Come and take a step back in time at Wilensky’s

A sandwich shop where everything has stayed the same since 1932

Located in Montreal’s Mile End, Wilensky’s has been a local staple since 1932. Famous for its sandwich special, the restaurant was opened by husband and wife Ruth and Moe Wilensky.

I was so enticed to visit this infamous eatery. My boyfriend and I visited Wilensky’s during the first week of January. We went on a quiet Wednesday afternoon and we were able to sit at one of the bar stools at the front counter.

Stepping foot into Wilensky’s is like stepping into a time machine. I got the chance to sit down with Sharon Wilensky, the daughter of Ruth and Moe, and she discussed with me about who came up with the idea of “the special” at Wilensky’s.

“My dad, Moe Wilensky came up with the idea for the special. The restaurant started in 1932 and that’s the date that we go by. My father and uncle couldn’t find work and that’s when they started working with my grandfather,” Wilensky recalled. “My father said ‘We need to find a way to make more money and I think we need to start selling food.’”

Moe Wilensky brought in a small grill that could only cook a few hotdogs at a time, which cost a fortune because of the Great Depression. 

“Salami and bologna, which is what is in the Wilensky’s special, is something that people ate at home. My dad would be eating it for lunch and customers would come in and ask my dad if he could make it for them. They would come in again and again and say, ‘Could you make that special thing you made for me last time?’” Wilensky said.

The Wilensky’s Special. In the background, there is a cherry cola being mixed the old-fashioned way. Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

That’s how the Wilensky’s special was born. For under five dollars, you can enjoy the special with either swiss or cheddar cheese. The other special thing about Wilensky’s is the rules that they have regarding their special. 

When you order it right off the bat, they serve it with only mustard and you can’t ask them to cut it in half for you. You have to enjoy it as is. 

The rules for the Special at Wilensky’s. Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

I ordered the special with swiss cheese, and less than five minutes later I took my first bite of the sandwich. The combination of the two meats with the warm swiss cheese was amazing, I could see how these little sandwiches could get addicting. The mustard is a perfect accompaniment because it cuts through all the fat. 

To accompany his sandwich, my boyfriend ordered a cherry coca cola which was made the old-fashioned way by mixing it right on the spot. Before we left, he wanted to leave a tip and it came to our knowledge that they donate all of their tips to charity!

“Working with my dad is one of my favourite memories,” Wilensky said, teary-eyed. “I went to Outremont high school, which is a french adult-ed high school and I would come to work here after school. I would even remember being a child here, while working here I would see children walking along the bar of the counter and it would bring me back.”

Wilensky’s is the perfect place to stop by if you are in the Mile End area even if it’s simply to say hi to one of the original Wilensky’s! 


Art as activism: personal and collective histories

Taking a look at Dazibao’s new exhibitions

I open the door to Dazibao and, with the exception of colour-changing neon lights emanating from the far corner of the space, it is dark. A cacophony of voices engulfs the room. As I make my way to the first video installation, I am immediately drawn into the abstract nature of the film and I tone out the other sounds.

Dazibao, an art center in Montreal’s Mile End, dedicates itself to circulating contemporary image practices, be it through exhibitions, video programs, films or public artworks. In an effort to create a space where individuals can experiment, reflect and share ideas, Dazibao collaborates with artists, curators, critics and researchers.

Their mandate, which is to promote cultural diversity as a means of enabling art to assert itself as a knowledgeable and intellectual field, is further reinforced via their three current exhibitions on view, Special Works School, New Pedestrians and Mikhail Karikis.

Special Works School by Bambitchell explores surveillance and military camouflage techniques by way of reflecting on the interconne – activity of artistic practice and surveillance technologies. The work, which consists of an installation and a film, considers surveillance as an artistic practice, invites the viewer to reflect on the various aspects of surveillance in both society and art.

Lights change from cyan to purple, and camouflage back to its natural colour, offering a metaphor for surveillance. Photo by Britanny Clarke.

