No matter how many cities I visit, no neighbourhood has my heart quite like the Mile End does. The quartier is situated near Montreal’s city centre, surrounded by the Plateau, Outremont, Little Italy, and La Petite-Patrie. Built by Jewish, Greek, Portuguese, and Italian immigrants, the borough’s demographic is vast, which adds to its rich, cultural tapestry. The Mile End was also once home to prolific Canadian writers and artists, including the likes of Mordecai Richler, William Shatner, and The Arcade Fire. Want to start exploring the area but don’t know where to begin? Here’s my ultimate guide to the Mile End.
The Mile End is home to the two best bagel shops in the city (dare I say continent – sorry, New York). It also harbours some of the top restaurants in all of Montreal.
The bagel war is very real in Montreal. Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur Bagel have been around for decades. Each Montrealer is loyal to their favourite – and they aren’t afraid to stand up for it. Try both and take your pick! Cheskie Bakery is a kosher favourite among the Jewish community, but it’s also popular among all the locals due to its mouth-watering pastries.
Both Club Social and Café Olimpico are staples among the Montreal-Italian community. What was once a retreat for Italian immigrants (I was visiting both with my grandfather before I could walk), today, these cafes is still a popular coffee destination as you’ll find students working on their laptops and familiar faces sipping espresso at the bar.
Wilensky’s is another classic that has been around for ages – even Anthony Bourdain is a fan. Stick to the special: Salami and bologna sandwich with mustard on a pressed kaiser roll (you can’t opt out of the mustard – it’s the rule!). Pair it with one of their homemade soft drinks. Sounds like something you’d find in a vintage diner? Just wait until you see what the inside looks like (hint: It hasn’t changed much since the 1930s).
On weekends, it doesn’t get any better than brunching in the Mile End. Lawrence, Fabergé, and Sparrow are the top contenders – and here’s why. Lawrence proposes a traditional English breakfast (pictured) made using fresh ingredients from local producers. Their sausage and egg roll is also a winner and I always order their scones.
Fabergé is known for their chicken waffle brunch dish: The fried chicken arrives topped onto waffles with a side of sriracha coleslaw, BBQ sauce, potatoes, and fresh fruit. Are you drooling yet? If you have the heart – and the stomach – tackle the breakfast poutine.
Butterblume serves up an expertly-crafted avocado toast (smoked avocado, poached egg, marinated mushrooms, greens, and duck jerky) in a vibrant, minimalist decor fit for a girly brunch. On my last visit, I couldn’t help but order a side of their pain perdu for dessert! Other notable dishes include their ravioli dish, egg frittata, and fromage frais maison aux herbes (fresh cheese with herbs).
Lastly, Sparrow experiments with brunch dishes you surely won’t find elsewhere (Banh–Mi breakfast, anyone?). My favourite is their fried eggs with sage accompanied by sourdough toast, bacon, and potatoes. A close second is their smoked trout dish & soft-boiled egg dish served on a spinach & green onion pancake. For dessert, their mini doughnuts are a delightful way to end a meal.
For in-house sandwiches, head to Boucherie Lawrence (brought to you by the same owners as the restaurant). Yes, this butcher shop sells sandwiches along with its locally-sourced meat. Their small lunchtime menu is made with their selection of cold cuts and fresh bread (the porchetta is out of this world). Vegetarians, you’re going to want to go to La Panthère Verte on Avenue Casgrain. They boast vegan food and energy-boosting juices (and wheatgrass shots!). Comptoir 21 makes burgers and fish & chips while Barros Luco serves up South American favourites like empanadas and El Completo, Chile’s popular hot dog.
Once again, Lawrence tops the list for dinner with their inimitable, seasonal menu that consists of beef neck tagliatelle, aged pork sirloin, smoked guinea hen, and much more. For wood-burning oven-style Italian pizza, Kesté (previously Voro) and Pizzeria Magpie are top contenders. Bonus: Magpie always has fresh oysters on the menu and Kesté makes a mean grilled calamari appetizer.
Here are some of the things you’ll find at L’Gros Luxe: Poutine grilled cheese, avocado fries, pulled pork sliders, and their infamous Bloody Caesars garnished with fried goodies. It’s no wonder it has grown to become a local favourite.
Sel Gras proposes refined fare and a menu that changes often. You’ll find dishes like foie gras, grilled venison steak, and duck breast. Located on rue Saint-Viateur, Les Deux Singes de Montarvie will transport you to the City of Light with its French cuisine and work-of-art plating (duck ravioli and hanger steak are just a few of the dishes you’ll encounter here). Be sure to chat with Nada, the owner. She’s super friendly and passionate about her restaurant.
Cafes & Sweets
No, you’re not in Williamsburgh, Montrealers just love their coffee. Don’t even dream of visiting a Starbucks if you find yourself in this neck of the woods. Whether it’s to work, study, or simply enjoy a good cup of coffee, Arts Café, Brooklyn Cantine, Le Cagibi, Café Falco, Larry’s (formerly Café Sardine), and Caffè in Gamba are all great choices. For takeout, head to Frank & Oak’s Café Névé, which has set up shop inside the men’s clothing boutique (more on that later). Hint: Here is where you’ll spot the majority of Montreal’s startup crowd.
I was never a fan of ice cream in Canada (I left my heart in several gelaterias in Italy). Then, I met Kem Coba. With its hot pink and neon green façade and a perpetual lineup that has its own Twitter account (I’m not joking), this joint is serious about ice cream. Husband and wife duo, Ngoc and Vincent, pride themselves on the fact that their goods are made without preservatives or artificial flavours – I’m instantly sold.
Boulangerie Guillaume is known for their French-style bread and pastries. You’ll definitely feel like you’ve landed in Paris as you taste their viennoiseries and baguette.
If you’re on the hunt for local fashion, look no further. If you know a little bit about the Canadian fashion scene, you know that Frank & Oak and M0851 are two Montreal-based brands that have exploded onto the international landscape. But did you also know that their headquarters are in the Mile End? With “Rue Saint Viateur” labels proudly etched onto their creations’ linings, Frank & Oak is all about men’s fashion crafted for the hip, smart millennial. This startup has also experimented with its space by adding a coffee and barber shop to it (à la San Francisco). M0851’s leather bags and accessories have been a staple in the wardrobes of Montreal women since 1987. Their minimalist, classic designs never go out of style – it’s the ultimate Montreal accessory.
Lowell will charm you with its vintage decor inspired by the early ages of the textile manufacturing industry. The best part? Accessories from their in-house label are made from recycled leather and fur. For items you won’t find elsewhere, visit Vestibule, General 54, Atelier B, and Unicorn. You’ll find a host of clothes and accessories made by Montreal and Canadian designers, which means you’ll never get caught wearing the same thing as someone else.
Lastly, modern art lovers will find a host of Canadian contemporary artists at Espace 40 on Avenue Casgrain. Be sure to attend one of their intimate vernissages if you have the chance.
The Mile End has some of the finest bars and watering holes. Bar Waverly is an old classic that gone through a hipster revamp over the years. Whether you’re there for happy hour with colleagues or looking to spend the night dancing, this neighbourhood bar has it all.
Craft beer lovers should head to Dieu du Ciel for award winning microbrews that have garnered plenty of international attention. Despite the buzz, the bar, located on Laurier Avenue, has remained down to earth and welcoming. Want to take a trip across the pond? Bishop & Bagg is a British pub that serves Pimm’s Cup and an authentic Ploughman’s Lunch. Whisky and gin aficionados should also check this place out.
If you’re looking for that hotspot in Montreal to be and be seen, go to La Buvette Chez Simone wine bar. Order a charcuterie platter and a bottle of sparkling wine and you’re good to go! Another wine bar with plenty of good things to eat and drink is Le Comptoir. Located on Boulevard Saint Laurent, their expertly crafted dishes effortlessly complement their wine selection.
La Sala Rosa is where you can enjoy Spanish tapas and killer sangria in a dimly-lit space that puts on a live flamenco show every Thursday night. Next door, you’ll find Casa del Popolo, a great live music venue and bar. Finally, head to Chez Serge to party – or watch a Montreal Canadiens hockey game. If you’re up for it, ride their mechanical bull! Tip: If you want to end your night like the locals do, head to Chez Claudette on weekends and order a poutine. They’re open 24/7.
Love the Mile End too? Let me know what your favourite hotspots are in the comments below!