Home CommentaryStudent Life Crawl I: cafés beyond cafés

Crawl I: cafés beyond cafés

by Pierre A. Lepetit September 22, 2015
Crawl I: cafés beyond cafés

Taking a look at some of the best coffee shops in town

The school semester is now well underway, and with it comes the need to find places where you can study, meet friends, or just relax before the morning rush. Luckily, Montreal has its fair share of incredibly cute spots where you can do all of the above. Being an avid café adventurer, I devoted myself to testing out three of my now-favourite places with my flatmate Margaux. Whether you’re a coffee-lover or drink rooibos by the litre; whether you’re a vegetarian or carnivore; whether you’re looking for a sweet snack and drink or a full meal—these three cafés will send your tastebuds to heaven.

Monday 11 a.m.: Tommy

Tommy. Photo by Pierre A. Lepetit.

Tommy. Photo by Pierre A. Lepetit.

When one thinks of fancy indie cafés, the first neighbourhood that comes to mind is the Plateau. And that’s exactly where this place is not. My Montreal café crawl began in Old Montreal, next to Place d’Armes in the British Empire Building. This two-storey coffee shop charms the eyes of eager adventurous folk with its wonderful architecture—beautified by renowned Montreal designer Zébulon Perron. The vast amount of sunlight, high ceilings, greenery and woodwork at Tommy make the perfect refreshing and soothing atmosphere you are looking for during your long mornings. Margaux and I decided to head there for lunch so we could try some of their daytime menu items.

Tommy. Photo by Pierre A. Lepetit.

Tommy. Photo by Pierre A. Lepetit.

The food menu is rather comprehensive, ranging from delicious and fancy pastries (did someone say Nutella cronuts?) to hearty and tasty paninis. Tommy offers a great selection of hot drinks, including a long list of teas served in an infuser tea pitcher—which means you can get yourself a couple of free refills. Cold drink fans may be disappointed by the rather limited refreshing options, but their iced cappuccino would definitely fill your cravings.

Tommy is filled with the day’s newspapers and magazines and has free Wi-Fi; two things you can enjoy while working on your next essay among other people downstairs, or from the loft in one of the comfortable sofas, relaxing until reality catches up with you. But before it does, have another cup.

What we had:

Grilled vegetables and goat cheese paninis, tomato and olive pizza, strawberry and granola yogourt, dragon pearls tea, iced cappuccino.

Tommy
200 Notre-Dame St. West (Old Montreal)
Hours: Weekdays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Tuesday 4 p.m.: Chez Boris

Chez Boris. Photo by Pierre A. Lepetit.

Chez Boris. Photo by Pierre A. Lepetit.

There was a change of atmosphere and decoration as Margaux and I hit the streets of the Plateau on a Tuesday afternoon to satisfy our craving for doughnuts. They are fresh, delicious, made-to-order type of doughnuts. So you can imagine our excitement when we stumbled upon a Russian-style doughnut shop on Park Ave. and Fairmount Ave. in the Mile-End. Gone is the decor from the Victorian empire, as this cute little spot is ornamented with lightbulbs inside of plastic milk jugs and silkscreen prints made by different Montreal artists.

 

Chez Boris. Photo by Pierre A. Lepetit.

Chez Boris. Photo by Pierre A. Lepetit.

The doughnuts at Chez Boris are so cheap that anybody entering this shop suddenly feels the urge to try them all. Those Russian doughnuts, called pyshki, are smaller and less sweet than their North American counterpart, but not any less tasty. One of these legendary snacks at Chez Boris will cost you a mere $0.90, while you’ll only pay $4.50 for six that you can pair with their delicious hot chocolate (made from real melted chocolate). Adventurers might want to try Boris’ “Soviet coffee” or their homemade kvass, a fermented beverage made from rye bread.

 

This warm neighbourhood café offers free Wi-Fi. Saint Petersburg’s specialities—or at least some of them—are closer than you think. No roaming fees guaranteed.

What we had:

Unsweetened iced coffee, mocha, hot chocolate. Oh, and loads of doughnuts. Both for here and to go.

Chez Boris
5151 Park Ave. (Mile End)
Hours: Weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Weekends 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Wednesday 3 p.m.: Arts Café

Lost opportunities, lost possibilities: there are places that you wish you had known about sooner, and Arts Café is one of them. Your surroundings can have such a powerful effect on you, and folks at this place have understood this. Newcomers get mesmerized by the wooden decor and the rows of light bulbs. A lot of cafés try to recreate a “vintage” experience, but this one is authentic. Arts Café is more about sitting down with your friends in a warm environment to enjoy a great moment; a place where you actually interact with people; a place where laptops stay in their bags, because Wi-Fi remains off during their lunch and supper hours.

Arts Cafe. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

Arts Cafe. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

The cuteness of the decor at this Mile-End café is nothing compared to their delightful vegetarian-friendly menu. The casual-yet-fancy menu sets the bar when it comes to coffee shop food. Arts Café makes sure that the products they use come from local farmers and markets, including the extensive tea selection they offer, which are all from the renowned Quebecois teahouse Camellia Sinensis. Most food items in Arts Café’s elaborate menu therefore tend to be on the pricier side, like the $12 breakfast burrito or the $14 French toast—which nonetheless divinely exceeded our expectations.

My Montreal café crawl ended on the Arts Café’s back patio on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, where I enjoyed all the things one seeks from a café: good drinks, good food, good vibes.

What we had:

Breakfast burrito, french toast, organic chai tea, homemade green-tea lemonade

Arts Café
201 Fairmount Ave. West (Mile End)
Hours: Weekdays 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Weekends 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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