Tag Archives: Montreal

Montreal Summer 2017

C’est mon été (it’s my summer)
Vive 375 Montreal, et ses 375 printemps (Alive Montreal, and its 375 springs)
Five weeks that started on July 1. In addition to the usual festivals, it was also an anniversary year: Canada 150 and Montreal 375. Which meant even more festivals and events around the city. Nearly all of the events described below are free events, and very well organized.

Photos: Summer 2017  &  Videos: Summer 2017

Montreal Jazz Festival 2017 June 28 through July 7.
This is a huge event. Four stages where free live music is played. At Place des Festivals and 2 blocks around it. Great music, great setting, very well organized. Details here.

Just for Laughs, outdoor festival July 15 to 30.
A great fun festival with lot of interactive areas with board games, human foosball game, ambulatory street performers, and so on. And some good music events too. The final event was a great band, Kool and the Gang, but it was a major letdown since they started 40 minutes after the scheduled start time, wasted time on a opening act band (Jazz Festival organizers would not have allowed this!) and resetting the stage equipment. Messy! Other than this poorly executed “key” event, it was a fun festival.

Montreal Completement Cirque, outdoor festival from July 6 to 16. At various spots around Berri-UQAM metro. St-Denis street was filled with participatory games – including trampoline for kids. And various performers – street bands, stilts, shows, on that street. Very cool: two Aquamen from France, heads stuck in water-filled fish bowls with goldfish swimming around, walking on the street.

Nuits d’Afrique, outdoor festival from July 18 to 23. This was right next door to Just for Laughs, near Metro St Laurent. Great music, and also new, interesting, good food.

Osheaga Block Party at an highway underpass. I like Osheaga music, but have no desire to commit to a full day of hanging out in such densely crowded festivals (and I avoid the island Parc Jean-Drapeau since it can’t really move such crowds well). So this July 22 free block party event was just awesome! The Van-Horne Underpass near Metro Rosemont is actually a pretty large area, with well organized spaces. I saw two groups: 8-10pm DJ Premier & the Badder Band, and 6:45-8pm Killa-Jewel DJing. Jump-up and jump-down music, fun!

À nous la rue! (The streets are ours!)
Vive 375 Montreal Special Events
Two of these were spectacular! Color of Time was a Holi-inspired performance by artists from France. The air and ground on Ste-Catherine St around Berri-UQAM was filled with color powders which also made it to people’s faces and clothes!
Place des Anges was an aerial acrobatic show with feathers dropped from the sky and ejected up from the ground! Feathers everywhere video with cool music. The acrobatic portion went on for 45 minutes, then when all the acrobats were on ground, they pumped features from bins in the ground, filling the air with even more feathers. The music was absolutely fantastic, eerie and ethereal, and suited to the event. After that, the DJs started playing, which got everyone dancing while playing with the feathers!
My 7×35 Permafocus Binocular was very useful in seeing the details of the aerial acrobats who were 10+ stories high up in the air.

In addition to all the many free outdoor events, there were many indoor ticketed events too. I went to a couple of them:
Rêveurs Définitifs at St-Denis Theater. Apparitions, levitations, transformations, a mind-blowing magic show.
MozART Group show at Place des Arts, Theatre Jean-Duceppe. Four classical musicians playing Mozart (of course), and injecting humor in the music. And then they also played popular music from Abba to Beatles!
The Just for Laughs had day-of-show heavily discounted tickets for many of the shows going on during this festival.

Montréal Avudo, a spectacular show that pays tribute to the St. Lawrence River. Images and scenes projected on rippling water walls. The larger-than-life projections will come alive primarily on the water. Water jets from 30 or so fountains will create massive 30 X 11.5 meter tall screens of water. The projection screens also include 94 shipping containers, creating the world’s highest container tower at 11 stories tall. Booking free tickets was necessary for this show, sadly they sold-out online very quickly. But they had day of show tickets available starting at 7PM at the venue. This was standing room tickets only, but it was only a 30 minute event, so it was just fine.

Formula E Racing in downtown Montreal, Sat & Sun, July 29 & 30.
I only watched this for a few minutes, from outside the barriers at Rene Levesque around Rue Cartier. Electric cars Formula 1 racing. Crazy to see cars drive so fast on a city street! They also had a Formula E driver-less Roborace car doing the laps. Photos links has one photo that shows a pissed-off local resident – looks like most Montreal residents were not happy how this event paralyzed key downtown streets and residential neighborhoods for over three weeks.

