Ontario Street – Eat, walk, shop
Ontario street might not be the first place you would think of when wanting to explore a part of Montreal, but my goal is to show you that my neighbourhood shopping street has quite a lot to offer. This neighbourhood is a true mix of the old and the new. Hochelaga was once a separate city known as Côte Saint-Martin, and it was meant to be designed according to the criteria of the City Beautiful movement. There are many squares and parks, some truly stunning industrial buildings, as well as perfect examples of how public buildings were at one time designed along grandiose architectural lines. Elena my daughter, and my faithful photographer/walking companion and I began at the Marché Maisonneuve building.
During the summer you can catch huge line dancing parties here, and although I can never keep up with the moves, it is joyful to watch the neighbourhood having fun together. Just across from the noteworthy fountain called La Fermière, you will notice the eye-catching Bain Morgan, which was simply a public bath back in the day when not every household had a bathroom. As you start walking west, you will begin to see how developers have remodelled manufacturing spaces into either businesses, public buildings or living spaces.
Our first stop was Biérerologue (4301), owned by the very friendly David Deschênes. His business has been open for almost five years, and is successful thanks to their business formula. On top of offering over 200 local products which range from beers and wines, to jams, cold cuts and sweets, they also follow the seasons, and offer a range of products to reflect the time of year. Coming up: rhubarb juice from the Trappist Brothers and chocolate-covered blueberries.
We crossed the street over to Hochecafé (4299), a popular breakfast and lunch spot. The ambiance is relaxed and the food is tasty and filling. Owner Dominic Roy Blanchette opened in 2011 and has many regulars, including me. Elena and I shared a grilled cheese with caramelized onions and sliced apples, served with a bowl of soup ($8.50). They also have fresh fruit juices, baked goods and most importantly, and the reason why I return, a welcoming and efficient staff.
A little further west we came upon a new restaurant called La Tannerie (4255). The tables look inviting and the menu seems promising: BYOW, $1 oysters and $30 meals which included an entrée, a main dish and dessert. I look forward to giving it a try.
As we continued our walk, Elena stopped me a couple time to exclaim at a sign, and say “Mom, look at the aesthetic!”, and this is what is pleasing about this neighbourhood, there are still many traces of older businesses mixed in with the modern ones. We then came up to the Maisonneuve Library, which was once the city hall for Montreal, and is a very photogenic building.
We crossed Pie IX into what used to be called “La Promenade Ontario”, but which is now just “Hochelaga”. This part of the street closes at least once a year to welcome a street festival which has entertainment, store-sidewalk sales and plenty to eat and drink.
It was Elena who drew my attention to Anticafé (3889), since it has an old Benjamin Moore sign, and it is easy to miss. This was by far one of the most interesting discoveries to me, although my daughter knew all about it. This is an antiques, record and second-hand shop. The twist is that you can come in and spend time in any part of this two-story building. It cost $3 for the first hour and $2 for the next, to a maximum of $9 per day. The price includes unlimited access to coffees and teas, lemonade, cookies and Nutella toast. Customers just choose a table or sofa, which are all for sale, and settle in for as long as they like, or until the piece of furniture is purchased and carried away by a customer. The basement has an indoor café/play area made specifically for dogs, how cool is that?
Just across the street is the restaurant with the best and biggest portion of fish and chips and the most enigmatic sign on Ontario street: La Cervoise (3976). New to the neighbourhood is the Irish Pub Le Trèfle (3889). Thanks to its expansive collection of whiskies, and its summer-friendly huge open windows in the summer, it has made a place for itself in the neighbourhood.
We walked for a while more, and stopped at Burrito Revolucion (3905). We shared a couple of soft tacos ($8.75) with a side of guacamole ($1.10), and agreed that they were worth writing about. This restaurant has a terrasse in the summer, and good music playing, as well a selection of beers to choose from.
We had to stop at Biscuiterie Oscar (3755), which has been open since 1955, and which has a very satisfying candy assortment, both in bulk and imported packaged items. They sell cookies, of course, which you can order online as well. They also have a varied collection of Easter chocolates. I bought an Easter chocolate soccer ball and a chocolate cow here a while back.
We then crossed the street to take a look at Essentiellement Soi (3870). Patrick the owner told us that his store was all about offering solutions to people to have better energy, either through different body-healing therapies offered on the second floor, or food and homeopathy products in the main floor area.
We crossed the street again to go to Ahroma Boulangerie, a bakery-café situated at 15 Place Simon-Valois, a little square with lots of seating on Ontario street. It is hard to resist walking away from this place without having purchased at least some cheese and bread, or perhaps a croissant and café au lait. The neighbouring store is William J. Walter, Saucisser. Elena was happy to see that they had some cheddar and bacon sausages, her favourite when we shop here, although, there are at least twenty other varieties to choose from, making it a great place to stop if you plan to host a BBQ. After you have made a selection from the sausages and beers, you can walk to the other end of the store for an ice-cream dessert.
Our last stop is a café Elena and I both adore, Atomic Café. Owner Gilles Boudreault once ran a marvellous dvd club at the back with an extensive collection categorized by film director. Sadly it closed, but this has opened up a space at the back of the café for music events and film screenings. This place is just so cute and funky and has the nicest staff.
We had an allongé and a lemon-ginger tea, enjoyed the alternative music playing and called it a day.
Ontario street has too much to offer in terms of architecture and unique businesses to not come visit at least once this summer. We hope to see you there!