Arts and Culture Community

A farewell to Momesso’s: Contemplating the void left in its wake

After 46 years serving , Paolo Momesso is retiring on top and closing shop on his own terms, a privilege that few restaurant owners are privy to in today’s financial climate.

“We would like to thank you all for your support all these years. Sadly, as of today, we will officially close our doors. Thank you!” Those were the words posted to Facebook on Jan. 22 by the official Momesso’s restaurant account. Just like that, a single post tore a hole in the fabric of the city’s culinary tapestry as one of Montreal’s iconic inns heralded its closure a week ahead of schedule. 

The owner of NDG’s renowned Italian eatery, Paolo Momesso, had publicly announced the restaurant’s impending closure two weeks prior, planning to serve their last subs on the weekend of Jan. 26-27. At that announcement, hundreds of hungry and nostalgic Montrealers came in droves to take one final bite of the diner’s legacy, emptying their final stock prematurely and shutting it down a week earlier than expected. 

It was at 5562 Upper Lachine Rd back in 1978 that Momesso’s Café served the first of their now culturally renowned subs under founding father, Alessandro Momesso. Forty-six years later, Paolo Momesso, the restaurant’s owner and older brother to Montrealer and Canadiens legend Sergio Momesso, attributed his age to the closure of their iconic café. The 68-year-old Momesso took over the family business after the passing of his father in 2006, upholding the family values that characterized the restaurant as a staple of NDG and its immigrant culture. 

Speaking on Momesso’s cultural presence within the area, NDG city councilor Peter McQueen said, “It’s really too bad that the family decided they did not want to continue operating it [the restaurant]. It’s just a huge loss. The Momessos are a huge part of the St-Raymond community.” 

As a prominent cultural beacon, Momesso stated that to preserve the restaurant’s legacy and memory within the city, he shut the place down rather than sell the business and brand to an outsider. 

Though Paolo Momesso closed shop on his own accord, the closure of such a symbolic institution of city culture is always cause for concern, even more so amidst the current state of the city’s economy, which has drastically affected Montreal’s culinary diaspora for over a decade, accentuated by the effects of the pandemic. 

According to the Association Restauration du Québec’s (ARQ) latest polls, the province has seen a decrease of over 3,000 restaurant permit holders since 2019, strongly affecting the city’s cultural and economic identity.

Restaurants are community anchors. For one, they are social hubs. After all, the point of wining and dining revolves around the communal element. Restaurants also allow for cultural blending as the culinary industry fractures barriers to immigrants who value cuisine and lack social connections in the city.

Despite the province heralding 22.4 per cent of the country’s culinary real estate, 66 per cent of total restaurant bankruptcies in the country occurred in Quebec in 2022. 

Additionally, the province is tied with British Columbia for having the highest chain-to-independent restaurant rates, with independent restaurants only-narrowly maintaining half of the market. 

The director of public and government affairs at the ARQ, Dominique Tremblay, believes that owning a restaurant is more difficult than it used to be due to inflation and that business owners are now facing twice the hurdles. She spoke to the current state of the culinary industry saying: “They’re feeling the effects of the increase in service and food prices, and on the other hand, they’re feeling the consumer’s reaction to inflation, as people have less money in their pockets to spend.” 

Amidst the challenges, city mayor Valérie Plante’s Projet Montréal is investing in the culinary industry to ease the stress plaguing the city’s restaurant and small business owners. Despite the city’s efforts, however, owners are still feeling the pressures of the fractured state of the industry. 

“We’re trying to keep businesses alive and well right here in Montreal so people can shop in their local neighborhood, walk to the businesses, and walk to eat out,” McQueen explained. Through the PME initiative (Petite et Moyenne Entreprise) the city has forwarded $37 M to help support local businesses on local arteries in Montreal. 

Victor Santopietro, part-owner of St-Leonard Italian eatery and culinary hub Milano’s Café, appreciates the city’s efforts yet remains skeptical of the efficacy of such initiatives. “Listen, if you don’t help yourself, the city doesn’t do much,” Santopietro said, stifling a laugh. “Do they help us? You know, you have to help yourself, that’s the best advice I can give.” 

According to him, the major hurdles that restaurants currently face are staff turnover and increased food prices, especially when trying to buy locally. 

