When it comes to restaurant patios in Montreal (known here as terrasses), there are really two different sorts. The front patios, which are basically extensions of the restaurant itself, on which diners can eat their meals while watching the world go by (and the world, in turn, watches their meals while going by). Otherwise, you have the back patios, the inner sanctums of a restaurant where kitchen secrets bloom in private. Sitting on a restaurant’s back patio is a chance to access a leafy secret garden of bliss at the back end of a favourite dining spot. Below, we’ve picked the gold-medal standard of both front and back patios in Montreal, as well as a few alternates.
Brasserie T! : Putting it all out there
Ever since Chef Normand Laprise (of Toqué! Fame) and Charles-Antoine Crete opened Brasserie T!, their more “accessible” version of the Montreal institution right smack in the middle of Festival Central, the brasserie’s patio has been the best seat in town for fireworks, festivals and all sorts of riotous summer activity. Not to mention the food, which is pretty awesome, too. But their new addition to the summer menu will soon be legendary: A seafood platter to end all seafood platters (or, as our waiter put it, not just your usual lobster-and-mussels sort of thing).
The platter odes of course include mussels and lobster (the latter a plump half-beast from the Magdalen Islands) as well as Gaspesian whelks in tomato and aioli, Matane shrimps, Oysters, a scallop Ceviche with basil and strawberries, and the piece de resistance: Rimouski sea-urchin in a delicate cream. Irresistible and original, this seafood platter raises the bar for summer food in the city. As a bonus, order Brasserie T!’s other summer special: a Guédille aux crevettes de Matane. A Guédille being a classic Quebecois sandwich in a hotdog bun, kind of like a lobster roll but with shrimps instead.
La Buvette Chez Simone A “buvette” is a French word for a casual drinking establishment, but this sweet spot is just as known for its wine-friendly small plates as for its bevvies: Fried zucchini flowers and charcuterie make for perfect summer-night nibbles, while the lights on Parc Avenue dance past.
F Bar Brasserie T’s neighbor in the heat of the action is run by Montreal’s premier Portugese chef, Carlos Ferreira, who also has a fancier joint on Peel St. F Bar, also opened last summer, specializes in bitoque, tacho casseroles and a mean beet salad.
Joe Beef: Deluxe kitchen garden
Chefs Dave McMillan and Fred Morin opened Joe Beef a few years ago, to instant accolades: the resto has been featured in the NY Times and Bon Appetit, which called it “cheeky and rambunctious”. And indeed, Joe Beef is usually party central for the downtown crowd, though the meat-centric menu stands up to even the most discerning diners. The owners recently launched an oyster bar to herald summer, but the real tribute to the steamy season is on their leafy back patio, which is a verdant respite from the bustle of Notre-Dame Street.
Not only is their roomy back space a green oasis, it’s also a totally productive salad garden: Fred Morin, who lovingly curates the collection of chicory, lettuce, microgreens, strawberries and other delicacies that make up his summer salad dishes, that grow alongside you as you bask in the backyard photosynthesis: The current trend is for urban agriculture, but as usual Joe Beef were ahead of the curve. Bonus extra: The smell of smoky meat wafting over from Morin’s legendary smoker, in pride-o-place in the backyard.
Hecho in Mexico brings a Cinco de Mayo-type vibe to their back terrasse off Wellington Street, with true-to-life specials straight from the cervejarias of the D.F (what Mexico City residents call Mexico City) including Tacos al Pastor (pork piled on soft tacos, topped with pineapple) and carnitas. They also make a mean margarita, and rim the glasses with Tagin (a Mexican premixed spice).
Tuck Shop expands their packed dining room for summer into a sweet back patio that doubles as a kitchen garden, with all the grown goodies spilling out from