All posts by Avinash

Fireworks

Every year in the summer, Montreal has the International Fireworks Competition on the river.
Saturdays at 10PM, and some Wednesdays.

It seems like the whole of Montreal descends to Metro Papineau, with friends and family, to watch the fireworks.
It is a long walk, from 20 to 40 minutes, to the areas under the Jacques Cartier Bridge on the Montréal side of the St. Laurent river. Walk to the junction of Rue Notre-Dame and Ave de Lorimier, and other areas around here – all this is easy to find – just follow the crowds heading in that direction on firework evenings!
People stake out spots early. Families bring chairs, blankets, and lay them on grassy areas or even on the street itself.
The whole viewing area is huge, so even with so many people, there is never any crowding on the streets. The new Village au Pied-du-Courant beach area does get full, so if you want to get in there, may need to get 1-2 hours earlier.

Getting on the bridge itself requires even more walking – since the entrance is around Ave Papineau and Rue la Fontaine junction, so you have walk up northwards from Metro Papineau, and then walk back southwards up the bridge ramp to get on the bridge for a good view. Again, people come here early starting around 8:30PM! And all the good spots will be taken by 9:30PM or so – people will be lined up all along the edge of the bridge. But if you are OK with all the walking, it is fun to sit in the middle of the bridge roadway. The view here is different, in some ways better, but in other ways not, as compared to the Rue Notre-Dame or nearby streets.

There are around 8 nights over the summer when they have the fireworks show.
A great place to watch the fireworks is actually right next to Metro Papipeau. A 2 minute walk will bring you to corner of Ste Catherine and Ave de Lorimier. It is fantastic! Easy-in, Easy-out location.
If you have only 30 minutes, then that is the best choice.

If you have around 60-90 minutes, then follow the crowds from Metro Papineau, walking towards Ave de Lorimier, and then towards Rue Notre Dame. Find a place to sit, and have a picnic!

There are no restrooms or restaurants in the area. But now that the Village Pied-du-Courant is open (until midnight on fireworks nights, check their website), if you have 90+ minutes, then after 10:30PM, wait until the Village empties out when most of the fireworks watchers leave, allowing for more people to enter.
There you can find food trucks and bars selling alcohol, a DJ playing music, and restrooms too. And a great view of the river and the Jacques-Cartier bridge. The Village entrances are at end of Ave De Lorimier, or Rue Fullum, on Rue Notre-Dame.

Avoid bringing a car. All of the streets in that area will be closed, and there is no easy public parking in the area.

If you have 3 hours and are adventurous, try the Kayak tour and watch the fireworks from the northern tip of the Île-des-Soeurs (Nun’s Island)! Book at the Navi site. This specific group is quite popular, so tour may sell out in advance.

Here’s a Montreal Fireworks Fan site.
The official site is Parc Jean Drapeau International Fireworks which provides more details, including the info on the cost to view this from La Ronde (it is expensive, and not worth it for 30 minutes of fireworks. But it may be worth it if you spend the whole day at the amusement park.)

Photo Album (click on Info button for photo descriptions)
Videos (Montreal Summer 2017 Events)

Baldwin Park and Pool

Photos

One of the nicest parks in Montreal, just to the East of the Plateau in the De Lorimier neighborhood.
On Rue Fullum. Park is at Rue Marie-Anne, and the public pool is at Rue Rachel.
It is a small park (as compared to the more famous Parc La Fontaine), but it is very cozy with nice grass and a number of trees. Also less crowded, being off the tourist track.

The park is great, and even more cool is the public pool! Great to beat the heat in the summer.
At least in 2017, weekdays visits are free, and there is a small charge on the weekends.
Weekdays are not crowded at all, though weekends can be very crowded.

Montreal Jazz Festival 2017

Photos: Montreal Summer 2017 [4 Weeks in July]

Videos: Montreal Summer 2017 [4 Weeks in July]

The music always entertains, and even after visiting this show so many times, it still amazes.

