubbling over with creativity, so it’s not surprising that charming, independent stores abound. Several boutiques stand out from the crowd: Clark Street Mercantile (men’s fashion), Drawn & Quarterly (bookstore stocked with Montréal authors), Boucle & Papier (stationary and gift shop), Fleuriste Dragon (local Instagram star!), Phonopolis (vinyl), Boutique Unicorn (women’s fashion), Aesop (beauty products), Mile End Kicks (footwear) and Annex Vintage (trendy thrift store). Le Marché des possibles, part of the Montréal POP festival, is a must-see revolutionary public space that features an area reserved for local crafters as well as movie screenings, a bar and food trucks.
Where to get great coffee in the Mile End
Any self-respecting trendy neighbourhood is chock full of coffee shops. And Mile End is no exception! The tradition dates back several decades¾just look at the legendary Café Olimpico and its beautiful patio. A few more modern, though no less charming, spots to grab a cuppa joe in the morning or afternoon are Butterblume, Arts Café, Kabinet, Falco, Le Cagibi and Myriade II. Of course, we can’t forget the adorable, Victorian-style Cardinal Tea Room.
Where to go out in the Mile End
A happy hour destination for working folks and a place for locals to share a bottle of wine, Mile End’s numerous bars offer an interesting mix that does not disappoint. For regulars, the first place that comes to mind is Dieu du ciel!, one of the city’s best-known microbreweries thanks in part to its popular Mild-End brew, an ale with hints of caramel that pays homage to its namesake. The Waverley is a great, unpretentious spot to drink a beer and catch a hockey game with friends. There are also several bars that serve up exceptional food as well: Bar Henrietta, Bishop & Bagg, Sparrow, Buvette chez Simone and M.Mme. For live shows, check out Casa del Popolo and the Rialto Theatre.
For an in-depth cultural visit to the Mile End, why not try a guided tour? The Mile End Montreal Food Tour and the Museum of Jewish Montreal’s Rabbis, Writers and Radicals tour are excellent ways to learn about the neighbourhood. And if the weather is not on your side, the website Mile End Memories is treasure trove of information.