Much has been said about Montreal’s Mile End residential-meets-commercial neighbourhood, a hub of hipness that has gone through some big changes in the past decade or two, evolving from the best place to buy bagels and sip espresso into a go-to zone for local-designer shopping, contemporary culinary adventures and laid-back, late-night drinks…
Situated north-west of the Plateau, Mile End’s borders remain somewhat debatable, stretching from Parc Avenue to de Gaspé from west to east, and St-Joseph (or, as some might argue, Mont-Royal) to Van Horne from south to north. Since we last profiled Mile End in 2012, we’ve seen the area evolve, and thankfully, many of the neighbourhood’s qualities and amenities remain firmly in place, and artists, writers and musicians still rub shoulders with the Jewish, Greek and Italian communities, who share the streets with video game designers, entrepreneurs and young families.
(restaurants cafes) Fuel up at Italian espresso institutions Café Olimpico and Social Club, consistently drawing crowds to lively St-Viateur Street for decades now, while several relative newcomers – Myriade, Cafe in Gamba, Brooklyn, Dispatch Coffee – specialize in the nuanced flavours of “third-wave coffee,” while Navarino has coffee and Greek pastries, Chez Boris boasts that classic combo of coffee and doughnuts, tucked-away Le Falco for siphon coffee and Japanese snack plates, and, if you’re in a mood for tea and scones instead, look no further than the quaint Cardinal Tea Room. Like coffee, vegetarian and vegan fare is also no stranger to Mile End, from the sandwiches (and live music) at Cagibi to the falafel at La Panthère Verte (now in a new and much bigger, brighter location), to the fresh fusion snacks and alternative-milk lattes at Résonance, to comfort food at La Lumière, and, on the southern border of Mile End, one of the most-established veggie restaurants in town, Aux Vivres.
For wonderfully fresh gourmet Greek food reserve a table at Milos. For a dinner both celebratory and with its finger on the pulse of the best food trends, hit up Hotel Herman or Lawrence. Burgers vie for the attention of deliciously creative specials at Nouveau Palais, thin-crust pizza wins the day at Magpie Pizzeria, Korean food with a twist occupies Omma, traditional Japanese dishes and, of course, sushi make Azuma (5263 St-Laurent) a must, ramen and other Japanese bar fare tantalizes at Sardine (café by day and isakaya by night), and for tacos, burritos and more Mexican homestyle food, try Ta Chido on Parc, La Tamalera on Fairmount or Maïs on St-Laurent, or opt for colourful Colombian delights at Gracias Corazon on St-Viateur. Even with the proliferation of new restaurants and cafes, the old-school charm (and some of the grit) of Mile End will never go away (fingers crossed that it stays forever) – just walk into Wilensky’s Light Lunch for their classic fried bologna-and-salami sandwich and old-fashioned homemade soda, fill up on pierogies at Euro Deli Batory Polish deli on St-Viateur, or savour the spices of Caribbean roti at Le Jardin du Cari (5554 St-Laurent).
Add to all that some sweet take-away options: inventive ice cream makers Kem Koba, French-style bakery Boulangerie Guillaume, gourmet chocolatiers Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois and Chocolats Andrée, and cake-and-cupcake maker Cocoa Locale (4807 Avenue Du Parc). Find the basic ingredients for a home-cooked meal at Boucherie Lawrence (for cheese, steaks, cured meats and more), neighbourhood stalwarts Boulangerie Clark bakery (29 St-Viateur W.) and Chez Vito deli (5180 St-Urbain), PA Supermarket and Bio Terre organic health food store, and mix in even more flavour with the whole and ground spices found at Spice Station. And, of course, what put the neighbourhood on many a traveller’s map in the first place, be sure to grab one or a dozen hot, fresh bagels at Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur Bagel. With so many ways to stay well fed in Mile End, plus the many restaurants on nearby Laurier Avenue, you may have a hard time leaving the neighbourhood for the numerous other culinary delights Montreal has to offer.
(bars entertainment) Musicians of varying stripes make Mile End their home and often play (and drink) in the neighbourhood as well – music festival Pop Montreal gives numerous hints as to where. The mid-September festival populates venues city-wide, yet its hub is decidedly Mile End, with shows every night of the fest at La Sala Rossa, La Vitrola and watering-hole-and-venue-in-one Casa del Popolo, the Ukrainian Federation, Rialto, Cabaret du Mile End, Cabaret Playhouse and Cagibi. More bar options comes in the form of microbrewery Dieu du Ciel, foodie-favourite Sparrow, new British pub Bishop Bagg on St-Viateur, cocktail lounge Baldwin Barmacie on Laurier, beloved hole-in-the-wall Snack N’ Blues, and Ubisoft’s after-work choice, Bar Waverly on St-Laurent.
(shopping) Along with the expansion of restaurant options in Mile End, boutiques have seen a bit of a boom too, especially those that specialize in clothing and accessories created by local designers. For women: General 54, Unicorn, Atelier B, Body Bag, Les Étoffes and Katrin Leblond – also watch for designer deals at Montreal’s many winter holiday markets. For men: find the storefront of online retailer Frank Oak at the corner of Casgrain and St-Viateur, Mercantile at the corner of Clark and Fairmount for clothing, shoes, art and accessories, and shoes-meets-magazines concept store Boutique Oxford on St-Viateur. For more shoes, check out the two locations of Mile End Kicks on Parc Avenue. And for jeans in all styles, shapes and sizes, live the Jeans Jeans Jeans experience as Montrealers do by consulting the knowledgable sales reps and trying on at least 10 pairs to find your dream jeans. Plenty of excellent vintage shopping can be found in Mile End too – try Citizen Vintage, Annex, Local 23 and Empire Exchange. For new and used records and CDs, spend some time browsing the bins at Phonopolis and Sonorama, both on Bernard, just steps away from one of the best book stores in the city, if not the world, Librarie Drawn and Quarterly.
(art recreation) Some of Montreal’s most famed artists show at Galerie Simon Blais, while Centre Clark challenges the senses with art from across the disciplines, and artist-run centre Articule gives space not only to up-and-coming artists, but to those whose work often critiques the mainstream in playful and subversive ways. Find both art and antiques at Loft 9, and all kinds of wonderful, often locally-created prints and posters, zines, vintage trinkets and more at highly-browsable Monastiraki. For gallery and studio tours by artists and designers, visit Montreal during winter’s Montreal en Lumière and Nuit Blanche. Recreation can come from simply walking along Mile End’s tree-lined residential streets, providing a feel for the neighbourhood as well as some exercise, but if you’d like to take it up a notch, go on a local bike tour, take a yoga class at Naada, Montreal Sivananda Yoga Centre or Equilibrium, or challenge your muscles at bouldering rock climbing gym Shakti. In summer and in winter, the area’s parks call out for games of catch and picnics: Park Lahaie (corner of St-Laurent and St-Joseph) recently received a makeover, the small park near Van Horne and Clark received a new official name this year in memory of musician Lhasa de Sela, the park at the edge of Bernard and Jeanne-Mance saw a boost in visitors this summer as Pop Montreal’s Marché des Possibles added a market area, food and music to the green space, and on the borders of the neighbourhood, find two of the city’s best parks, Jeanne-Mance Park and Laurier Park.
Photo credits in order of appearance: Susan Moss, Cagibi, St-Viateur Bagel, Richmond Lam, Citizen Vintage, Susan Moss
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