Thursday, July 16, 2009

Welcome to My Neighbourhood - Part III - The End

All righty then, lunch has been disposed of; I think we'll walk you west on St-Viateur street. First stop, at the corner of St. Urbain (one street west of St. Laurent) you'll find the orthodox church. Greek orthodox? Russian orthodox? I have no clue but it's a kick ass building. this area of St. Urbain street, along with St. Laurent (the Main) was the destination of lots of Greek, Jewish and Portuguese immigrants as they arrived in Montreal.

As we wander along we'll pass Latina Supermarket

With its lovely array of olive oils (oops, sorry, forgot the flash)

After a mouth watering quarter hour here (yeah Mr. Jazz and I sort lose track of time in the olive oil/balsamic vinager section) we can always stop at Geneviève Grandbois (the best chocolate maker in Montreal).

Pricey but oh so worth it - I mean really, chocolates flavoured with saffron, with chili, with olive oil? Divine! And then you have the "ordinary" ones, which include caramellized hazelnut butter. What's not to love?

Another of my favourites on St-Viateur is this house - though technically it's on a cross street. I love the roof... and the colour:

Alright now, back to business - If you're into organic foods and cosmetics and health supplies, Bioterre (i.e. Organic Earth) is the place to go. They have it all...

On the other hand, if you're jonesing for some pastries, Pagel is the place to go

Or if your need is for a great souvlaki pita slathered in thick, creamy kick ass Tsaziki, you have to try a Mile End landmark: Arahova

Afterwards, pick up a book at Welch's the best used English bookstore in Montreal. For years they were on the Main, but moved to St-Viateur a couple of years ago. They even have a resident cat.

And when you're almost, almost back at Parc, another Mile End institution, St. Viateur Bagels. Along with Fairmount Bagels (we'll get to them later), they're the place for bagels in Montreal. Of course, the debate has been raging for years, as to who has the best bagels. Honestly, if you're eating a basic sesame or poppy seed bagel, I personally don't see a difference. Some people, however swear they can tell which is which. I'd like to try a blind taste test on them. According to Shoestring Montreal (it's a great blog...) St. Viateur wins. You'll have to come try for yourselves.

Montreal has been challenged time and time again to "bagel face-offs" comparing ours to other cities. We beat Toronto, we beat Hamilton (that was laughable - sweet bagels with icing??? gimme a break) and we even beat New York. Don't even try to beat us at bagels. It won't work. Montreal rules at the bagel - a short boil in honey water and baking in wood burning ovens makes all the difference.

Lets turn south (left) on Parc now and go past the Mile End library. It's housed in a converted church. There are lots of "leftover" churches and convents in Montreal, most are convereted into condos. I don't think there are any other public libraries in churches though.

And a little further down, Taza Flores (this is their website, but it's only in French). Their tapas are delicious and it's lovely on the terrace when the weather is actually nice. Which so far this summer has been pretty much never. Because Mother Nature? She is an evil bitch. Yep.

But I don't want to think of the perpetual nasty weather in Montreal this summer, so let's have a look at those Greek tavernas on the other side of the street. You know, the ones I had thought I had no pictures of... They're lined up like beads on a necklace. Here are a couple: Mythos Ouzeri, which has lived there forever:

And another one, that just moved into the site of an old one that had been there forever...

Ain't that just the coolest apartment building? I remember when I got to Montreal, lo these many many years ago - before even meeting Mr. Jazz, I saw this building and fell in love, telling myself one day, if I could, I would life here. Then I met Mr. J, and, well the rest is history. So I figure I won't leave him to go live in what is probably an overpriced apartment in dire need of renovations... But it remains a beautiful building.

Ah, here we are at Fairmount Street. Lets turn left (east) and wander back up to St. Laurent...

But first, here is Fairmount on the other side of Parc, towards where we live. It's the residential part of the street. Quite the difference eh?

First stop: La Khaïma, an African (sort of Moroccan) restaurant - see why I love Montreal? The variety of restaurants within a mile of where we live is astounding... And they're all pretty damn good.

But Montreal isn't all about food! It's also about edumacation!!! This orange 70s monstrosity is the Collège Français, where Mr. Jazz went to elementary and high school. Though from the look of that arch on top, it too must have been a really nice building before they refaced it with boring yellow brick and orange aluminum. Or maybe the architect was schizophrenic and went the gamut from ugly to really good looking, but only if you looked up.... I tend to go with the first option.

OK, let's stop kidding ourselves, screw edumacation and let's go for more food, because, really, it is all about food...

This is... oh hell, I don't even remember the name of this place, but they have the best empanadas.