Santopietro emphasizes the importance of not only buying local, but also the impact that restaurants have on their subsequent communities. “It’s not an easy business,” he said. “We have to understand that no one is invincible, there’s a beginning and an end to everything”. Milano’s Café is a staple of the St-Leonard community as it s a meeting ground for not only the older generations of Italians in the city who make their daily track for an espresso and a sub, but for the younger generations of Montrealers as well, who immerse themselves in the cultural wealth of the community through food. 

Eateries like Milano’s around the city have been adapting by cutting their schedule and simplifying their menu to save on labor and food costs. However, the responsibility of financial responsibility to preserve culturally significant restaurants lies on the shoulders of the consumer as much as it does the owners. 

“Is it their obligation [to help]? No. But it is nice if you support your local businesses,” Santopietro said. “We try to buy a lot of local products so we can make the economy roll instead of buying overseas, but at a certain point you try to do what’s best for yourself.”

There are countless long-standing culinary gems offering delicious goods and spreads at every street corner. Though times might be bleak, Montrealers play a key role in preserving the city’s culinary identity. As Santopietro said, “Just pass by for a coffee sometimes. Once a month, instead of going to a big chain restaurant, help out the regular Joe.”


No Living Wage? Here’s a toonie

Why we should all be tipping well.

Fifteen percent is the bare minimum. No seriously, it is.

Have you ever gone out to eat and found yourself wondering why the tip ends up costing you maybe as much as an appetizer? Well, that’s because, in Quebec, servers are not paid a living wage.

A living wage is basically a fair amount that allows you to afford the cost of living in your area. While I believe that the required minimum wage isn’t even a living wage nowadays, that’s for another article. 

As someone who works in a restaurant, I know for a fact that servers are paid below the minimum wage. The average hourly salary of a server in Quebec is $12.20 while the minimum wage is currently $15.25. Except, it’s not just servers, it’s most tippable jobs. I don’t mean the cashier with a tip jar (we’ll talk about that later) but any job where a tip is expected.

So, with inflation and the cost of living constantly on the rise, shouldn’t the people being paid less than a living wage be given a little more consideration? 

With that said, here’s my guide to tipping:

As I mentioned, 15 percent is the bare minimum. The rule I go by is, that if you can’t afford to tip at a place, you can’t afford to eat there. If you’re budgeting yourself ahead of time, the tip should be factored in. If you don’t tip, servers quite literally end up paying to have served you. It’s messed up, but it’s true. Servers are required at the end of the night, to “tip out.”

If you don’t know, “tipping out” is when the server pays out a percentage of their sales to “the house” (the house is just the restaurant). That percentage then goes to helping pay the salaries of the kitchen, bussers, and hostesses, as well as going to the manager’s and owner’s pockets. 

To recap, if you don’t tip, servers are still required to tip out to the house as if you did tip— so it ends up being money out of their own pockets. 

Now, how do you tip properly? Well, cash is usually the best way to tip because they don’t have to declare as much of it in sales. That means they won’t be as taxed on it, and they won’t have to tip out as much of it at the end of the night.

In a world where nobody carries cash anymore though, just tip well. 

Moreover, you shouldn’t only be tipping at restaurants. A general rule I follow is if I pay cash, I tip all the small change I get back. If you’ve ever worked in the service industry you know it can be soul-sucking and draining. The people in these industries deserve some love and appreciation too, especially since tips are scarce and usually split among staff.

Really, we should all be conscious of the fact that these people are running around to serve us while barely being paid fairly. Everyone deserves a living wage, and while it shouldn’t be our responsibility to compensate for unfair salaries, we do it (or at least should).


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! 


The shawarma master plan

 Boustan expands into Ontario

Boustan is expanding to Toronto, but its new location in Scarborough is only part of what could be the master plan to conquer the GTA – one pita plate at a time.

“Toronto has a lot of shawarma restaurants. But Boustan, it’s a unique flavor,” said Mohammed Khalid Iqbal, the owner of the new franchise, located on Lawrence Ave., Scarborough, Ontario.

“Toronto is a big market, bigger than Montreal,” said Iqbal. “We will go even further actually. We are talking to people in Hamilton, in Niagara Falls. The plan is to have 50 new locations in the next five years.” Boustan’s plans are ambitious, considering their humble origins as a Montreal neighborhood Lebanese spot.  

Boustan’s first location was opened in 1986. Imad Smaidi, known to regulars as Mr. Boustan, ran the small location down a flight of stairs on Crescent St. until 2012. Smaidi made it a hotspot for late night, tasty Lebanese food where ex-Prime minister Pierre Trudeau would occasionally visit.