Bambitchell’s work has video and sculptural components – the source of the colour-changing neon lights – which offers a multi-sensory experience. Sand appears to be rippled in a box, as lights change from cyan to purple, and back to its natural colour, the box and its contents camouflage to the colour of the lights. This offers a metaphor for surveillance and its visibility, or rather, invisibility.

Bambitchell is the artistic collaboration between artists Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Mitchell. Since their conception in 2009, they have established their practice around notions of surveillance and nationalism, using archives and state documents as part of their work.

New Pedestrians by Julia Feyrer uses everyday objects to explore the body’s connection to various materials. As the name suggests, the film observes pedestrians as they walk. However, they are not your average pedestrians. Body parts are composed of wooden rulers, scissors and other everyday tools and objects, merging sculpture and film into one. The abstract nature of the film brings out in the viewer the sort of uneasy feeling that would arise from a bad dream.

Similarly, Children of Unquiet, Ain’t Got No Fear and No Ordinary Protest by Mikhail Karikis use this same type of bizarre construction. Although separate entities, the three films, when viewed in order, form an allegory. In Children of Unquiet, children clad in colourful masks sing at the top of their lungs as they reclaim a village that was built for workers at a geo-thermal power plant. Whereas Ain’t Got No Fear demonstrates the alternative vocation given by young people to a power plant, as a means of defying authority. Finally, along the same lines, No Ordinary Protest explores themes of activism enabling children’s voices to be heard.

Karikis uses sound and media to create immersive installations. His practice explores primarily the notion of the voice as a socio-political agent, as well as themes of solidarity in action, which he further develops by collaborating with various communities such as youth groups.

Although the works exhibited are very different in their conception and determination, Special Works School, New Pedestrians and Mikhail Karikis’ works share similar perseverance, enabling them to share personal and collective histories in abstract ways, and ultimately offer a form of activism. By making a statement about various conventional aspects of everyday life, such as surveillance, the works assert themselves and demonstrate how artistic practice can be political.

Special Works School, New Pedestrians and Mikhail Karikis are on display at Dazibao, at 5455 de Gaspé Ave. suite 109, until Dec. 21. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.



Photos by Brittany Clarke.


Yum or Yikes: Mimi & Jones

Mimi & Jones, the new entirely vegan diner in Mile End, embodies its location flawlessly. It’s eager to be hip, accomplishing something alternative, and mimicking a vintage scene. 

It was a spur of the moment decision I’m happy my friends and I made. After a sunny day spent wandering the Plateau and Mile End, crunching the gilded foliage beneath our boots, we swung into Mimi & Jones.

At 4 p.m., we were the only customers inside the tiny, bright locale. We slid into the only booth (from which, beyond the restaurant’s outdoor terrace, we had an uninterrupted view of Parc Avenue) and bopped along to the 50s rock and pop hits as we scanned the menu.

Furnished in retro decor (bar stools, black and white floor tiles, leather seats), at face value, Mimi & Jones appears to be just another modern take on a classic 50s diner. But the entirely vegan menu is what sets it apart from the rest.

Thankfully, Mimi & Jones doesn’t sacrifice greasy staples in the name of veganism. They impressively and creatively accomplish everything a regular diner would serve with strictly plant-based ingredients. We ordered cheeseburgers, milkshakes, deep-fried nuggets, caesar salad and ravioli in attempt to sample as much as we could from the short but concise menu. We were not let down.

Though Mimi & Jones is a licensed establishment, we chose not to spike our milkshakes and enjoyed the thick, sweet, creamy goodness just the same. I ordered the cheesecake flavour, which came adorned with morsels of tangy, melt-in-your-mouth cake that provided a nice contrast from the deliciously sugary shake.

Next, our food arrived in bright red baskets lined with checkerboard paper. Overall, the flavours and textures accurately mimicked those of their non-vegan counterparts, and were just as satisfying.

The Mimi Burger was exceptionally assembled: loaded with all the usual toppings, the handmade patty rounds off the perfect balance of flavours. The Croquettes Jones, which I ordered with the maple-dijon sauce, were simply addictive. The tofu was breaded and deep-fried to golden perfection resulting in crunchy, but not overly greasy nuggets. The ravioli, which we drowned in the rosé sauce, was equally delicious. The pasta pockets were nicely al dente and the tofu-almond “ricotta” filling was soft and creamy.

