Montreal is a city that doesn’t fit easily into categories. Montreal artists are forever pushing the boundaries of genre, and their love for experimentation is also evident in the city’s shops and cafes. These spots are no exception to the rule. A restaurant that offers delicious picnic baskets to go, a cafe in an old-fashioned drug store, an extravagant and edgy art gallery… Discover the best of Montreal’s creative spaces with these five spots pulled from our city guide Indie Guides Montreal!
Monastiraki: A doorway to underground Montreal art
Equal parts thrift shop, cabinet of curiosities and art gallery, Monastiraki resembles the very artists who come here: curious, edgy, and extravagant. Open one of the many dresser drawers and you’ll find posters, original drawings by Montreal artists, local fanzines, art books, and anonymous photographs, in addition to a variety of figurines, stickers, and old postcards.
This former antique shop was taken over by the designer and illustrator, Billy Mavreas, in 1998. He was later joined by the poet and sculptor Emilie O’Brien. A temple for underground comics, Monastiraki has quickly become a favorite spot for the Montreal artists who flock here for expos, workshops, concerts, and the other art events that are frequently organized here.
5478 boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal H2T 1S1
Open Wednesday from 12pm to 6pm, Thursday and Friday from 12pm to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm
La Casa del Popolo: Epicenter of the indie scene
La Casa del Popolo pulls off the difficult task of being both the hippest vegetarian cafe and the coolest alternative music venue in Montreal, all while providing the perfect courtyard patio for summer evening hangouts. That being said, it’s no surprise the place is overrun on the weekends by Montrealer artists, musicians, and hip students. Lose yourself in the mix! Order a gigantic plate of nachos at the bar and enjoy the daily DJ set before heading for the concert stage.
La Casa del Popolo, just like its neighbors, La Sala Rossa (4848 boulevard Saint-Laurent) and La Vitrola (4602 boulevard Saint-laurent) is owned by the bassist of famous post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and as a result, the place has an especially well-curated indie music line-up.
4873 boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal H2T 1R6
Opening hours: see their program
Le Cagibi: Cozy café in an old pharmacy
Saint-Laurent Boulevard has an assortment of venues and shops to offer. While it remains a haven for nightclubs and rowdy dive bars up through the 3000 block, you’ll find a stylish and minimalist corridor with designer boutiques and cafes between the 4000-5000 block. Located in the heart of Mile-End, the Cagibi is no exception to the trend. During the day, the former pharmacy donning vintage ornaments is swarming with students and freelancers glued to their laptops. At night, the place makes room for locals interested in catching a show, seeing a film, or hearing a reading. Don’t forget to try the famous raspberry beer along with one of the delicious house vegetarian dishes. If you want to get a feel for the Mile End quarter, the Cagibi will whet your appetite.
5490 boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal H2T 1S1
Open Monday from 6pm to 12am, Tuesday through Friday from 9am to 12am and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30am to 12am
180g: A record shop and coffee house in a former warehouse
Lined with low-rise industrial brick buildings, the dead-end, pot-holed rue Waverly isn’t the first place that pops into one’s head when imagining the ideal cafe and record shop. Yet, here we find a gem in the charming, succinct energy that 180g offers to both coffee and music lovers. Even as the newest arrival among Montreal’s prime record shops, it’s certainly one of the most charming for those looking to browse a quaint, yet diverse selection of music with a cup of locally-roasted Saint-Henri coffee. Grab a sandwich for lunch, or take advantage of the WiFi to spend a few hours working within its bright, minimalist quarters. Just remember to reward yourself with a few record-browsing breaks in between.
6546 rue Waverly, Montreal H2V 4M3
Open Monday through Wednesday from 9am to 5pm, Thursday and Friday from 9am to 7pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 6pm
Dinette Triple Crown: Luncheon on the grass
If you’d like to have a picnic in one of Montreal’s many beautiful parks, you’ve got two options. Solution A: make yourself a sandwich and a nice, fresh salad. Solution B: order something from Dinette Triple Crown and walk away with a fully stocked picnic basket. With its fried chicken, pulled pork, smoked beef brisket, hushpuppies (fried corn fritters), and mac & cheese, Dinette Triple Crown runs the gamut of American Southern cuisine. We have to admit, option A is clearly 100 times healthier than option B, but hey, you’re on vacation and it’s not every day you get to enjoy such decadence!
6704 rue Clark, Montreal H2S 3E9
Open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday from 11am to 9pm
Discover more alternative and cultural spots in Montreal with our city guide Indie Guides Montreal.
Photos: courtesy of the places mentioned