Smaidi sold the restaurant in 2012, and it has not stopped growing since. The chain went from five locations scattered around Montreal in 2016 to currently having over 40 restaurants open as far as Ottawa and Quebec City.

“I’m really looking forward to the shawarma war,” said Liam Earle, a Concordia student from Toronto and top 0.02 per cent Boustan customer at their St. Catherine St. location according to UberEatsats. “Ali Baba is finally going to have some competition,” he said, referring to another well-established Middle Eastern restaurant chain in the GTA. 

Boustan is also welcoming new franchisees. Their website states opening a Boustan franchise is “an affordable investment starting from $125,000.” Along with the name, franchisees are supervised and receive the input of an operations team.

When asked about the goal of the new location, Iqbal said that the spot is “for people from Toronto but [also for] people who know us from Montreal.”

The question now is, will Boustan go even further west? “I don’t know of any shawarma place in Vancouver as famous as Boustan,” said Isaac Tetreault, a Concordia student from B.C. 

Tetreault says it would be great if Boustan expanded out west. While Iqbal said that plans to open in Vancouver aren’t yet on the table, the franchise opening in Toronto seems to be the first step of what could be a rapid expansion across Canada.

Graphics by Maddy Schmidt

One restaurant owner triumphs over the pandemic

One restaurant owner triumphs over the pandemic

Quebec’s second lockdown, which began in October, has been a devastating blow to business owners all over the province. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, restaurant owners have only been allowed to open for takeout. As much as it’s been a financial burden for many restaurant owners to be unable to offer dine-in services, it remains a question as to how restaurant owners deal with their own mental health issues — on top of keeping their businesses afloat during this global pandemic.

Dino Angelo Luciano, an accomplished chef, moved to Montreal shortly after his win on season 8 of MasterChef. Originally from California, Luciano’s journey has been quite inspiring. As a result of Luciano’s large Instagram presence, he not only uses his platform to show his cooking skills, but he also advocates for mental health awareness. In a video on his Instagram, he explained that he has struggled from a young age with OCD, paired with anxiety and depression.

In a Zoom interview, Luciano explained that he remembers dealing with OCD from a very young age.

“I think I remember being around seven years old, that’s when I was the most conscious of what I was doing, who was around me, where I was living. The first thing I was doing was turning off the waterspout in the bathtub. I would do it over and over again, flick it on and off. I don’t know why I did it, I think it made me feel good. I think my parents always thought I was just messing around.”

Luciano’s mental health struggles followed him during the taping of MasterChef.  “I had my little ticks here and there, like let’s say I had to cut something twice, like if I had to cut an onion at a certain angle. When you are cutting an onion, you’re dicing it up and you maybe get nine to 14 slices. Maybe I had a certain number in my mind, and I would cut the onion x number of slices,” Luciano explained.

After his move to Montreal, Luciano recounted that he always dreamed of opening a restaurant.

“I believe in manifestation, fate is written. I think we have the ability to control destiny and certain things happen at certain times. I came up here three years ago, October 2017. I met a lot of people, maybe not the right people at the time. They helped me build my knowledge on the culture of Montreal. As much as I wanted to open up something a long time ago, I don’t think I was mentally ready for it.”

He put his focus into his cannoli business instead, called ‘The Fat Cannoli.’ His business had done pretty well at the time however, he left this business behind and focused on his dream of opening the restaurant.

During the second lockdown in Montreal, Luciano explained that he wasn’t worried about the state of his future business.

“I could care less about my own stress at this point, the stress of opening a restaurant, ‘it might fail, we might hemorrhage money, we might not, we might fail.’ Actually, we’re doing pretty well at the moment. But even if we weren’t, the joy of making people happy with food was satisfying enough for me. I know during the first wave, I was going crazy, and I think one of the only things that was making me happy was ordering a lot of take out,” Luciano recalled. He explained that if he can offer the same joy to others, it would make everything well worth it.

No one human is perfect and everyone has their dark moments. However, who does Luciano turn to when things get tough?

“I don’t really talk about the dark thoughts too much, sometimes it manifests into my moods and makes me very grouchy and moody. My girlfriend mainly has to deal with that and she’s my number one supporter.” Luciano said that when his mind goes to the dark place, his girlfriend is able to bring him back.