And they're right across the street from Wilensky's, home of the "special" (a grilled bologna and salami - I think - sandwich) and hand made sodas. Yep, they still put a few spoonfuls of syrup in your glass and add soda water, and there's your Cola. Wilensky's had a scene in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and they must be doing real well because they're only open from 11:00 to 4:00, Mondays to Fridays - which means I can hardly ever go. Which all things considered is probably better, nutrition wise.

And now, on to that jewel of Fairmount Avenue: Fairmount Bagels. I am squarely in the Fairmount Bagel camp in the Fairmount/St. Viateur feud. They're perfect these bagels, just perfectly browned, chewy, bagel orgasm...

And just as we arrive at St. Laurent, my favourite paper store evah! Au Papier Japonais (Japanese Paper), as the name indicates has an amazingly beautiful array of hand made Japanese papers. They also give great workshops, some of which I will definitely try one day...

So here we are back on St. Laurent. Let's go south (with a quick detour north to this place). Puca Puca (yes, yes, I know, another restaurant!) is a wonderful cheap Peruvian place. Ciro, the owner/cook is a whiz in the kitchen - his mantra, good food for cheap. What more can you ask for.

Now let's turn south again. Check this out. I've been by this place probably a million times.

And I never noticed this!!!

Yeah, pigs! It's wonderful, isn't it? I love it! Thanks all for forcing me to notice this!

After taking this in , let's turn onto Laurier and head west towards my place...

This is the fire station, containing all the hot firemen (no pun intended, but then again...), who unfortunately don't seem to be lounging outside today.

And Mr. Jazz, down there in the corner. Hi Sweets!

This is my favourite tea shop, Esprithé, they have a huge selection of loose teas from all over the world. These are the people who are tasked with waking me up in the morning (this is their all French website but the language thing just makes it all so exotic, eh?)

This one's for you Geewits! Dieu du Ciel is a little brewpub about 10 minutes from our place. They have their microwbrewery up in St. Jérôme, from whence the bottled brew comes. I'm told the brew very good beer, not being much of a beer person myself, I don't sample much of it. I think I drank way too much of the stuff in college.

Or if you prefer to purchase your beer in bottles, this is Rhaman's Supermarket. As the sign notes, it's Beer Paradise. The place is stuffed to the gills with beer from most microbreweries in Quebec, as well as stuff from all over the world. The choice is mind boggling.

Of course there are tons of other places this side of Parc we could check out, but my feet are getting sore and I'm thinking of that cold drink Mr. Jazz has promised me when we get home.

And now, we're back at Parc. To the left is PA Supermaket. It's great to have a place like this just minutes from home. Their fruit and veggies are always super fresh and though it's a small market, you have everything you might possibly want. OK, there are only two brands of canned peas, but c'mon now people, how many brands do you actually need? A pea is a pea is a pea... And they carry Ben and Jerry's. As long as I have my Cherry Garcia, I'm a happy camper.

To the other side of Laurier is this place. Renaud Bray is one of Quebec's biggest chain bookstores, a Barnes and Noble equivalent I guess.

It's housed in an old theatre (which is about 4 blocks from the Rialto - people loved their movies back then). I was unable to find anything about the history of the building (ok, I didn't look that hard), but it was, at one time, the Beaver (a porno cinema), the Cinema Laurier (a repertory place) and then it stood empty for years before Renaud-Bray took it over, gutted it and turned it into the bookstore it is today. At least the exterior was saved.

Now, on up Laurier...

The video shop, La Boîte Noire, which is pretty much the best in Montreal. This is their second (third?) location. They're known to have all those obscure movies you want to see but can never find. That old 40s movie? They have it. The Blob? They have it... (Damn, who knew Steve McQueen played in that!!!)

And of course the liquor store - seeing as I'm not too big on beer, this is my place of choice. Gotta love a good bottle of wine. As in most of Canada I think, liquor stores in Quebec are government owned. That way they can tax the hell out of a bottle of wine and sell it 6 times the price you could get it for in the States. It's enough to drive one to drink.

And we'll skip all the chichi boutiques where I, at least, cannot afford to breathe the air, 'cause really, who needs it. While Mr. Jazz was growing up (we still live in the house where he was born), this street was residential, then, slowly in the 70s and 80s it became the street for rich people to shop and has lost all local flavour. It's all about couture boutiques now. Too bad.

So let's scurry to the end of the street to the church. This is St-Viateur church. I may be an atheist, but I love me a nice church. This is one of the few to still ring the bells every hour (starting at 9:00 am to 6:00 pm), going whole hog at noon and 6:00 pm (at one time, Catholics stopped what they were doing to pray at 6:00 AM, noon and 6:00 pm, and the bells rang, ding dong ding dong to remind them. What a racket - though it's a lovely sounding racket to me. Thank god they dropped the 6:00 am ringing).

And here we are, back where we started on my street.