La Balade de la Paix / An Open-Air Museum on Sherbrooke street from the McCord Museum to Museum of Fine Arts.
Art works along the street, and flags of the 13 provinces and territories of Canada and the world’s 200-odd countries flying over the street.

Cultural Events in Montreal. French-only site, but is good to visit to find all the events going around in the city, organized by the City of Montreal. Another such site created by the city: About Montreal. I was lucky to have stumbled on the À nous Montréal free magazine, which was French only, but I understood the program schedule pages, which was the key! Otherwise, I would have missed all these events. The great thing about these events was they they were held all across the city, so I got to visit parks that I’d never visited in my decades of visits here. Sadly, a bunch of these were cancelled (which I only found out after reaching the park) due to rain or threat of rain. And this summer there were too many such days in Montreal.
Two of the best music events: Bluebell Sisters (Blues, Swing, Doowop), Dawn Tyler Watson (Blues).

Montreal International Fireworks Festival is on every summer, Saturdays and some Wednesdays at 10PM. Large crowds visit here, even though it is a long walk from the Metro station Papineau and the event only lasts 30 minutes. And isn’t one fireworks show same as the other? No matter, it is still well-attended. Details here.
Unrelated, but of note is the Village au Pied-du-Courant which is in this area, a beach area built every summer. Good place for food, music, and watching the Montreal 375th Anniversary Jacques-Cartier bridge lights.

La Grande Tournée, 19 boroughs, 19 weekends. One such weekend: August 4th to 6th – Parc Ahuntsic, near Metro Henri-Bourassa. Whole day family events, workshops, food. Great park, just a handful of food trucks, but enough for the small crowds. This place also had a McCord Museum exhibit La ville suspendue with photos and stories of Montreal.

Nova Stella, with byline The art of being different together, as part of the Montreal First People’s Festival at Place des Festivals, Saturday Aug 5. Afternoon parade by the 65-troupe-strong Amitié Nuestroamericana. And then music at night – Sonido Pesao was great Latin Urban/Rap!

And of course, great food every day. In addition to my standard usual favorites, found two new cool food-items: great pastry Kouign Amann from a bakery near Metro Mont-Royal. And great sausage sandwiches and clam chowders and more at the new Marché public de Longueuil (this requires a car to get to). More info onthe Public Markets.

Photos: Summer 2017  &  Videos: Summer 2017

I also tried to learn ice-skating at the Atrium Le 1000 Made 10 visits, 3 of them with falls and one serious face-plant injury (lot of blood, but it all healed in just couple of days, so all good! Hats off to Atrium 1000 employees who quickly bandaged me up). Still can’t ice-skate well, but hey, having fun learning.

Weather was pleasant most of the days, though this summer there were more rainy days or thundershowers, more than the normal. Towards early August, it got cool at night (60°F and below) so hot afternoons combined with cool late evenings makes it confusing to dress correctly!
And don’t forget sunscreen, especially on face. My face got extra-tanned and I only found that out when I returned home and people told me. So, remember sunscreen every day on all uncovered skin. Sunset is after 8PM, so even if you skip afternoons, you need sunscreen.

And since it is not that all events or experiences were good, here are some that were just not worth the time or effort!.

In addition to all the events above that I attended, there was no way to attend all the cool events going on at the same time. Some such shows I could not attend: Haïti en folie, July 26-30 at Parc Lafontaine, Montréal. And the Rouge Event – circus at Jardins Gamelin, part of Montreal Completement Cirque. And other events that required full day tickets, which I’d no time for: Comiccon July 7-9, Otakuthon anime convention Aug 4-6, Osheaga music festival Aug 4-6.
I also wanted to, but had no time to visit the nearby public swimming pool which looked very uncrowded and very tempting on hot weekday afternoons: Baldwin Pool.

Finally, have to give huge credit to the City of Montreal, the STM Metro employees, on how well they handle the huge crowds for these key special events and keep people moving safely. It makes everything just so much nicer and stress-free. There will be extra buses run (#45 going north from Papineau), there will be more STM employees deployed at Berri-UQAM, Place des Arts and other Metro stations making sure crowds are controlled as they swarm the subway. All wonderful.