“I have a secret that got me through this pandemic. You’re forced to be alone and a lot of people are watching Netflix… pay attention to those actors in those movies. When you’re forced to be away from everybody, you kinda get to develop who you want to be … By the time you go out again you can surprise people with who you have become.” Luciano says that the pandemic has been a time for self-growth and reflection, and believes that if people don’t take this as an opportunity to learn more about themselves, another opportunity will be less likely to present itself in the near future.


Feature photo by Dalia Nardolillo

Yum or Yikes: Comptoir Koyajo in the time of the pandemic

Comptoir Koyajo has reopened during the pandemic, with some new brand safety measures

Last year, I visited an enticing Korean restaurant called Comptoir Koyajo. Located right near Loyola campus, this restaurant is very close-by and convenient for students to get a quick bite to eat in between classes and study sessions. I decided to go there again recently, since I had a little bit of time in between my online lectures and I live nearby. This restaurant’s layout has changed completely since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and has adjusted very well to this new reality people around the world are finding themselves in.

The ambience of Comptoir Koyajo is really well done given our current situation. Unfortunately, there is not enough room to have indoor seating. They converted the front door of the restaurant into a serving window, and there are a few picnic tables on the curb outside for patrons to enjoy their meals. One issue, however, is that the picnic tables outside are a bit too close to each other. Unfortunately, when I went, there seemed to be a beehive nearby, and they kept trying to pick at my food, so I ended up bringing my meal home.

Ambience: 3.5/5

The food tasted great! I ordered a spicy chicken plate, which consisted of some pulled chicken, steamed rice, and kimchi. There were many other options offered as well, such as sandwiches and ramen soups. The chicken was spiced perfectly; it wasn’t so spicy as to impact the flavour, but it wasn’t too bland at the same time. My only complaint was that the portion sizes were a bit small for a dinner, but they were perfectly sized for a small, healthy lunch option.

Food: 4.5/5

The price was around the average price of a meal in the area, $11 for the plate, but it came with the option of getting two dumplings for one extra dollar. On a warm day, their outdoor seating is perfect for getting a little bit of studying done and grabbing a quick bite to eat. Food delivery services such as UberEats, Skip the Dishes, and DoorDash are available too, but they are a little bit more expensive. It is not the cheapest meal in the world, but it is nice to get as an occasional treat for working hard during the week.

Price: 4/5

The service was excellent. The staff were extremely polite, and they tried their best to be positive, even during the pandemic. Their policy is to have customers line up at the door and wait for their food outside at the picnic tables they had installed in front of their store. However, the food took a little while to get prepared, and it was a cold day, so I had to stand outside trying to keep warm.

Service: 4/5

Comptoir Koyajo followed COVID-19 safety guidelines well. The employees inside were all wearing masks, and washed their hands after serving each customer. Even though no customers were allowed inside the building, the store still prominently displayed a bottle of hand sanitizer and recommended people to use it before eating. In these trying times, following COVID-19 directions is extremely important, and I’m glad that this restaurant is looking out for people.

COVID-19 Safety: 5/5

Comptoir Koyajo is a great option for students and people who work in the area around the Loyola Campus. Their food is delicious, healthy, and very much worth the short walk from campus. All in all, going to this restaurant was a great experience, even though it was a bit tough to eat outdoors due to the bees and to the cold weather. UberEats, Doordash, and Skip The Dishes deliver their food too, which is the safest option in the pandemic!


Photo by Kit Mergaert

Surviving the pandemic: How a local restaurant owner managed to stay afloat

JMSB student Daniel Lomanto tells us about the highs and lows of opening his own business at 23 years old

Months into the pandemic, we’ve seen its devastating effects on our economy and local businesses. Though the federal government has been scrambling to offer guidance and financial support for business owners, the sharp decrease in clientele and consumers’ continuing aversion to retail therapy has hit hard.

As COVID-19 spread, the situation evolved rapidly everywhere: within days of the announcement of the first case of the virus in Canada, the federal government announced a countrywide lock down, and Quebec ordered to close all non-essential businesses. For Daniel Lomanto, the owner of  Italian deli-grocery shop BOSSA, it was the ability to react quickly to the new measures that spared him from needing to close shop and allowed his store to flourish. Located on Wellington Street, the main artery in the borough of Verdun, the store serves a large portion of the neighbourhood; it was therefore crucial for him to adapt not only for his customers, but also to make a living with the business he is passionate about.

However, the pandemic was only one of the many adversities faced by Lomanto, who, as he opened the business at the age of 23, lost everything to a fire. In true socially distanced fashion, we discussed his store’s story over the phone, and how he was able to overcome difficult times.

EL: Tell me about when you first opened the restaurant.

DL: We opened for the first time about two and a half years ago. We chose Verdun because I’m a resident of Lasalle, and all my friends growing up were from Verdun, so it was always close to home. When I started working in restauration, four to five years ago, I was always working on Wellington Street. I always saw that there was a potential for an Italian prêt-à-manger and catering place because there was nothing in the area like that. So I got together with my mom — she’s my business partner — and we opened this place.

EL: What did opening this business mean to you?

DL: Honestly, it’s family to me. My mother’s here all the time, my grandparents come here to help. We always make all of our sauces at home. I have a pretty big garden in my backyard that they help take care of. It just brings everyone together, and I couldn’t think of a better thing for us to be doing right now.

EL: What hardships did you encounter when you first opened BOSSA?

DL: Starting a business at 23 is really hard. I was at John Molson at the time — I still am, but studying part-time — but managing, building everything up, making everything come together, and even just having people take me seriously at that young of an age, those were some of the hardships I had at the beginning.

Then, two months into opening, we had a fire: one of my freezers short-circuited overnight, causing an electrical fire, and we had to close for seven months. We renovated the place and had to settle everything with the insurance company.

EL: How did you feel?

DL: It was a very low time. But at the same time, I tried to be optimistic about things and I saw it as an opportunity to figure out what was and wasn’t working. We sort of redesigned and reorganized the entire business after the fire, so I always look at it as a blessing in disguise.

EL: How did you react when COVID first hit in March?

DL: When COVID happened a couple of months ago, we made the decision to stay open — obviously while taking precautions. But having closed for seven months the year before, I wasn’t about to close down again. We powered through and it ended up working in our favour. We were one of the only places that stayed open on the entire street, so our clientele was really happy; they were extremely grateful.

EL: Did you find that you were prepared when COVID hit?

DL: Yeah, I could say that. When the fire hit… it changes your mentality. You just want to go through with it and nothing can stop you, you’re invincible. So when COVID hit around mid-March, the second they shut the city down, people were lining up down the corner to buy our sauces, our pasta. So from then it was just we’re going straight through, we’re not stopping anymore. The fire didn’t really help us, but it did give us the drive to keep going.

We’re pretty lucky because we were always a take-out and grocery place, we never really had seats inside. Within the first couple of days, we were able to implement having two people at a time, wearing a face mask, hand sanitizers everywhere, and we put up plexiglass everywhere.

EL: How did you feel having your family help you throughout the crisis?

DL: It’s tricky, it was a bit stressful. I don’t want to say I was risking anything, but at the same time, my mom was here. I was always making sure that she was being very careful, and I had to be very careful as well.

EL: Do you have any upcoming projects for your business?

DL: We’re always trying to improve, and I definitely embrace the feedback from my clientele. They’ll sit down and talk to me and give me new ideas, so it’s a real personal relationship with all my customers. We’re constantly working on projects, but other than coming up with new menu items, it’ll have to be day-by-day for now — we’ll have to look into picking things up once everything settles.

EL: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your business?

DL: Just having fun, every day. When I walk into work, it never feels like I’m working. It’s weird to say, but it almost feels like I’m doing a big school project. There are always new things that we want to try, and even just getting customers’ opinions — it’s really fun.


Photos by Christine Beaudoin


Yum or Yikes: Kinton Ramen

A new classic Japanese-style ramen restaurant has recently opened its doors in the West Island of Montreal.

Kinton Ramen is an authentic Japanese ramen bar chain, with multiple downtown locations as well as in Toronto and the United States. Their first location in the West Island is located on the corner of St-Jean’s and Brunswick Blvds., a short walk away from Fairview Shopping Centre.

You can choose to sit at larger tables where you may end up sitting next to strangers, or at the bar that faces the kitchen area where you can see the chefs preparing your food. The furniture and fixtures of the restaurant are all made of a light-coloured wood and dark (almost black) metal trimmings/accents. This restaurant design can be seen across all locations, and solidifies its branding.

