A little bit south and a little bit west of downtown Montreal sits Saint-Henri. Though it gets a lot of press for being one of the city’s most “up-and-coming” neighbourhoods, the real key to Saint-Henri is that it is still very much what it always was…
“Up-and-coming” goes hand-in-hand with that other urban buzzword, “gentrification”. Saint-Henri certainly has its share of converted lofts and expensive condos but it remains true to its original roots. It was, and still is in large part, French and working class- as Gabrielle Roy’s celebrated novel The Tin Flute so artfully explored. Heading west from Atwater until you get to about St-Remi and north of the Lachine Canal until around St-Jacques, those things that make Saint-Henri worth a visit often manage to bring something new to the neighbourhood while keeping its past in mind. Here are some of my favorite things about the little ‘hood that could…
Atwater Market: Atwater Market ( pictured above) is not only one of Saint-Henri’s prime attractions, but one of the city’s as a whole. First opened in 1933 and housed in a Ludger Lemieux-designed building, it’s a huge market with everything a person who likes food could ask for. Especially rich in specialty products you won’t find anywhere else. PS- a little less known is the Farmers Market on the corner of St. Remi and Notre-Dame that is open on Saturdays during the non-freezing cold months.
McAuslan Brewery: Just the fact that it produces St-Ambroise and Griffon beers would be enough for me to mention it and a beer tasting should probably be penciled into your plans. But what has truly cemented its importance to the community is the Centre St-Ambroise, which hosts everything from folk fests to DJ nights. It also boasts a pretty darn cute video about how-to-get-there.
Sir George Étienne Cartier Park: Easily one of Montreal’s most picturesque urban green spaces, this rectangular park has a fountain as a focal point and is bordered by some beautiful houses- a perfect little piece of Montreal. Though it is the area’s clear showstopper, there are several smaller parks within walking distance filled with soccer fields, tennis courts and more within.
Tuck Shop: The nearby neighbourhood Little Burgundy has become known for its restaurants, but the recent arrival of the hip, happening and entirely delicious Tuck Shop might mean the same for Saint-Henri. A laidback bistro with top-quality chefs who clearly make use of the nearby market when preparing their wares.
Caffè Mariani: The area’s other go-to spot for local foodies and coffee-cravers, Mariani excels at paninis and pizzas with a bit of pizzazz but its biggest draw may its unobstructed view of the park.
Greasy Spoons: Look, sometimes you just want to eat some greasy, delicious food and this neighbourhood does that very well. So much so that some intrepid citizen put together a slide show of some of the best. Miracle Pizzeria (4009 Rue Notre-Dame) gets my vote.
Resto Bar St-Jacques: You’re probably not going to find this place in any tourist guides and it’s definitely a little rough around the edges, but local promoters Pirates of the Lachine Canal do a weekly punk night there every Wednesday which is pretty good time. If that’s up your back alley, you should also consider a visit to Black Jack. And frankly, this is exactly the point: go visit the neighbourhood before all of Saint-Henri’s rough edges get all smoothed out.