Not Worth It

So after decades of travel here for the good things, there are certainly experiences that are just not worth the time or the effort.
There are so many alternatives to the items listed below – from tourist-friendly but also gritty and unique streets such as Ste Catherine, St Laurent, St Denis, to nice parks even in far boroughs, and of course, to good food everywhere in the Greater Montreal region.
Some items below are good to visit once, just not worth going on repeat visits. Other items are not worth it even for one visit.

Places

  • Parc Jean-Drapeau – avoid for very popular events during rush periods. This Island can get very crowded, and the walks from the single metro station can be long and tiring on hot days or through crowds. There will be staircase overpasses over roads to climb too. Cars are totally worse of course, and parking can sometimes be filled up by the afternoon or earlier.
    Best to go here where there are no big events scheduled. Great park, fantastic public swimming pool, and the Expo 67 Biosphere is worth visiting once at least.
  • Old Montreal. This is definitely something to be done at least once, but that is enough. It has an antiseptic touristy feel with overpriced restaurants, all of which can be found anywhere in the world. Driving here is completely disastrous because of narrow streets and huge crowds in pedestrian crossings. On top of all this, there is no good public transportation here. Bus service is very limited, and the two closest Metro Stations (Champs-de-mar and Place-d’Armes) are long walks, made worse when there are detours or construction (which is quite often) and no good signs from points in Old Montreal to the Metro to guide newcomers. Having said all that, it is still worth visiting when there are fewer people, such as in daytime, to the Science Center or the Pointe-à-Callière Museum.
    Bus 715 runs during the day time. Does not run late at night, so it is not available for the New Year’s Eve events.

Events

  • Weekends du Monde – The 2017 event was one of the worst experiences ever. Normally Montreal has very good crowd control at all major events, this was a disaster for most of the people who visited around 5PM on Sunday July 23, 2017. After 20+ minutes of walking in the hot sun from the metro station, climbing on overpasses over roads, crossing the bridge, one arrived at a huge mass of people packed like sardines waiting to get into the event. Maybe around 100 meters long, 20 meters across, just waiting. And there was no information available – no official person around to explain what was going on. So many people were disgusted, and turned back, some of them warning others who were walking about the lineup. This newswire release is a complete joke and does not mention the problem at all.
    A good organization would have information about the wait to enter the event displayed at the Metro station. At the very least, they would have better control of the huge throng entering the place – have organizers posted to explain what is going on, maybe have some performers and vendors outside too so the those lined-up forget about the time being spent there. Worse, the throng of people crammed in the entrance felt very unsafe.

Eats

  • Charlie’s Shack Worst Clam Chowder in the world.
    Their byline is Perkins Cove, Maine but it is only “inspired” by that, and they are not from Maine in reality. They sell a bisque with one small clam and one small potato cube and call it a clam chowder. And overpriced, of course. Ugh! Photo of their food truck.
  • The Bouffons MTL food festival on Ste Catherine (corner Jeanne-Mance), next to Just for Laughs Festival not only had the horrible clam-chowder from Charlie’s Shack, but also uncooked paella rice (crunchy?!), and so on, much better to stick to regular Montreal restaurants, good ones are everywhere.
  • Food at Marché des Possibles – at rue St-Dominique (corner Bernard), July 28, 2017) was also no good for food – they just could not handle the crowds, there was a hour-long line for the 2-3 food tents! There was no need to line up – this area has fantastic restaurants, just walk a block! This event also has POP Montreal DJ music, that part was great! Another good thing: beer tent had very short lines.
  • First Fridays every month at the Olympic Park. This is borderline worth it – good food, 40-50 great food trucks, but the crowds are huge! Which meant at around 8PM rush hour, there were 25-50 people lined up at most of the trucks. Which meant 30-60 minute wait for food at each truck. This was on a rainy day, so I can’t imagine how much worse it must be on a nice day. And while the rain cleared out a number of people by 9PM, by then, some of the food trucks had run out of their key items! Still, there are some high-quality food vendors here, so if there is nothing else going on, may be worth paying a visit.

Public Markets

All public markets have grocery stands, fish market, cheeses, cooked sandwiches, fish, and other food.