Ambience: 4.5/5

The main type of food offered is, of course, ramen. There are different options as you can choose the type of broth you want (pork, chicken or miso for a vegetarian option). The noodles are also customizable: you can choose between a thin, thick or gluten-free/low-calorie noodle style. Kinton’s side dishes are also traditionally Japanese––steamed and salted edamame beans, Japanese fried chicken, rice bowls, fried octopus, etc. If you can handle the heat, I recommend getting the spicy garlic pork ramen (amazing, but very spicy). If you want something without spice, try the chicken miso ramen with thick noodles and a side of steamed edamame beans.

Food: 4.5/5

I find that there is a standard price range for this type of ramen in Montreal, and Kinton is no exception to this rule. Expect to spend around $14 per bowl, which can seem pricey as ramen is a pretty simple food. However, they are quite large portions, so you will not be leaving hungry. That being said, I would consider this more of a treat rather than a quick and cheap meal.

Price: 3/5

The service Kinton gets a 5/5 from me as I was truly happy with the entire  experience. From the time I walked in the door until I left the restaurant, I was taken care of. As this is a new restaurant to the West Island, it was fairly busy and did have a slight waiting time. However, the staff moved very quickly and ensured that we did not wait too long. There were no problems with our orders and the staff was extremely friendly.

Service: 5/5

Photo by Cecilia Piga


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

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



Eating out as a vegetarian with allergies can be quite tricky and pricey; so I’ve set out to find the top vegetarian restaurants in Montreal.

LOV is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant with four locations: three in Montreal and one in Laval. Their concept is to serve customers healthy, eco-friendly, botanical meals without compromising taste. LOV’s philosophy revolves around what they call their “eco-commitment,” which involves serving wines from organic farming and using local suppliers and ingredients.

With this information in mind, I was excited to try it out. I was drawn to the Montreal-based restaurant from the moment I first saw their California-bohemian decor and stunning menu passing by.

My first impression upon entering the Laval location in Centropolis was that the design was meticulously thought-out and beautiful. Shades of white, lace, swinging cocoon chairs, and plants all over the restaurant transported me to a Malibu beach. My friends and I were greeted with a smile and given the option of indoors or outdoors – we chose outdoors in the shade.

Photo by Brittany Henriques

Usually, my biggest challenge is to find meatless plates free of peanuts and almonds (because of allergies). On that day, I was also on a carb-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, fermentation-free diet (doctor’s orders). Nevertheless, based on my prior research, I was confident I would find something for me at LOV.

The menu is composed of seven starters and 15 main courses, four of which are salads. As a picky eater, I like knowing most of my options aren’t simply salads. I was immediately drawn to the Coconut Curry, a $15 dish composed of basmati rice, kale, carrots, curry coconut milk, and lime.

Unfortunately for me this time, rice was off my list of options. As other options, there was Pok’ai’ – cauliflower rice, cucumber, avocado, compressed watermelon, edamame, cashews, wakame, shiso, and sesame ginger sauce. The $16 plate fit my dietary restrictions, but I was very worried about the odd compressed watermelon thrown into the mix.
Instead, I settled for the Truffle and Caviar, a $14 meal composed of zucchini spaghetti, oyster mushrooms, arugula, tapioca caviar, and truffle sauce. The plate was very well presented, colourful, and was the perfect portion for my smaller-than-average appetite.

I went to LOV during lunch time, and barely had to wait for my food to arrive. My Truffle and Caviar plate was very good, but I worried there was an extra ingredient in the sauce not indicated on the menu. After my meal, I asked the waitress if the sauce had any other ingredients and she told me some soy milk might have been added for creaminess. I was disappointed to know there was an added ingredient I wasn’t aware of seeing as I was on a restricted diet. I should’ve asked prior to ordering, but I simply trusted the menu.

Nevertheless, the meal was fantastic, but note to self and others: always ask your waiter for a list of all the ingredients if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies.

As a whole, I would give LOV an 8 out of 10 for overall look, service, and food.


Food trucks deserve a better future

Exploring the laws that restrict the industry from being a larger part of Montreal’s food scene

When was the last time you ate at a food truck? Have you ever even seen a food truck in real life? I moved to Montreal three years ago and I haven’t seen one until I went to the Salada Market last weekend. The old Salada tea factory on Côte-de-Liesse has welcomed 10 food trucks to host an indoor pop-up event every Friday and Saturday from March 8 to April 27, according to CBC. The Quebec Street Food Association organized the event to extend the six-month-long food truck season cut short by winter.