The best choices for me are the Groove Stage or the Blues Stage, around the Parterre du Quartier des spectacles area, Rue St-Urbain between Maisonneuve and Ste-Catherine. And the Main Stage at Place des Festivals if if the someone really good. The Main Stage is very large, but it gets packed, and it is very claustrophobic at the front. So I stay in the back, near Ste-Catherine side, and use my binoculars! They have large screens for the audience in the back, and the sound system is great.

Some of the shows
That I watched.

The Excitements – July 7 – Club Jazz Casino, small separate stage at corner of De Bleury and René Lévesque

Meryem Saci, soul and R&B – July 7 – Jazzy Stage

The Brooks – Main Stage – July 6, 9PM

Renee Wilkin – Jazzy Stage – July 6, 8PM

Jack Broadbent – Blues Stage – July 6, 7PM

Pokey LaFarge – Main Stage – July 5, 9PM

Still keeping a watch for decades now: Lips!

Brisa Roché – Jazzy stage – Juyly 5, 8PM

Walk Off The Earth – Main Stage and Overflow at Jazzy Stage – July 4 9:30PM
Overflow stage, used for the main events since even a whole block is not enough!

A-Wa – Groove Stage – July 3 10PM

Godboogie – Blues Stage July 3 9PM – https://youtu.be/RA5nNNQRE3I

Gabocho Maroc – Groove stage – July 3, 8PM

Jim Zeller’s Extreme Blues Review – Blues stage – July 2, 11PM and 9PM

Fwonte – Groove stage – July 2, 10PM

Polly Gibbons – Jazzy stage – July 2, 8PM

Youngstown (Country music) – Small stage, Place Heineken – Kuly 2, 7PM

Nomad D’Stones – July 1, 8PM

Saturday, July 1

Discothèque blowout Saturday, July 1 at 9:30 p.m. at Place des Festivals.

The whole Place des Festivals block was full. A bit surprising, given the weather forecast of thunderstorms at that same time. So I came prepared with rain jacket and pants. Very few others seemed prepared though, looks like they were planning on following the kids who enjoy getting wet playing around in the fountains at the festival.

And new twists this year! Looks like every year the Montreal Jazz Fest organizers add interesting twists. This year, they had dancers on lighted pedestals spaced along the entire length of the crowd, so being at the back does not seen so far way from the scene. And of course, for years now they have had big screens at the back showing the action on the main stage. This main discothèque show used two stages – Men without Hats played on a small side stage.

Have to stand for 90+ minutes for these shows, but I can still do it!

Lineup:
Carly Rae Jepsen of Call Me Maybe fame, Montreal electro-pop new-wavers Men Without Hats, Acadian hip-hop/etc. band Radio Radio, pioneering Quebec rap ensemble Muzion, aboriginal singer-percussionists the Buffalo Hat Singers and DJ Champion.
Songs I recognized with YouTube links:
Informer – Snow
Safety Dance – Men without Hats and many of their other songs
And even the new-ish: Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe

Le Petit Alep

191 Jean-Talon Street East in Montreal – walk West towards St-Laurent from the Jean-Talon metro station.
Open Tue-Sat for lunch and dinner.

2013: Le Petit Alep Official Website is now online with details and the whole menu.

Great food and excellent ambiance.

Syrian/Armenian food.
Filet-mignon with a special spicy sauce – Chiche Kebab Terbialy. Absolutely the best, this is always a safe choice.
Pureed eggplant, tahini, garlic, lemon – Métabal.
Chicken in tahini – Poulet Trator.
Grilled Pita sandwich – Pitas grillés poulet. Chicken, mayo, garlic, with a nice kick – hint of spicy red-pepper?

The terbialy sauce is a nice, medium-to-hot spicy sauce,
and it makes the difference, best on the beef kababs (medium-rare), but also available with shrimp.

