Posted on July 4th, 2011 by .

Montreal becomes Festival Central every summer, its streets permanently animated by crowds and performances. At the heart of it all is the always-lively Quartier des Spectacles, or Show District, which is anchored by a public esplanade where many of Montreal’s free shows are held. The Jazz Fest may be wrapping up, but the party keeps going when the Just for Laughs festival takes over downtown…

If you’re heading there to catch a show and want to grab dinner and drinks beforehand, you won’t need to go far: two of the best casual restaurants in town are right there on the main esplanade, one beside the other. The F Bar and its neighbour Brasserie T! have great terrasses which afford that rare combination of great food and great people-watching, with front-row views of the main outdoor stage. My Montreal Buzz colleague Melora Koepke recently reviewed these two great spots in a post about Montreal’s Best Restaurant Patios.

For those who have been there, done that, I’ve got two more tips of where to eat and drink well around the Quartier des Spectacles. The first is a classic: the small and intimate Pullman wine bar has been around for years and is always a sure bet when looking for a place to nibble on small portions of this or that with a good glass of wine (there are plenty of non-obvious by-the-glass choices, smartly curated).

My second tip is the relatively new Bouillon Bilk, a hip little restaurant a mere block away from the esplanade with a simple and almost stark décor, but pleasingly elaborate plate presentations and preparations. While the summer festivals last they’ll offer what’s called a 4-à-7 special (a play on the French term for happy hour), where you can have, between 4 and 7 P.M., a dozen top-notch oysters for $24 or a platter of delicious appetizers for $10 per person – a great deal, considering the quality of what’s on the plate.

Bouillon Bilk, 1595 St. Laurent, (514) 845-1595  (you may want to check for more specials on their very active Facebook Page)

Brasserie T!, 1425 Jeanne-Mance, (514) 282-0808

F Bar, 1458 Jeanne-Mance, (514) 289-4558,

Pullman, 3424 du Parc, (514) 288-7779

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