Jean-Talon Market

The biggest one, so has the most vendors and the most variety. And the neighboring area is chock-full of good restaurants (such as Le Petit Alep).

Marché Jean-Talon is at 7070 Henri-Julien St, south of Jean-Talon St, 10 minutes walk from Jean-Talon Metro.
Jean-Talon Market bustles with activity in summer certainly and is open in winter too. It is truly a fantastic market – all fresh vegetables, fruits you need, as well as bakeries, food stalls (sandwiches, plates, crepes, fried fish, tacos, oyster bar, and so on). Worth the trip: fried calamari at Aqua Mare. Good cheese available – inside the market, as well as at La Fromagerie Hamel at 202 Jean-Talon St. East.

On your first day at Montreal, get down here, get yourself a supply of fruits, continue to replenish every few days. The effort is worth it – the prunes, the cherries, the oranges, are just so much better, sweeter, fresher than any fancy fruits available at standard grocery stores. Even the croissants at the bakery chain Première Moisson branch here are much better – soft interior, slightly crunchy crust, just fantastic.

Just outside the market is Marché des saveurs du Québec selling local products, at 280 Place du marché du nord, on a side street.

Atwater Market

Atwater Market is at 138 Atwater Ave, near the Lionel-Groulx Metro (Note: not near the Atwater metro!).

Good cheese shop – La Fromagerie Hamel is here too.

Longueuil Market

Marché public de Longueuil is at 4200 Chemin de la Savane, Longueuil, a 20-40 minute drive from Montreal, and not near any Metro station, though it is near a commuter rail station.

Best sausage sandwich shop is here! Meyer’s German Sausages has a large variety of sausages. They also sell grilled sandwiches. Perfect snap when you bite into the sausage, bread is just the right texture (not too soft, not too hard, just crusty enough). The owner indicated that the Currywurst is his best-seller – Indian influence on a German staple!
They also sold a Columbiana at Nuits d’Afrique 2017 in Montreal, which was a great sausage.

One of the best clam chowders is here too, at La Galerie de la Mer. They have a number of other fish dishes too.
The clam chowder is nice and thick, with potatoes cubed nice and small, and fresh crunchy celery pieces add a good crunch.

This is a new market, opened in 2014, so looks very nice. It is great seating areas, including big wooden-swing seats overlooking the St Hubert airport. Eat, and once in a while, you can see the small planes take-off and land.
Lot of greenery around in summer too.

My Photo Album of the Longueuil Market

Color of Time – Holi in July in Montreal

The Color of Time by Artonik, a holi inspired performance and parade, on Ste-Catherine near Berri-UQAM metro.
By Artonik (group from France), performing in Montreal as part of the à nous la rue and vive 375 (the street is ours and alive 375) celebrations.

“Rhythmic beats, hypnotic choreographies and colourful powders filling the air…” along with major audience participation.

2017 July 22 & 23, 4 PM
Parade started on Ste-Catherine St at Beaudry Metro, then paused on St-Timothe intersection for a performance, and then moved on to the main show on Saint-Catherine Street between Berri & Saint-Hubert.

Inspired by the Hindu celebration of Holi, it is a parade with music and dance for around 40 minutes, and then 20 minutes of intense blowout fun when the performers and the audience indulge in a shower of colorful powders!

4PM at Beaudry Metro, was hot! And crowded, so could not really see anything. But, just enjoy the music and walk along with the performers. They hung out around Rue Saint-Timothée for around 20 minutes of dancing and drawing with colors on the street.

Then around 4:40PM they reached the raised stage on Saint-Catherine Street between Berri & Saint-Hubert, across from Place Émilie-Gamelin. This is where the fun ramped up! Could see the performance, and hear the music too. And the colors really filled the air.
Event volunteers were handing out plastic sachets of colored powder to the spectators, and with so many kids and fun-loving adults, the air was filled with the colors.

Color of time pictures – July 22, 2017 on Ste Catherine, between Beaudry and Berri-UQAM.
Color of time – Videos: the finale, with colors filling the air
At the middle of the parade, dance performance while coloring the street.

The colors were all powder only, which was great, all of it will easily wash off. The street painting was done with edible colors, at least dogs eating it suggested that was so.

Color of Time à nous la rue program website.

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.

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: