Student Life

Going the extra mile in the field of green restaurants

Nestled into the vibrant borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, La Cale pub marks the first of its kind in the new wave of zero-waste restaurants in Montreal. Behind this innovative project stands a group of friends who let us peek behind the scenes of managing such a place. 

Josh Gendron shared how everything came to be after a long discussion with his co-owners Gabriel Monzerol, Lann Dery and Luca Langelier.

“We go way back and, after a while, we ended up working all at the same place,” said Gendron. “We wanted to open up a pub and be our own bosses.” Thus, the idea of overseeing a place of their own was conceived.

They did not want to conform to the status quo as, across Montreal, you can easily find an everyday pub. The four partners forced themselves to think of a way that would make them stand out, and that was when Monzerol suggested opening a pub with an ecological concept.

“Since we have been open, in our style of operation, we have not accumulated a full [amount] of trash yet,” said Gendron. Inspired by Béa Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home, and her “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, compost” model, what originated as being eco-friendly quickly transitioned to the zero-waste formula. Hence, even the minimal accumulated trash, which is essentially compost, is properly taken care of by a private company.

At this point, Gendron said that many considered their business idea as quite ambitious in regards to questioning how it would be sustained. However, with enough restaurant experience under their belts, they knew which practices to incorporate and how they were going to handle the pub.

Various approaches were taken into account in preparation for the opening. From interior design to day-to-day operations, La Cale follows its zero-waste philosophy in creating a business from scratch that is green at every step. The process began with how each piece of furniture was brought into use.

“Instead of buying new furniture, most of what you see inside is all recycled, second-hand or [materials] that were in the trash,” said Gendron. “Some [pieces] we built ourselves, like the bar countertops that came from pallets and the wood beams from the floor.”

The chairs and the tables again reaffirm the zero-waste motto of reusing, as they were taken from different restaurants that went out of business. Customers can also except sprinkler pipes as table legs, two-by-two pieces of wood from pallets used for lamp holders, trash lamps. Despite being rather nontraditional and not straight out of an IKEA catalogue, each of these little details helps create La Cale’s distinctive ambience.

Behind the bar, there is also a great deal of self-production in regard to the preparation of drinks. Instead of relying on mainstream plastic bags, which get thrown away after use, tonics and syrups are homemade. They are stored in glass bottles, which not only preserves the freshness of the taste but also spares the owners the need of a supplier. The pub does not stop there; it has even gone the extra mile of revolutionizing the beer culture.

Because the caps on beer bottles cannot be recycled, the solution La Cale provides is simply getting rid of serving this option.

“The only substitute is canned beer,” said Gendron. “Everything else is on tap because it’s the most efficient and eco-friendly alternative. Pretty much all of the alcohol is local, from local Quebec breweries, which also helps reduce the carbon footprint.”

Usually, local products translate to a boost in prices in comparison to outside imports. However, despite the dominating presence of local brands, La Cale puts the effort into balancing out the green concept to bill ratio. Unlike many places that serve beer, La Cale offers a pint for $7.50, which can be considered rare for Montreal.

Indeed, the project aims to change the way we think of pubs but, at the same time, it manages to remain competitive. Gendron claims that what makes the real difference are the small details in relation to execution. He doesn’t deny the hardship in taking up such a risky endeavour but knows that this is just the beginning.

“Financially, when opening a pub, there is a small margin of profit,” said Gendron. Right now, we are fresh, we are new, and we hope people will be interested.”

For him, La Cale can also be an inspiration for other businesses to follow the zero-waste model.

In the future, the owners are seeking to host more live performances. The pub has already hosted a couple of gigs featuring local bands and musicians. The show area, as Gendron refers to it, is also open for comedians to perform their bids while customers enjoy their eco-friendly drinks and good food.

The chef has currently cooked up a seasonal vegetarian menu that will leave anyone longing for a portion of the restaurant’s sweet fries. Carnivores should not lose hope in this place, as meat options will soon be introduced.

The interior aesthetics will also undergo more decoration with the addition of plants and mural paintings by emerging artists.

“What we really want is to influence other people, but without forcing our idea down their throats,” said Gendron. “Just to show that it is doable.”

Photos by Cecilia Piga

Student Life

A taste and a sip of Gaspésie in Montreal

Pub Pit Caribou tests the waters in Montreal, opening its doors on Rachel E street

Ever had seaweed chips with rye beer? In Percé, where Pub Pit Caribou originated, this combo is a common snack for many pub-goers. Well-rooted in the Gaspésie community since 2007, the Pub Pit Caribou microbrewery finds passion in offering a unique experience with every beer they craft.

Brewed in Anse-à-Beaufils, a small village situated within the bigger town of Percé, QC, their beer comes in five regular varieties: golden ale, amber ale, white wheat beer, porter and Indian pale ale (IPA). The brewery also crafts a variety of limited edition series, like the Tennessee series, which consists of different beers that are aged in Tenessee whiskey barrels.

Most of the beer selection that the microbrewery offers has been available in some bars and speciality stores in Montreal for quite some time. However, in mid-May, Pub Pit Caribou opened its doors in Montreal in the Plateau. The signature “Pit Caribou” logo that Montrealers have come to know from their bottle labels now hangs on a sign on the corner of Rachel and Mentana, just a block away from the popular poutine joint, La Banquise.

Smoked salmon, seaweed chips and beer bread.
Photo by Daniel Slapcoff

Pub Pit Caribou’s menu comes in the form of a wrinkled piece of paper stapled to a wooden plank that features not only their beer menu and specialty Gaspésien snacks, but also the origins and stories behind their beers. The knowledgeable staff guides you through the beers currently available and even suggests some favourites, allowing you to explore the different flavours Gaspésie has to offer. The staff’s care and attention communicates their passion for well-crafted beers and local products.

The regular beers are all enjoyable, especially the award-winning Blanche de Pratto, a white wheat beer. The brew has hints of coriander and citrus, rendering it both sweet and slightly spicy. The rye pale ale, a limited edition seasonal beer currently being offered, is a little bit more unique. With a dry touch to it, the beer resembles an IPA because of the strong hop presence.

The pub sits on the corner of Rachel E and Mentana street, on the Plateau
Photo by Daniel Slapcoff

The seaweed chips from Cap-au-Renard offer a cool alternative to regular chips – that is, if you enjoy seafood. These chips really taste like, well…the ocean. If kelp isn’t your thing, the smoked salmon from the Fumoir Monsieur Émile in Percé has just the right smoke-to-fish ratio and tastes great after a sip of the rye beer.

If your beer connoisseur friend is dying to drag you to Pub Pit Caribou but you despise beer, the pub offers a surprisingly extensive list of different spirits and cocktails. Their barley wine even won a medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2014, according to the microbrewery’s website. The pub’s current special seasonal cocktail is made with vodka and organic blueberry-lavender kombucha from New-Richmond. It has the thirst-quenching qualities of kombucha that many know and love, but with alcohol. Designated drivers will also be satisfied with the menu, as Pub Pit Caribou offers many non-alcoholic choices, including a hop tea.

Pit Caribou, 951 Rue Rachel E, is open everyday from 2 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Student Life

Montreal’s Randolph Pub offers an alternative night out

The pub sets up a game of Looping Louis. Photo by Leah Balass.

On the crowded St. Denis street filled with students and young party-goers, a unique pub that feels more like your childhood living room has made its mark amongst the busy bars, clubs and coffee shops of the area. And it’s the first of its kind in the city of Montreal.

At Randolph Pub Ludique customers are invited to enjoy an entertaining evening of board gaming, with professional staff known as gaming animators, who act as counselors to help customers select, learn and play one of the 1,000 games available.

“Nothing has been made like this before [in Montreal],” said Justin Bazoge, one of the four passionate co-owners of the pub,“There were establishments that had board games or board game libraries – in restaurants, in bars, [and] in bistros – but there was never animation.”

The pub, which opened its doors last July, caters to all demographics and group sizes – from couples, to friends and families, and even solo players looking to be paired up with others.  Bazoge says he has met customers as old as 70, though his client base is generally a student crowd, as it is situated close to universities and CEGEPs.

Among the pub’s diverse customer base, board game enthusiasts Jake Alper and Sandy Ruffin from Boston, chose to visit Montreal for their honeymoon after hearing about Randolph from some friends.

“We love board games so much that [Randolph] was the inspiration for coming to Montreal,” said Alper.

Staff teaches a group the rules of the game. Photo by Leah Balass.

Prior to opening the pub, co-owner Joël Gagnon hosted frequent gaming nights for Montreal’s vibrant board gaming community. Over the years, he has established a following of over 300 people, many of whom became Randolph’s most loyal customers.

“We’ve been animating, entertaining people with board games for over four, five years now, so it just made sense to open a place of our own,” said Bazoge.

For experienced gamers like Jean-Francois Beauchemin, Randolph is a great place to meet new people and get to know other passionate players in the city.

“It allows me to play with a lot of people that I haven’t played with before,” said Beauchemin.

Though none of the owners had prior experience in opening a pub or a bar, their combined passion for board gaming was strong enough to overcome the challenges involved in setting up their new business.

With over 850 board games of their own, the four owners had only a few more purchases to make in order to reach their goal of having 1,000 games to fill the shelves of their pub.

Bazoge and his three co-owners say they are glad to see customers enjoying the atmosphere and the concept of Randolph.

“People are happy, so we become happy,” said Bazoge. “I like the environment here because people don’t come to drink and get drunk, they come here to play games and have fun.”

Randolph Pub Ludique is located at 2041 Saint-Denis. It’s open everyday from 4:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., and until 2:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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