And then there are the weekday daily lunch specials with great soups — just remember to get there during lunch Tuesday through Friday.
Kebbe Labanie (Kibbe Lebanese) – large meatballs in yogurt, garlic, mint sauce.
As they describe it: “boulettes de bœuf, blé concassé, noix, souce yogourt, ail, menthe”.
Filet de sole Amandine
Soupe Harira – tomatoes, beef, fennel, cardamom – nice spicy soup.

Their fries, if you choose to order french fries, are amazing too – nice crunch on the outside, and soft on the inside. It is served with mayo which I presume is how they eat this in Montreal but ketchup is available too, just have to ask for it.

Ayran is my drink of choice, buttermilk with salt – “yogourt, eau, sel”. I am not a coffee drinker, most everyone here seems to order the espresso coffee variants, so that is probably very good too.
Wine and liquor is available – wine can be ordered by the glass, half-bottle, or full bottle.

Prices in the cafe are a bargain – $6-$17 dishes (as of 2017), and perfect size servings for one person.

Water is served on arrival – can’t say enough good things about that! So many restaurants are asking us to pay for water now, it is great when you are are greeted with a filled glass of water. They have a twist to this – they will keep a fancy water bottle filled with water on your table. So, no need to keep asking for water when dining on the terbialy-flavored dishes.

For dessert, try the Atayef – petite crépe farce aux noix ou à la crème.

After eating, ask for the check, and the regulars usually then take the check to the bar, to pay it. Like a French cafe, the assumption is that diners can hang out as long as they want, but for those in a hurry, remember, you have to take action to move things along.

This is the one of my regular places for dining, there have been times I’ve been to Montreal and eaten only at two places – Schwartz’s and at Le Petit Alep!

Le Petit Alep is the younger, hipper sibling to the dinner-only Alep Restaurant right next door. Alep has a much larger menu, and the tables get the white table-cloth treatment. It has larger servings, big enough to share, and prices are $15-$25 for the main dishes. Feel free to ask for the dining area menu even if you are in the cafe, you can read the english translations, as well as find something else you may prefer – the main dining menu is 15 pages long, all items can be ordered in the cafe.

Le Petit Alep is open from 11AM to 11PM and the Alep Restaurant is open from 5PM to 10PM. Both are open Tuesday through Saturday, and closed every Sunday and Monday. They may also be closed twice a year for a two week or so stretch, so for your first visit, be sure to call before you go.

Great food and excellent ambiance.

[2007] Alep and Le Petit Alep are run by the Frangié family – the women of the family now run this place. The main Alep Restaurant was opened in 1976 by the elder Mr Frangié who ran it for long time with his wife. They opened up Le Petit Alep in 1995. His wife Jacqueline and their two daughters Chahla and Tania now keep the place running. Jacqueline and Chahla take care of the kitchen and create the excellent food, while Tania manages the tables in the dining areas.

[2008] The place has expanded, the interior is double the size, still gets full at lunch hour too. The new space has an entire wall used for displaying the wines available.

[Updated: 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2017]

Boustan

As their website says: Montreal’s Best Middle‑Eastern Fast Food: Served up with a smile!
And they are right.

Example choices:
Chicken Shawarma (Shish Taouk) – grilled chicken, all-dressed is wonderful. The whole sandwich is grilled, which gives the pita a nice crusty texture.
If you feel like rice and potatoes added, go for the Chicken Plate.
Or the Creation – the Ultimate Pita, which contains eggplant and potatoes along with the standard fillings.

They have multiple locations, the two downtown are 2020A (Basement) Crescent St (corner of Maisonneuve) and 19 Ste-Catherine E (corner of St Laurent).

More pictures and full menu are at their website.

Montreal has many places with good shawarma, one in nearly every city block, yet another point in favor of what makes this city fun to visit.
Most of these places are open very late, until 4AM on weekends.

Xi’an Famous Foods

Xi’an Famous Foods is worth the long trek down to Flushing, Queens. And one of their best items travel well too – the cumin lamb burgers – though be aware that the appetizing, hot, spicy smell of the food pervades the subway, the bus, and car, so make sure it is wrapped well!

