Being a small city to begin with, Montreal surprises in its neat and tidy divisions between neighbourhoods. Somewhere between the financial district and the Old Port, bordered by the remnants of industry and the Lachine Canal, sits an understated area that goes by the name of Griffintown. It claimed this identity in the 1820s and was largely populated by Irish immigrants until the second half of the 20th century — giving Griffintown that old-world charm without bastardizing the region with tourist traps. Now subject to an influx of fine dining, antiques shops, and condominium plans a-plenty, Griffintown is undoubtedly the up-and-coming “it” neighbourhood. We’ve highlighted a few places to name-drop the next time someone asks, “So, what exactly do you do for fun?”
New Girl on the Block
Opened only last month, Nora Gray has already usurped the crown for best restaurant in Griffintown. Emma Cardarelli, ex-chef de cuisine at Montreal hotspot Liverpool House, owns this joint and it’s no secret that she cooks better than most of our mothers — combined. Cardarelli flaunts her interests in both cooking and interior design to give patrons a uniform visual and palatable eating experience, focusing on Southern Italian cuisine. Expect fresh made pastas, rabbit, suckling pig, and fleur de zucchini. As it’s very much an intimate restaurant, we strongly recommend reservations. 1391 St Jacques Ouest, 514-419-6672
Just before exiting Griffintown to the west, you’ll come across a tavern called La Drinkerie, a bar that doesn’t conceal its intentions. The website invites people to come after or during work — they’ve taken an oath of secrecy — which automatically makes the place OK by us. La Drinkerie gives off a mid-century vibe, playing into Mad Men’s ubiquitous popularity, so keep it classy and order an Old Fashioned at lunchtime (or dinner, whatever). Sourcing fresh ingredients from nearby Atwater Market, the bar also offers decent sandwiches and finger foods for sudden appetites. 2661 Notre Dame Ouest, 514-439-2364.
Rough night? Feeling disoriented, famished, and in need of a pick-me-up? Griffintown Café’s got you covered. This small eatery has perfected a trendy, albeit non-pretentious, atmosphere. With homemade biscuits baked fresh daily, Mexican-inspired huevos divorciados, and bacon cured-then-smoked in-house, the Café merits worth any morning-after bewilderment you might wake up to. Also recommended is a killer burger on the dinner menu — and note that evenings are often accompanied by live music. Make this your new weeknight haunt. 1378 Notre Dame Ouest, 514-931-5299
So you’ve moved into your newly renovated industrial loft, acquainted yourself with the local baristas and bartenders, and stumbled along the moonlit canal. Still, something’s amiss. You’re probably feeling the void that only European antique imports and 19th-century chandeliers can fill. Luckily, Griffintown is also home to a stretch commonly referred to as Antique Alley, consisting of some twenty-odd antiques shops in which to browse and spoil yourself. Starting from rue de Lévis going eastward to rue Guy, take a stroll across Notre Damen — we suggest you make a full afternoon of it, as almost every shop has its own unique characteristics. From memorabilia to vintage clothing, you and your home will surely be fully outfitted after passing through. Our tip: Leave the impulse buying at home, because most of these places refuse to accept returns.
Image courtesy of Philippe Du Berger.