If there was one dish that disappointed, it was the caesar salad. Though it was enjoyable, topped with roasted chickpeas and capers, it lacked the essence of its traditional inspiration.

Though each individual appetizer, drink or dish wasn’t outrageously priced, the bill did add up to a little more than I was anticipating, especially considering portion sizes. However, vegan food can be expected to cost a little more, and we did leave thoroughly stuffed.

I’ll confess: I’ve been dreaming about the flavourful sauces and greasy goodies at Mimi & Jones since our impromptu afternoon adventure. However, I think next time, I’d go at night for a fresh experience. The diner and bar are open until 9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and until 8 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.

Comfortably retro, satisfyingly filling and innovatively delicious, I could go for a hearty burger and some crispy croquettes at Mimi & Jones any night of the week.

FOOD: 4.5/5

PRICE: 3.5/5




Photo by Noemi Stella Mazurek


POP takes over the Mile End

POP Montreal is an annual multidisciplinary music and arts festival, taking place in various locations across the city from Sept. 26 to 30. In a takeover of the Mile End and some of the neighbourhood’s most prominent venues, more than 400 artists, musicians and filmmakers participated in a vast number of events.

Under the umbrella of the festival, there are several subsections, such as Film POP, Art POP and Puces POP, focusing on music-related film events, visual arts and crafts respectively. This year, events under these branches included talks by filmmakers Alanis Obomsawin and Allan Moyle of Empire Records, outdoor film screenings, diverse art exhibitions and site-specific performances across the city. POP Montreal also put on a variety of panels and symposiums, discussing a range of topics in relation to the arts and music community, from gentrification within the arts to the relationship between music and astrology.


Film POP

Kicking off Film POP was a free screening of Betty: They say I’m different. The documentary reveals the bold and enigmatic Betty Davis as she burst into stardom and, just as quickly, disappeared from the limelight.

Now, more than 30 years later, she is ready to tell her story—her transformation from a “bright, orange bird” to the dark and powerful “crow.” The latter encapsulated the musician’s Nasty Gal stage persona. With the subsequent loss of her beloved father, the crow disappeared from her heart, and she from the stage.

POP Symposium

Fail Better: Learn from the Pros’ Mistakes featured successful music managers and publishing administrators Mark Kates, Molly Neuman, Nancy Ross, Jeff Waye and Tom DeSavia who spoke about their mistakes in the industry and how they’ve since bounced back. From debates surrounding exposure and payment, to growing your network and being true to your art, the panelists exposed a different side to the music industry.

Historical Erasure of Queer Spaces: Shakedown and Beyond featured musician and artist Elle Barbara; community organiser, activist and artist Jodie-Ann Muckler; hip hop artist, entrepreneur and community organiser Lucas Charlie Rose; and Montreal-based DJ and designer Tati au Miel. Together, the panelists led an empowering discussion that questioned true inclusivity. They spoke about building trust and relationships among QTBIPOC to better foster safe community spaces and encouraging environments for performers and party-goers alike. They also indicated the importance of properly documenting and archiving these community organizing methods for organisers to come.“The work I’m doing will help the people after me,” Tati said. “We don’t realize how lucky we are to be safe enough to document these events.” In the past, documentation was high-risk. Now that it’s safer for the queer community to do so, their stories must be told and non-POC must help be their microphone.

Find POC organizers and give them money,” suggested Muckler. “Hire QTBIPOC performers, not because they’re people of colour but because they’re qualified. Don’t tokenize; give it to them because they need it more.”

Gentrification: The Role of Artists in Changing Neighbourhoods was a collaboration between Concordia’s Fine Art Student Alliance (FASA) and POP Montreal. The panel discussed the presence of gentrification in the arts community, and took place at Piccolo Rialto. Moderated by Robyn Fadden, a Montreal-based writer, editor and broadcaster, the panel featured Faiz Abhuani, Gregory Burton, Fred Burrill and Cathy Inouye. Who all have unique experiences and personal connections to the arts, and its relationship to gentrification within Montreal, through their respective careers, practices, and experiences.


Whispering Pines

California-based video and performance artist Shana Moulton created Whispering Pines as an ongoing project to define the virtual environment of her alter-ego and avatar, Cynthia. A hypochondriac and agoraphobe, Cynthia searches for harmony and unison in her surrounding environment, both indoors and outdoors. She is obsessed with the kitsch and New-Age, avant-garde home decor and consumerism. Projected onto the gallery walls, Whispering Pines transports viewers into the artist’s mystical, kaleidoscopic world and Cynthia’s pop culture-obsessed subconscious.

Where: Centre Clark, 5455 Gaspé Ave., suite 114
When: Now until Oct. 13
Admission is free.

Miniature turtlenecks cover the wall in Portable Closets. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Portable Closets

Kyle Alden Martens is a Montreal-based interdisciplinary artist working with sculpture, textile and fashion design. The miniature garments in Portable Closets were attached to or, in some cases, fitted within ready-to-wear articles of clothing and wooden sandals. Accompanied by a video to further explore Martens’s project, the installation includes strange sculptures, tiny turtlenecks, T-shirts and pants. “Don’t look for fixed meanings here, you won’t find them,” wrote Concordia’s art history PhD student, Mikhel Proulx, in the gallery’s pamphlet.

Where: Centre Clark, 5455 Gaspé Ave., suite 114
When: Now until Oct. 13
Admission is free.

Òu sommes-nous?

This multidisciplinary exhibition is showing at the artist centre OBORO and features the works of Judith Albert, Nik Forrest, Katrin Freisager and Dana Claxton. The exhibition focuses on connections and relationships with nature. Featuring works in the media of photography, film and moving images, the works also invoke feminist and postcolonial themes and perspectives. The exhibition and the artists’s respective works provide a diverse mix to look at and interact with, yet are cohesive and connected through these central themes.

Where: OBORO, 4001 Berri
When: Now until Oct. 27
Admission is free.

Showing at the Ellephant Gallery in Quartier des spectacles, Cité-Jardin features the work of artist Sabrina Ratté, a Concordia graduate with a master’s degree in film production. The exhibition presents works in video projection and 3D printing, and transforms the gallery space into otherworldly, imaginary, ephemeral landscapes. The exhibition considers and explores connections between the physical and virtual realms. In addition to the exhibition, an interview with the artist will be broadcast every day by XX Files Pirate Radio at Rialto Theatre.

Where: Ellephant, 1201 St-Dominique St.
When: Now until Nov. 3
Admission is free.

What you missed…

Photos by Mackenzie Lad.

Student Life

Settle in at Comme Chez Soi

Image from Flickr.

Though there’s no lack of great bars in this university city, it was only a matter of time before Montreal would welcome a speakeasy to the Mile End neighborhood. With the 1920s re-emerging in fashion and cinema, like Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, there couldn’t have been a better time to give people a little sense of rebellion.

Le Comme Chez Soi – its inviting name urging clients to act as they would at home – is a luminous cave enriched with mahogany and statement pieces that were either inherited or bought at an estate sale.

The bar is filled with a variety of round and square wooden tables, accommodating any party size. The room is long and narrow with bright antique lamps. An eye-catching upright piano is centered along a stonewall decorated with black and white photos of strangers of the past. If you decide to visit on the weekend, you won’t be surprised to hear a few bluesy tunes that are great company to a good conversation.

The bar is filled with a variety of beers and whiskies. While I appreciate a good scotch on the rocks, it’s hard to order anything else aside from their bloody caesars. It’s fresh with just the right amount of spice and it’s always served with at least three big olives and an onion – the best I’ve had in Montreal!

While the bar may be what you’re looking for, I would suggest giving a glance at the menu and going for the burger. Made with bison meat and dressed with Roquefort cheese and bacon, Le Comme Chez Soi has earned a reputation for having one of the best burgers in the Mile End.

Aside from adding a terrace, this bar could also use an improvement in their service. Considering the room is quite intimate, it was sometimes difficult to get the attention of the waiters chilling by the bar.

Le Comme Chez Soi is nicely lit, has a wonderful ambiance and is filled with people in deep in conversation. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the rowdiness and dancing, and get a feeling of what it must have been like in 1920s!

Le Comme Chez Soi
5386 St Laurent
Montréal, QC H2T 1A5
(514) 277-0100




A gothic birthday party, UNzipped

Photo : Andrew McNeill

With the band’s biggest festival appearance yet just days away, UN’s Kara Keith was fretting over footwear before set lists.
“It’s all about the outfits, right?” reasoned Keith.
UN, a gothic rock/electro-pop duo featuring Concordia grad Jen Reimer on drums with Keith on vocals and piano, is jetting off to Austin, Texas to play POP Montreal’s showcase at the SXSW Music Festival.
Over 2,000 acts from all over the world flock to SXSW every year to mingle with music industry professionals, debut new material and wrestle for exposure. Buzzing reviews at this festival can change an artist’s life overnight. Just one year after her SXSW debut, former McGill student and electronic musician Grimes has gone from virtually unknown to posing for Vogue.
“I haven’t gone to SXSW before, but I’ve done a lot of crazy shit in my life,” said Keith. “It’s just another five-day-long party where I don’t have a home to go to at night.”
Keith and Reimer have been playing together in bands for over five years, but they first collaborated as UN in 2010 and have just released their debut album, Nu. Keith’s confidence on stage is magnetic, her voice deep, dark and borderline satanic. Backed by snappy synth, piano and Reimer’s fierce animalistic drumming, this is something you must dance to, entranced in your own world.
UN’s sound and stage presence has the ability to whisk the crowd away to a subterranean gothic birthday party, providing an escape from the mundane.
“It’s cathartic for me,” explained Keith. “That’s why it ends up being cathartic for other people.
All the melodies, lyrics and ideas are from my singular experience. I walk about with those songs all the time.”
Reimer and Keith left their families behind in Alberta before becoming Mile End inhabitants. They attended separate classical music conservatories in Edmonton and Calgary, but met at an artist residency program at the Banff Centre in 2007.
“We started jamming together in these little huts in the woods, spending night upon night playing music,” revealed Keith. “We instantly connected.”
At the time, Keith studied piano, while Reimer was perfecting the French horn. Reimer picked up the drums as recently as two years ago for UN’s first performance in New York City, though she had only been practising for three weeks.
“[Reimer] already had so much skill in her body from being a very accomplished classical musician,” explained Keith.
Keith found Alberta hostile to artists, as rent was skyrocketing and it was difficult to find space to practise or play.
“It wasn’t a very nurturing community, and we felt like outsiders,” said Keith. “There were no other women doing anything [like us].”
The pair clicked with producer Howard Bilerman, known for his work on Arcade Fire’s Funeral (2004), while at The Banff Centre. Keith wrote a record while in Alberta, but flew to Montreal in 2008 to record with Reimer, Bilerman and a band of 10 other people.
“That was our foray into Montreal. We were just going to come for two weeks and make a record,” said Keith, “but that record took six months.
“We quickly evolved, realized it was an amazing city, and now we are very happy here.”
Though the songstress was unhappy in Alberta, the record she wrote while living there is curiously upbeat, and became quite popular. Keith’s indie-pop single, “Kick this City,” caught fire in 2008 and was picked up by CBC for radio play.
Since moving to Montreal and forming UN, Keith’s songwriting has turned to gloom.
“What’s funny is that as I’ve gotten my life more organized, been happier, got really good friends, moved to a great new city, and started taking care of myself, I started writing really dark music,” said Keith.
Despite the drastic change in her musical tone, Keith insisted that it’s completely unintentional. She challenged herself to depart from her more complicated classical roots and produce music that was simple, strong and straight from the gut.
“I’m not trying to do anything, I don’t listen to music, and I don’t know what our ‘sound’ is,” said Keith. “Neither does Jen.”

UN debuts at SXSW on March 16 at Hotel Vegas in Austin, Texas.

To download their new album visit their bandcamp:

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