The best item here is the Spicy cumin lamb with hand-ripped noodles plate. Chewy flat noodles in a spicy sauce. Noodles taste great but are difficult to eat, very long strands! I usually use the spoon to cut them into manageable pieces and then use the chopsticks. I wonder what is the right way to eat them. ? If this was served in a bowl, then would be easier to eat. On a plate, have to be careful and try to avoid splashing drops of the spicy liquid all over the table when shoving the noodles into ones mouth!

Flat noodles

Their original location is in Flushing, Queens, New York at 41-28 Main St underground eateries.
This place has only 6-10 seats.
For nicer surroundings, visit the adjacent restaurant at 41-10 Main St.
Both are self-service.
If walking from the Train 7 Flushing station on Main St, 41-10 is around 3-5 blocks down, and 41-28 Golden Mall location is another 2 blocks down.

And now they have multiple locations in the city too – mostly downtown, in and around Chinatown: 45 Bayard St is one location. Most locations are quite small, with very little seating. And it can go from empty to crowded in seconds. Think standard NYC hole-in-the wall type of place, with great food. Visit their website at xianfoods.com for their current locations.

While it is difficult to take home the cumin lamb since it has a lot of liquid that can slosh around, the lamb burgers are a better bet for takehome.
If you do take the lamb cumin burgers home, sprinkle some lime juice on them, to kick up an already excellent dish another notch!

[2015] They have a full-service restaurant two blocks away at 41-10 Main St. They label it as a chic version of their original restaurants and have renamed it to biang!. It does look really nice.
Update: As of January 2017 (maybe earlier), the name is back to Xi’an Famous Foods and it is also self-service like most (all?) of their other locations.

Copacabana Brazilian Grill and Buffet

Best way to eat Brazilian food.
They have the famous grilled meats, churrascaria style.
And a buffet of hot food and cold salads.

Rice, beans, and a sample of the meats, and it is a wonderful dinner.
Place is self-service for both takeout and dining-in.
ood is great.
Especially the grilled beef sirloin sliced on order.
They have both regular grilled meats and blood varieties too.
Stick to chicken and the sirloin steak for normal American tastes.
They will explain and describe all the skewers, just ask.

Astoria location pictures:

80-26 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights location pictures:

This place is so much better than many Brazilian restaurants in the US that only serve all-you-can-eat type of meals. Here, get as little or as much you wish without the pressure of trying to gorge excessively:-)

The name of this place is Copacabana Pizza and Grill, but that is just a name and there is no pizza available here!

May 2017: A second location has opened up in Jackson Heights, nice!
80-26 Roosevelt Ave, 82nd St station on #7 train. This one has the correct name: Copacabana Brazilian Buffet and Grill.
The first location is in Astoria: Near N, W trains 36th Ave subway station. Corner of 32nd St.

Grillade Farhat

Grillade Farhat – Sandwiches are the best choice, available with brochette of merguez (spicy sausage), chicken, kafta (spiced ground beef on skewers), brochette de boeuf (beef pieces), foie d’agneau (lamb liver).

Order the sandwiches tout-garni – all-dressed. They are fantastic with the harrisa (chilli paste), aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and tomatoes, onions, etc. The key to the taste here is that all the meat skewers are grilled after an order is placed which does mean a 15-20 minute wait. For repeat visits, power tip: call ahead with your order so it is ready by the time you arrive.

For a final touch, they will also grill the whole baguette sandwich after it has been stuffed giving the bread a nice crispy texture.

All the grilling is done over charcoal (grillades au charbon). The baguette sandwiches are around 9 inches, easy to eat one, two if one is hungry. This place has a few tables, but don’t look for decor here. The merguez, chicken, kafta sandwiches are best, the grilled beef meat is avoidable – tough and too much gristle.

Sandwiches are an incredible price – CAD$6 or so [2016]. Plates can also be ordered – with one, two or more brochettes, for around CAD$4 per brochette. Plates come with sides of harissa, aioli, hummus, along with a salad and pita. But the grilled sandwiches are much better, the grilled bread makes all the difference.

