2010 has been a busy year for the Montreal Street Profile series. We started with Bleury, Parc, Maisonneuve, Saint-Paul and Saint-Zotique. We visited Crescent, Greene Avenue, Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Denis. For our final installment of the year (hint: make sure to come back in 2011!), we thought a stroll down Mount-Royal was in order, in no small part because it offers some very “a la Montreal” shopping that is perfect for the holiday season…
Given that it starts at Mount Royal, it’s not hard to figure out where Mount-Royal Avenue gets its name. Of all the streets we’ve profiled, this one has perhaps the most iconic landmarks of them all: you can look down from its mountainous starting point and see the Big O, where it ends. (Our exploration will a bit shorter than that.) It is a totally charming street, as “Montreal” as they come, especially in the summer when a large portion of it is blocked off from traffic. It boasts some of the city’s classic diners, some great restaurants and cool bars and, while Saint-Catherine may boast the big name stores, Mount-Royal boasts the cool independent shops that you won’t find anywhere else…
Beauty’s: Perhaps the only thing on Mount-Royal to rival the mountain and the Big O in iconic status is Beauty’s, the breakfast and brunch spot that has been a favourite of Montrealers since 1942. Everything is pretty spot-on here, but do not visit without getting one of their famous smoothies.
Binerie: Any greasy spoon that has its own Wikipedia entry is obviously a big deal. Opened (and virtually unchanged) since 1938, as the name suggests the star of the show here is mighty bean, but this is truly a mecca of traditional Quebecois foods like tourtière, pea soup and sugar pie.
Meow: A perfect example of the great vintage/retro/cool t-shirt/weird awesome little object shops that Mount-Royal does especially well.
Old Gold: This small spot is sort of a curated store, with great vintage clothes mixed with expertly chosen hard-to-find brands. Especially good for men’s stuff.
Paul’s Boutique: A record shop that is a goldmine of hard-to-find vinyl. And yes, the Beastie Boys have been here and given it the thumbs up.
Caffe Art Java: If you need a coffee and you’re Mount-Royal, I command you to get it here.
Salle a Manger: Chef Samuel Pinard’s open-kitchen resto that focuses on locally-sourced foods is one of the city’s rising food stars, a fun and relaxed place that has an entire section devoted to feeding large groups. So, if you’re craving an entire suckling pig, this is the place.
Au Cinquième Péché: Though Salle a Manger may be the star, absolutely consider this tiny-in-size-only French bistro that focuses on some truly-outside-the-box food. So, if you’re wondering where you could have seal done three ways, this is the place. Last year I had a 5-hour food extravaganza there that I can still taste.
Belmont: Though technically on St-Laurent, the Belmont is close enough to Mount-Royal to deserve a mention. It’s really two totally different bars in one: a pint-and-pool place that eventually gives way to a nightclub that boasts some of the best electronic music in the city.
O Patro Vys: My favorite drink spot however is found in this downstairs/upstairs combo. Upstairs at O Patro Vys, you can see shows of all sorts before/after/during heading down to Bily Kun for their unique drinks that include absinthe and all sorts of Czech and Polish boozes that you can’t find anywhere else in the city.
La Porte Rouge: La Porte Rouge might just be the bar star of Mount-Royal, managing to walk that fine line of retro-kitsch, the fun-but-not-tacky appeal that pretty much everyone loves.
Candi Bar: Candi Bar, however, appeals to a more specific clientele. This cocktail spot looks like someone exploded a couple martinis inside a box of toys.
As I always say, this is just a small sampling of what the street has to offer. But, if there were ever a stroll-able street that requires no advance planning, Mount-Royal is it.