Once a gritty, working-class district, St Henri has recently found itself in the crosshairs of gentrification — several attractive eateries and watering holes (and a few knick-knack shops) stand out from what Montrealers are used to. St Henri rejects the ornamental, Eurocentric appeal of the Old Port and does not try to catch the eyes of weekenders and tourists; instead, it focuses on the real interests of the surrounding community. Previously known as Les Tanneries, because of an abundance of local artisans, the area has historically been a representation of the people who inhabit it. Here, a few food and beverage spots with which to acquaint yourself. Perhaps you’ll end up joining in the community too.
Le Caffè Mariani
Although it seems, at times, that Montreal is saturated with independent coffee shops, it’s interesting — but not always pleasing — to see how each distinguishes itself against the masses. Sure, every neighborhood has its java starlet, but Le Caffè Mariani stands out as one of the best in the whole city. Having collaborated with Café Union’s team of coffee roasters, the signature blend here is the perfect balance of taste and kick — and an excellent partner to any one of their fresh paninis. They also host a cozy cinq à sept, in case you’re looking to take the edge off a long day of work; the light-filled mien allows for both relaxation and contemplation. 4450 Notre-Dame St. W., 514-504-7458
You should be ashamed if you haven’t heard of — not to mention drank — any beers under the McAuslan Brewing umbrella. Of course, there’s always a first time for everything, and what better way to introduce yourself to a great beverage than to go straight to the source? Every Wednesday, the brewery hosts two tours (6:15PM and 8PM; $20, cash only) that detail both the regular beers you should already find familiar and the seasonal ales that might be pleasant discoveries. 5080 St-Ambroise St. 514-939-3060
Trattoria Pizza Mia
If you’re the type to gorge on pizza grease to cure a hangover, this gentle pizzeria might not do the trick. Trattoria Pizza Mia doesn’t aim to overfeed with two-for-one specials; rather, they bait Atwater Market–goers with the promise of a satisfying, delicious slice that’ll make the consumer reevaluate the definition of pizza. Whether you’re looking for something meatless — spinach and feta — or carnivorous — bacon and potato, Trattoria delivers. Except they don’t deliver. Thus, next time you’re at the market, you must stop in and grab a slice.
Amidst the sudden boom of finer restaurants opening in Montreal, this gem seemed to slip between the cracks. Divorced from the incestuous Joe Beef / Nora Gray / Liverpool House circuit, Tuck Shop makes itself distinct by offering a well planned, diverse menu that’ll force you into a second visit (or at least sharing your main with others). Ranging from arctic char ($26) to jerk hen ($13), there’s really something for everyone here. 4662 Notre-Dame St. W., 514-439-7432
Image courtesy of DubyDub2009.