Posted by Alexander Dunphy
Tucked into a cozy café during the early winter months of 2013, or prancing around in a tank top come August, Montreal’s Gay Village is a fun and friendly place to hang out all year. The Village is packed with places to eat, drink and dance that appeal to a wide variety of people!
Montreal’s Gay Village is centered roughly between Berri-Uqam and Papineau metro, bordered by Sherbrooke Street on the northern edge, and René-Levesque on the south. Smack dab in the center on Saint-Catherine is Beaudry metro, easily identified by the rainbow bars above the main entrance. The best way to discover the Village is to explore the streets and meet the people. However if you need a little assistance, here are some notable Village hotspots…
Notable restaurants in the Gay Village include the highly-rated Mezcla, a “nuevo latino” restaurant that combines South American flavours with European style cooking. Mezcla has an extensive seafood menu, with private import wines from Latin America. Miyako Sushi is one of best Japanese restaurants in the area with good service and prices that won’t make you squirm. Other higher-end restaurants in the area include the amazing BYOB O’Thyme, mediterranean-style Ella Grill, and the open-kitchen Kitchenette.
If you’re looking for something a little more on the casual side try Quebec classic St-Hubert, the always tasty Resto Pub St. André, La Piazzetta, Mozza (BYOB) or village favorite Saloon (complete with cute waiters.) You can dine your way across the globe in the Gay Village, with some international cuisine like Couscoussiere d’Ali Baba, the Korean rice bar Be Bap (BYOB), and the insanely yummy NosThés Bistro which offers up great value Taiwanese with an impressive selection of exotic tea.
While it not make much sense during the winter months, during the summer Montreal’s patios bloom to life. Restaurants with great patios include Bistro Florin graced by a large poplar tree, Sky Pub with huge pitchers of Sangria, or Pica Pica with a cute hammock to compliment the Spanish tapas. One of the highest rated restaurants in Montreal on TripAdvisor (coming in at #8) is located a block east of the Gay Village called Le Grain de Sel. It has a neighbourhood vibe with some exquisite French cuisine.
Finding a fun, local watering hole in Montreal’s Gay Village is probably the easiest thing you’ll do all week. Every block has at least some sort of bar/lounge that will satisfy your thirst and preference. Starting with the always lovely Gotha Lounge, it’s intimate with a fireplace and a big beautiful bar. Try not to be deceived by initial appearances, Bar Relaxe on Sainte-Catherine is a solid place to grab a quick drink and chit chat with a friend. One of the hidden gems near the Gay Village is a little door and staircase right outside Berri-Uqam metro called l’Escalier. Escalier is filled with chill people, cheap beer, with nooks and chairs to get lost in.
Drinking with a purpose always feels more productive, so flipping through the extensive song list (and settling on any Celine Dion) at the Village karaoke bars Club Date and Cocktail will be an easily achievable goal. If you’re a man’s man looking for other men, Bar Le Stud and l’Aigle Noir cater to a slightly more beefy demographic. Grabbing a drink while taking in one of Mado’s famous Drag Shows is particularly popular with students on Tuesday nights, due to the cheaper cover. The deadliest cocktail list in the Village is at Saloon, I suggest trying the “Bangkok.” I’m sure there was no pun intended when the owners named it.
Generally the consensus among frequent nightlife patrons is the Gay Village has some of the best dancing in town. Big open floors, flashy light shows, and people who, you know, actually dance. Club Unity is big on Friday nights filled with a young college crowd grinding to Top 40, while Saturday brings a slightly more mature crowd and House music. Apollon sits inside a stunning building (a former post office) and is worth going any night between Thursday and Sunday. The crowd is mixed, the bartenders are shirtless, and the space is a fun place to explore. Especially the basement level called Katakombs. Complex Sky has several dance floors, a gentle crowd, and music that fluctuates in quality depending on the room you find yourself in.
Even after the regular clubs close, if you’re still itching to move, the Gay Village has two afterhours clubs you can hit. Stereo is renowned for its sound system and weekly lineup of world-class DJ’s, and Circus does its name honour after the clubs close. Don’t forget to grab breakfast on your way home at Chez Cora, L’Oeufrier or Resto du Village!
While wining, dining, and dancing is always a good time for a Friday night, it’s those Sunday afternoons in a coffee shop reminiscing about that wild night out that are often the most enjoyable. There are a bundle of cozy cafés for your latté sipping pleasure in the Gay Village. Autour d’un pain is the best-smelling café because it also doubles as a bakery. Café da Fino‘s is rather cute and independently owned with good coffee, while Cupcakes Cie is pretty self explanatory of why it’s amazing: (Cupcakes).
There are the chain coffee shops like Starbucks, Second Cup, Java U, Tim Hortons and Presse Cafe, but why would you bother when you could support local small business by going to places like Le Pouce Gourmand, De Farine et d’Eau Fraiche, Pourquoi Pas, and 1000 grammes (formally known as Kilo). La Mie Matinale is filled with handsome men, sandwiches, coffee, treats, and pictures of singer/actress Dalida, so naturally it’s worth every minute and dollar spent there.
Starting with White Party Week (March 28-April 1) there will be lots happening in the Village during these busy few days. Also in March, ARTSIDA and the Edgy Women’s Festival will be taking place throughout Montreal. The real festivals begin in the summer though, when the Village transforms into a pedestrian boulevard with patios, performers, and people watching. Divers/Cité will take place July 30-August 4, followed by Fierté Montreal Pride, August 12-18. Fierté Montreal Pride week will see Community Day, Dyke March, and free concerts draw huge crowds to the Village. Check out some highlights from the full summer festival season in Montreal:
While not all festivals happen in the Gay Village, all of them are LGBT-friendly. All of January and into February, Montreal will be spending hours outdoors dancing at Igloofest, the coolest electronic music festival ever. Following in February is Montreal en Lumiere with Nuit Blanche, a celebration of culture in the Plateau, Old Port and Downtown. The summer season includes Jazz Fest, Just for Laughs, and Completement Cirque!
There are two primary shopping arteries in the Gay Village. Saint-Catherine that runs west-east and Amherst going north-south. Amherst is filled with many antique shops and stores that specialize in home decor like Cité Deco, Montréal Moderne, Spoutnik, and Second Chance. If you’re strolling down Saint-Catherine and hunting for something a little kinky, Priape and Fetish Armada are both high-quality stores with all the leather and rubber you could shake a stick at. For men’s clothing check out Evolution, Podium, Ernest, or the very cool Boutique Osez just off Saint-Catherine on Wolfe. Le Lièvre is one of the few independent women’s boutiques in the Village up on Amherst.
Librarie Ménage a Trois is a bookstore filled with nicknacks and gay erotica, and good for finding a wacky gift for someone. If you’re in the market for art, stop by the galleries in the area: Galerie Dentaire (yes, doubles as a dentist’s office), Galerie Hermine, Galerie Nowhere, and Zephyr. All can be found dotted along Amherst. Last but not least, if you’re looking to buy something for a little furry friend, Doggy Style on Amherst is stocked with bones and toys!
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