If it weren’t for this event, I would have never eaten at a food truck. It’s not that I dislike food trucks; I find the food offered is somewhere between fast food and fancy cuisine. I was never particularly drawn to eating at a food truck. Honestly, I didn’t even know food trucks existed in Montreal because I never saw one.

A second Le Gras Dur food truck installed outside the Salada Market, in case the truck currently installed inside breaks. Photo by Lili Testemale.

The food truck industry doesn’t have it easy. The old regulations imposed by Montreal limit food trucks’ ability to reach their clients. The current regulations were imposed in 2013, after a 66-year ban on food trucks was lifted, according to The Globe and Mail. The ban began in 1947 for sanitary reasons, and food trucks had to remain 50 meters away from restaurants. They were kept far from popular locations and from Montrealers.

How would I have encountered a food truck if I was not aware of their existence, especially if they are located far from commercial areas? I do understand this law was, I believe, to ensure food trucks weren’t stealing restaurants’ clientele. In my opinion, both attract different types of clients. Saying food trucks are competing against restaurants is like comparing a Toyota Corolla with a Mustang. They are technically both cars but driving a Mustang and a Toyota Corolla are two different experiences.

But what makes it easier is when a client knows what they want. “A client has an idea in mind,” said the owner of Boîte à Fromages, Alexandra Bonnet. “They know if they want the fast experience of a food truck. The client is the master.” Bonnet doesn’t consider the 50-meter law to be a threat to her business. She trusts the customers will eat at her truck because they genuinely want to experience her food.

If I were in charge, I would let food trucks decide which location is suitable to them. Food truck owners know who their typical clients are and can decide which location will be more profitable. While I was collecting Montrealers’ opinions about food trucks at the Salada Market, I met tourists from the Philippines, Germany and France who decided to make the event part of their trip. Food trucks help tourism and deserve more publicity to encourage locals to experience their food.

Claire Duby Riou receiving her order of poutine from Jerry Foodtruck at the Salada Market on Friday, March 29. Photo by Lili Testemale.

Disregarding the unfavorable locations, the 33 food trucks registered in Montreal at the beginning of last summer were scrambling to find a site to install. In 2017, six boroughs offered sites for food trucks: Ville-Marie, Outremont, Vermont, Sud-Ouest, Mercier-Hochelaga and Rosemont-La-Patrie.

In 2018, only 3 boroughs offered locations for food trucks because of the lack of clientele according to CBC. I lived in Lasalle, situated next to Verdun, for two years, and not once did I encounter a food truck. The secluded locations deprived me of enjoying Le Gras Dur’s donut burgers.

On March 14, the Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, announced new regulations for food trucks to help the struggling industry, according to the Montreal Gazette. “I find this year’s new law makes it even easier for us,” said the owner of Das Food Truck, Annie Clavette. “It’s going to be a lot easier to have access to places where the clientele is present.”

The new regulations will place the responsibility on boroughs to reach out to the Quebec Street Food Association to communicate their interest in welcoming food trucks, said Clavette. The Quebec Street Food Association then contacts food trucks offering them a spot to install.

Each borough will choose one location for all the food trucks to set up during the summer, disregarding the 50-meter-law, explained Clavette. “Instead of being 50 meters from success, we’ll be closer to the population,” Clavette said. “[Are food trucks] accessible now with the new law? No,” said a customer at the Salada Market, Marie Gauthier. “They’re all in the same place at the same time.”

In the past, food trucks would be distributed across the borough. Now, they will be grouped in a specific location, making it difficult for every resident to come across them––especially in a larger borough. This problem is similar to the 50-meter law. If clients don’t actively want to eat at a food truck, they might never know they exist unless they happen to come across one. “For us, what guarantees our income are events,” said Clavette.

As dinner time approaches, customers sit down at picnic tables to enjoy their unique snacks and meals from Quebec’s top food trucks. Photo by Lili Testemale.

Events like First Friday’s at the Parc Olympique attract Montrealers and tourists. In my opinion, the wide selection of food, activities and DJs makes it worth traveling to the event. I believe the city is trying to replicate these events by bringing food trucks together. The variety of food available could encourage Montrealers to travel to specific locations. Maybe I’m just considering the possibility of enjoying a raclette styled meal from Boîte à Fromages followed by a delicious cookie monster ice cream from Le Casse-Glace. The benefits of these new regulations will be apparent during this year’s food truck season which begins in May.

Photos by Lili Testemale.

Exit mobile version