Hope y'all had a nice time. You're free to go. Me? I'm going to my balcony to read a bit of Paul Has a Summer Job (a comic book by Michel Rabagliati) and to sip that Cosmo Mr. Jazz promised...



lime said...

so funny that you missed the pigs for so long. i picked them out and smiled before you showed the closeup. :) i know there are things i must have missed in my own town too though.

Maddy said...

Very attractive. Almost worth jumping on a plane. there again I'm not fully recovered from the last dose of jet lag.

p.s. I am ever so gradually and painstakingly updating my hideous wordpress manual blogroll!

Jazz said...

Lime - That's what I love about doing these posts, I notice things I've walked by a million times without noticing them.

Maddy - You will eventually recover!

Bandobras said...

If the BBB finds out there is a loss of tourism this year they'll trace it back to these posts.
I have no reason to go to Montreal now I've seen all the important stuff.

Bonnie, Original Heart Studio said...

Fun to see many places and streets that I know and love. Great shots.

Gaelyn said...

This is an awesome tour of your town. Such a variety of resturants, I'd want to eat out all the time. Haven't had good Greek food in forever.

VioletSky said...

This makes me miss living in a large city.

And, I know, Hamilton took on Montreal in a bagel-off!! What were they thinking?

Ricë said...

lovely tour. i'm green with envy. and here i thought i was lucky to be able to walk to the bank, po, and library.

come get me and take me to your world!

Jazz said...

Bandobras - No! you haven't, we haven't even scratched the surface!

Bonnie - Welcome to my blog. Great to see another Montrealer here.

Gaelyn - well seeing as this has been a hit, I'm thinking of doing the same with other areas of Montreal.

Violetsky - Yeah, really. And they had the call to call them Montreal style bagels. Ha! They were glorified doughnuts... Pfft.

Ricë - I'm on my way! Montreal is a great city for walking...

Suldog said...

You have about the funkiest and fun-looking neighborhood I've ever seen. Way cool firehouse!

geewits said...

Mmmmmmm. That was really nice and I didn't even have to go through customs. The first thing I noticed was the old phone booth in the first picture. Those are extinct here. They had to put up a fake one to make the movie Phone Booth. I created a whole backstory in my head for the pigs. It was a code to mark a secret club for Brits in the days of yore. Thanks for the pub and beer store! So 10 minutes from your place? I could manage that.

Anonymous said...

Awesome tour. I did get a little concerned when you said you were done with the eateries and were moving on to education! Gadzooks. Love the pig! And, you're living in the house Mr. Jazz grew up in? You mean he's been living there all his life?

Jocelyn said...

Well, you've done it.

I'm speechless--with a thing called Deep and Unrelenting Envy. I have leafed through my thesaurus, and I can't come up with bigtime words to express "I'm Dying Here...Did You Say Handmade Sodas and Honey Water for the Bagels and Pastries and Chocolates?"

Yes, you did. You have affirmed for me, for once and all here, why I need to visit Montreal...a dream of my adulthood...and why I adore you. Booze and food and the odd pig head. Oh, I'm so with you.

Rachel said...


next time I go to Montreal, I know exactly what to eat and where to go! last time, we had no clue. we just wandered around until we stumbled across something that looked like it might serve something we were familiar with. LOL

Shammickite said...

I think I might have to print the whole post out and keep it in my purse ready for the next trip to Montreal!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jazz - Please check your emails.


VioletSky said...

I'll have to wander over to an 'eat your way through Montreal' on another weekend excursion.

Jazz said...

Suldog - ain't it just though?

Geewits - Really? No phone booths? Course I'm sure they'll do away with them here too pretty soon.

XUP - Yep, he spent his whole childhood on the first floor, then after a year or so abroad, he moved into the third floor apartment.

Rachel - next time you come to Montreal, you'd damn well better let me know.

Shammickite - And here I'm thinking of doing other areas. I could be your travelogue.

XUP - I have and I answered you last night. Did you not get it? Am I spam to your email?

Violetsky - That sounds like a plan.

Jill said...

Wow, what a gorgeous place to live. Everything is walkable. I love that.

secret agent woman said...

Nice. I'm not sure why but I found the picture of all the olive oils particularly appelaing.

Guillaume said...

Yeah, Montreal has the best bagels in the world. Love the pics, i remember the Renaud-Bray in St-Denis, nice bookstore, I haven't been there for a while and I hope I will for my next trip.

And by the way, I will put pictures of the Plateau on my blog when I will be in Montreal.

pierre l said...

Thank you for a great nostalgia trip. I used to live on Courcelette until 1972; I can remember the general area of St Viateur church, but not what it looks like, but St Germain used to be our church (not that I was religious even in those days, but my parents were).
Not having been to Montreal since 1976, perhaps it's time for a visit.