Our Montreal Street Profile series has already hit Bleury, Parc and, most recently, Maisonneuve. Which is convenient, because even though we’re now heading down to Old Montreal to check out Rue Saint-Paul, these two streets share something in common…
Rue Saint-Paul is Montreal’s oldest street and was named after Montreal’s first governor, Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve…and the love doesn’t stop there- Chomedey is also both a street and neighbourhood in Laval. And I can’t even get an alley named after me.
Rue Saint-Paul is a perfect example of what makes Old Montreal so special. Still paved with cobblestones in many parts and stacked with buildings whose exteriors have been around for hundreds of years, it does feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. But what I really enjoy is finding a modern establishment nestled into all that history. Juxtaposition, people snootier than me might call it. As far as I’m concerned there are 3 things that Rue Saint-Paul does as well as any other street in the city…
Hotels: Hotel Nelligan is, by far, my favorite hotel in the city. Small, sophisticated and containing tons of personality (or just “classily expensive” as a friend described one of their suites), Nelligan also has some draws for non-hotel guests: its restaurant, Verses, and rooftop terrasse bar, Verses Sky, whose view of the St-Lawrence River and the Notre-Dame Basilica makes it easily one of the city’s best patios. Though it is technically located on McGill, Hotel St-Paul is one of Old Montreal’s hipper hotels, so we’ll give it a pass. Like Nelligan, its restaurant, Vauvres, is enough of a draw that actual Montrealers visit it for drinks and/or food. A little more low-key but entirely charming is Les Passants du Sans Soucy , a (very popular) 9-room B’n’B which has an entirely modern interior for a building that was built in 1723.
Restos: Restaurants are where Saint-Paul truly shines. Les Pyrénées focuses on food from the Basque region- think paella and delicious seafood, while Barroco does some of the same but its real draw is the short ribs, which at least 1/3 of the restaurant will be eating anytime you visit, guaranteed. Restaurant Ghandi may not be the city’s best Indian restaurant, but it’s entirely decent and it’s the only one on Saint-Paul. Modavie is a wine bar and restaurant but, honestly, most people go for the live jazz. Stash Café is also popular for its live music, but absolutely check it out for some of the best Polish food in the city. Ibiscus is a place I’d put in the must-try category- high end Haitian food in a beautiful setting.
One of the resto stars of Saint-Paul is the Nelligan-associated Méchant Boeuf, a hip Gastro-pub with some French flair thrown on top. The star of the show is their burger, which deserves its status as one of the city’s best, but adventurous stomachs should investigate further: their late night menu features a $22 poutine with braised pork (“late night” being the only time you’d justify such an expensive poutine) and their raw bar menu features some truly gargantuan seafood platters. But look, if you just want a steak, straight up, Steak Frites’ St-Paul location is a restaurant that focuses on and excels at…well, it’s right there in the name. Finally, La Sauvagine is a French restaurant that specializes in wild game (deer, elk, boar and more), while their other resto on Saint-Paul, Solmar, focuses on Portuguese food.
Galleries: If you’ve spent any time in Old Montreal you’ve noticed that there are a lot of stores that cater to tourists. Let’s be frank- that stuff, like it is in tourist-traps all over the world, is mostly garbage. For my money (well, technically, it will be your money), if you want to drop some coin, go to an art gallery, something that Rue Saint-Paul does quite well. Elca London has been in operation since 1960 and is devoted to the art of Canada’s Inuit people and always has a couple truly jaw-dropping pieces. Galerie Blanche focuses on contemporary Canadian painters, as does the beautiful Galerie Saint-Dizier. Last but certainly not least, the Galerie Pangee has a fairly wide-open mandate, focusing on Quebecois, Canadian and International artists and often hosts interesting events.