[2016 Note: They recently relocated, the old address was 5595B Côte-des-Neiges, 514-738-4999, (three blocks west of Côte-des-Neiges metro). All the web information, include Google results, have the wrong address. Use the new address above!]

Old Farhat location and pictures:

New Year’s Eve Montreal

2016-12-31 New Year’s Eve at the Village Mammouth, Montreal Olympic Stadium.

DJ, Music, Skating Rink, Food Truck, Beer, Rum.

Much better than Old Montreal since the Stadium is much easier to get to using the Metro, just off Pie-IX metro station.

And while it was cold, they had a number of heated areas that provided the hand-warming when needed.
Not to mention the no-lines at the port-a-potty cabins!

Kids to adults, all can have fun. Highly recommended over the crowded and inaccessible (but more popular) Old Montreal spots.

Video: https://goo.gl/photos/g6xEsnJbd3CVzxATA

Getting Around

Montreal has an excellent métro (subway) and bus system. Visit the STM site – Tariffs for details on tickets.
2016: Credit cards from the US now seem to be accepted at the Metro ATM vending machines.
Before this the Metro would only accept Canadian credit cards.

For three consecutive days, the 3-day pass is good deal. For tourists visiting for a week and starting on Monday, the CAM hebdo – a weekly commuter pass is a good deal. Other useful passes including a evening pass starting at 6PM and a Fri-Sun weekend pass.

On the tickets subway to bus transfer or vice-versa is free to continue a journey, remember to hold on to your ticket for the entire ride. More details on the Metro at the STM Metro and Bus official web site.

2016: Slowly rolling out the new AZUR Metro Cars! They are great! Here’s a video on YouTube with pictures and video of both the old and new metro cars.

Bixi Bicycle is a great option if you have a working smart phone with data plan in Montreal. T-Mobile or Google Project Fi is a good choice for US residents. Bixi is only available in the non-winter seasons, though. The reason you need a smartphone is to get a quick map of all the Bixi stations around your location when you need to return a bike.
Be sure to read the How it works section on the Bixi page carefully, especially the part about how to return the bike. The bike has to be firmly inserted into the dock, and it may fail sometimes and the led light turns red. Do not leave – remove the bike and insert it again until the led is green! If this fails, note down the number at the Bixi web site and call, otherwise you will be responsible for a lost bike.
While buying a daily pass each day would be fine the advantage of buying the 3-day pass is that you will be charged the hold on your credit card for the bike deposit only once. The 30 day subscription is a great deal for 6+ days of Bixi use, but it seems tourists may not be able to use it since it comes with a Bixi key but that can only be mailed to a Canadian address. May be worth a call to Bixi to explore alternatives for those vacationing for more than a week in Montreal.
Bixi is great deal now that the daily pass price has been reduced to $5 and there are far more Bixi stations than previously available. Google Maps also now works pretty well and tries to show directions using streets with bike paths, which is very useful in the crazy-car-drivers world of Montreal.
Biking on most of the East-West roads will encounter flat roads, while most of the North-South travel will run into inclined streets, especially around south of Sherbrooke to north of Mont Royal. Ave du Parc is one tough bike ride.

And finally – remember to bring your helmet!

Parking is a major hassle on the streets downtown, and parking lots are very expensive. Moreover, driving downtown is just no fun, especially along Ste-Catherine (always avoid), or the lower part of St-Laurent. Avoid driving as much as possible. For any street parking, be sure to learn enough French – names of the days of a week at least – to navigate the multiple signs that apply to street parking. Paying for parking since 2010 is nice and easy now that they accept credit cards. The street pay parking stations accept US credit cards.

East-West street addresses in Montreal will have an East (Est) or West (Ouest) designation. The street that separates East from West is boulevard St-Laurent, also known as the Main. This is very important because looking for 4400 Jean-Talon without knowing if that means East or West of St-Laurent would mean a lot of time spent in searching to find the right place!