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Visitors coming to Montreal for the annual Pride festivities will inevitably tackle a gamut of fun-filled festival activities. But as you groove around the city, don’t forget about one of life’s most basic needs: food.
Montreal has an international reputation for being a great food city, and the gay village — ground zero for Pride activities — is not exempt from this repute. In the past, the relatively affordable rents of the neighbourhood have enabled burgeoning restaurateurs to set up shop and experiment with a receptive queer community. While the gay village continues to evolve, what has remained consistent is a decent density of great food options.
From refined French fare to affordable sweet treats, here’s how to swallow your pride — à la Montréal.
For haute cuisine (without haute prices)
1112 De Maisonneuve Blvd E, 514-525-3443
Since arriving on the scene a decade ago, sophisticated French bistro O’Thym has become the frontrunner among a competitive roster of “Bring Your Own Wine” restaurants in Montreal. Over the years Chef Noé Lainesse has found his stride with Canadian ingredients — bison medallions from Outaouais, beef bavette from Prince Edward Island and duck from Knowlton — while also eliminating gluten from most sauces. The architecture of most plates is simple yet artistic: seared pieces of meat served atop a healthy amount of vivid, Québec-sourced vegetables. Weekend brunch becomes more experimental, introducing international flair (think Indian-inspired veggie thalis and ginger-apple Spanish churros). Breakfast traditionalists can still get fried eggs — and, yes, they’re organic. Best make reservations.
For the crowd-pleasing menu
1333 Sainte Catherine St E, 514-522-1333
Saloon is the Neil Patrick Harris of Montreal restaurants — terribly attractive with a healthy dose of campiness. During summer months, the stylish parlour spills onto the street, playing host to one of the most sought-after terraces in the gay village. With an evening DJ and the most comprehensive martini menu north of NYC — the bistro has served well over a half-million martinis! — voracious visitors are guaranteed an arousing atmosphere and a damn fine cocktail. The mammoth menu offers artisanal pizzas, burgers meaty enough for cowboys and a heap of sensible vegetarian options. Basically, everyone will feel gay (as in homo and happy).
For the wood-fire oven pizza pies
1237 Amherst St, 514-544-2900
Fetching and self-assured, you’d never guess that Magpie is a newbie in the gay village culinary scene. Start your meal with a Magpie Caesar, spiced with Frank’s RedHot and rimmed with Montreal legendary Schwartz’s steak spice. Then dig into the comprehensive list of pizzas. The boulettes de viande pizza is the definitive crowd favourite. Why? Probably because of a time-honoured relationship between gay men and meatballs. Culinary-curious queers (or vegetarians) should select the aubergine — with eggplant, caramelized onions, béchamel sauce and BBQ-spiced almonds, it pushes the boundaries of what pizza can be. Chef Federico Ghergo also concocts house-made pasta each day. Ask for Sophie’s section and just try to not fall in love with her.
For the vintage environment
1117 Sainte Catherine St E, 514-750-3474
The antique-hunting lesbian demographic will swoon over the vintage décor of diner Comptoir 21 (picture a long, polished wooden bar and walls adorned with mismatched photo frames). Ostensibly a “fish & chips” joint, the shipping container-sized diner also offers one of the best beef burgers in the gay village. If you haven’t yet sampled the local poutine — French fries and cheese curds soaked in gravy — this is your big moment. And while you’re exploring other Montreal neighbourhoods, look for Comptoir 21 locations in Verdun and the Mile End.
For the updated soul food
1353 René Lévesque Blvd E, 514-527-1016
Located directly across the street from the iconic CBC building on René-Lévesque Boulevard, Kitchenette is the premiere lunch eatery for busy broadcasters. When the evening arrives, the bistro clientele switches to a more neighbourly cast of characters escaping the humming terraces of the gay village to wander the one block south for more intimate dining. Chef Vincent Galema serves up pan-American soul food that echoes Montréal’s own style: light-hearted with a dash of mischievousness.
Pourquoi Pas Espresso Bar
For the perfect pick-up
1447 Amherst St, 514-419-9400
The Pride movement is about ending discrimination against the LGBT community. When it comes to coffee, however, discrimination is a perfectly acceptable behaviour. In the gaybourhood’s gaggle of cookie-cutter corporate cafes, Pourquoi Pas is a king among coffee commoners. Using single original beans, owners Max and Ben serve the requisite list of espresso-based drinks, each presented with imaginative flair. Over-caffeinated queers can opt for the homemade iced orange blossom tea — concocted from a Camellia Sinensis tea blend. The artwork on the walls changes monthly, and might just make a perfect Montreal souvenir.
De farine et d’eau fraîche
For authentic French pâtisseries
1701 Amherst St, 514-522-2777
It’s perfectly acceptable if you can’t correctly pronounce the name of this handsome gourmet bakery. Also perfectly acceptable is ordering a brownie, a raspberry chocolate chip muffin, a kitten-shaped cookie and all the macarons that a drag queen could possibly carry in her purse. After all, get your fill of authentic French pâtisseries while you can. Turn your visit into lunch with a smoked salmon sandwich on a Montreal-style bagel and a cup of organic mint tisane — served in a fine-bone china teacup with a saucer, of course. (Romance tip: Before you leave, buy a bisous cookie and offer it to your official Pride crush.)