Saving grace: Food is a shining star along Sherbrooke Street
Similar to its district partner Côte-des-Neiges, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is a veritable multicultural hub. It is also a neighbourhood where the long-established
bourgeoisie and poorer families cohabitate, making it an area with one of the highest social and monetary disparities in Montreal.
Most of the action in NDG, as it is called by locals, takes place between Villa-Maria and Vendôme metro stations, and along Monkland Ave. and Sherbrooke St. W.
On one side is Monkland village, with its classy boutiques and trendy restaurants that flirt with the eternal red-brick and white balustrade houses; on the other is Sherbrooke St. W, where store-owners are caught between economical difficulties— causing the closing of many businesses—and a possible revitalization. Before it is too late, I suggest we give a hand to Sherbrooke St. W., a very important Montreal street, by visiting some of its best stores and restaurants. That way, we will contribute to its revival and truly save Grace.
A staple of Sherbrooke St. W., located right before the Décarie when heading east, is Rôtisserie Chalet Bar-B-Q, founded in 1944. The first visit is memorable. From the outside, with its red, yellow and blue sign, the restaurant is not very impressive. Yet once you walk in, you are pleasantly surprised. Frozen in time, the place wears its name well: it is indeed a chalet. Large wood planks the colour of maple syrup cover the walls and parts of the ceiling. Customers sit on red benches and read the menu on paper placemats.
How is the menu? Simple, yummy, and inexpensive. For the appetizer, coleslaw is recommended. Then comes chicken, in your chosen form: leg, breast, half or full. Served with fries, barbecue sauce and a toasted roll, the chicken is barbecued on-point. As their website claims, it is “crispy and golden on the outside, tender and juicy in the inside.” I tried, although unsuccessfully, to save room for the delicious-looking desserts, a varied choice of pies and cakes. Finally, in terms of service it is very quick—sometimes maybe too quick—ideal for lunchtime. Chalet Bar-B-Q might not be the healthiest, but I would not refuse it every once in a while.
Another favourite on the street is Soba Sushi, at 5227 Sherbrooke St. W. Reviewers on UrbanSpoon prefer it to its not-so-far neighbour, Mikado at 5515 Monkland Ave., by seven per cent. It is also much more affordable. Don’t be misled by the menu’s ‘90s look, which features, among other things, Lucida Calligraphy, flowers and butterflies. Anyone craving a taste of Asia can find satisfaction at Soba. The choice is varied: a selection of 21 sushi and 38 maki, General Tao chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, orange beef, peanut sauce chicken, Szechuan shrimp, tempura, soups, salads, noodles… The list goes on. Moreover, the restaurant is recognized for its $8.75 lunch deals, served with steamed rice and soup every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. That being said, take-out and (free!) delivery are winners here because the relatively small dining room is not the coziest in town. Why not eat in a park nearby when spring comes? Don’t forget to ask for some chopsticks!
A long-appreciated café is Shäika, at 5526 Sherbrooke St. W. Sitting in a room with a slightly vintage feel punctuated by sumptuous vegetation, customers enjoy their coffee as they eat one of the delicious pressed sandwiches. Whether it is to work or to unwind, this café is the perfect place for a relaxing moment. To add even more value, the café partly transforms into a stage most days of the week to welcome musicians, who entertain customers at no cost. In the summer, the terrace is also said to be quite beautiful.
If you’re feeling bitter about the winter, you might as well eat comfy food at incredibly low cost—and Edwina is there to help you out. Edwina, mother of the grilled cheese, has been reinventing the classic recipe in her beloved neighbourhood since April 2014, at 5205 Sherbrooke St. W. From the personalized traditional sandwiches (served with chips and coleslaw at $4.95) to the gourmet ones (how amazing does the Leaning Tower of Cheesa sound?!), and from the $2.95 after-school specials to the fronuts (grilled cheese doughnuts), this place is not difficult to like. Some bands and stand-ups perform every now and then and, even more importantly, students get a 15 per cent discount—hello there! Why not like Edwinas Grilled Cheese on Facebook? If you don’t win a free fronut for being the 700th person to press the like button, you will at least have sexy hot cheese creations appearing on your newsfeed occasionally. Mmm, tempting.
Apart from restaurants, you will find Coop La Maison Verte at 5785 Sherbrooke St. W., probably the most organic and community-oriented store in NDG. The co-op was started during the 1998 ice storm as a response to our dependence on energy and our unfortunate individualism. Through their project, the co-founders of this alternative consumption model hope to foster local trade and give more power to consumers, while enhancing the quality of the neighbourhood. The array of products is varied, from fruits, vegetables, chocolate, tea and seeds to personal and home care products, biodegradable utensils and plants. Although prices are not always student-friendly, this store is worth the visit for anyone who has the Earth at heart.
Finally, I must make honourable mention of multicultural stores that have served locals through the years: Akhavan, Iranian grocery store (6170 Sherbrooke St. W.), Pâtisserie Wawel, Polish bakery (5499 Sherbrooke St. W.), Épicerie Coréenne et Japonaise, Korean and Japanese grocery store (6151 Sherbrooke St. W.), and Fruits Rocky Montana, Sri-Lankan grocery store (5704 Sherbrooke St. W.).
That, my friends, is NDG’s Sherbrooke St. W. in a nutshell. Please enjoy and eat responsibly. Oh, and before it gets jealous, go say hello to Monkland Ave.—it’s not bad either!