Montreal has seen a big rise in independent cafés, particularly within the past year. It’s so much easier to bypass the bigger chains and get a solid cup of coffee at a place where the beans weren’t ground months before and the coffee isn’t weak, bitter and over-extracted. Or, in words that I understand, you can have coffee that tastes like good coffee and not coffee that tastes like bad coffee. So, yay.
Thus, a roundup of those places. Some are oldies, some are newbies, all are goodies. Here’s where to get your fix, no matter what neighbourhood you’re in.
Owned by Anthony Benda and Scott Rao, Canadian Brewer’s Cup champion and author of two books for professional baristas, respectively, Cafe Myriade is quality-driven, intent on producing the best cup possible. The first café in the city to use the siphon technique (a brewing method that creates flavour clarity) (look Anthony, I DID learn something!), Myriade not only draws the downtown crowd with its meticulously-prepared drinks, but also out-of-town coffee geeks who come to Montreal just to go to Myriade. There’s also a beautiful premium tea list and the best hot chocolate you’ll probably ever have everever. I’m biased because I used to work there but the staff are astonishingly knowledgeable and just like the awesomest.
1432 rue Mackay, 514.939.1717
Caffé in Gamba
Another herald of Montreal’s Third Wave coffee movement, in Gamba was one of the first cafés, if not the, to emphasize freshly sourced, roasted and ground beans and the use of single-origin producers. Working with roasters like Intelligentsia and 49th Parallel, its focus is on espresso-based drinks, for all you cappuccino and latté (and obviously espresso) lovers out there. The café is warm and cozy, with high tables and barstools, a large assortment of newspapers and a fireside couch.
5263 Avenue du Parc, 514.656.6852
Névé is where half the city’s hipsters convene (I’m not making a great leap in judgment, the logo is a mustache. Also, I have eyes.) but the coffee is good and the cookies SO GOOD (chocolate chunk, GUYS). Owned by Luke Spicer, who dominates the east Plateau coffee scene with both this space and Flocon Espresso on Mont-Royal.
141 rue Rachel Est, 514.903.9294
Only about a month and a half-ish? old, but already getting the attention of both the city’s coffee lovers and media. Being steps from Square-Victoria metro, Café Différance makes it easy to grab a good coffee mid-Old Montreal stroll. And maybe pick up a businessman, since it’s right in that district.
449 Viger West, 514.419.5415
Also a newcomer to the city’s growing progressive coffee scene, Le Couteau is owned by Chris Capell, formerly of Myriade. It’s a lovely, light and airy space with dark wood picnic tables and the sunniest of patios. A peaceful place to read, write, chat or just recharge.
4627 Saint-Denis, 514.940.0444
In Little Italy, Caffé Italia holds the honour of being the quintessential Italian café, complete with a decor and clientele that probably hasn’t changed since it opened in the ’50s. This is a straightforward, unpretentious, old Italian men reading newspapers at the bar kind of place. I don’t imagine too many girls frequent Caffé Italia’s hallowed masculine walls, judging by the stares I receive when I walk in the door, but the strong, no-frills coffee is worth it.
6840 blvd. Saint-Laurent, 514.495.0059
Where the other half of the city’s hipsters convene. Plus aaalll the Mile End families and aaalll the sports fans there for the televised football games. Be prepared to wait in line as shit gets bizzy up in hur, but there’s a lovely terrace and the kind of biscotti that makes all other biscotti wonder why they even bother.
124 rue St-Viateur Ouest, 514.495.0746, cafeolimpico.com
Pikolo Espresso Bar
Another quality-driven café with a crop to cup philosophy and an obsessive attention to detail. Pikolo is tiny, tall and narrow, with a mezzanine overlooking the bar and coffee magazines to peruse while you wait for your drink. The beans are courtesy of Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters as well as Heart and the baked goods are made in-house and daily (my favourite days are the Quinoa/Cranberry muffin days). It’s often packed, as it should be, but I’ve never had to wait long for a seat.
3418 Avenue du Parc, 514.508.6800
Entre le Café et la Plume
Plume looks out onto the busy Mont-Royal strip between St. Urbain and Esplanade, which gives you a nice side view of the park through its large bay window. There’s independent art and photographs for sale and a wall of magazines should you need reading material and ya, the coffee’s good and sandwiches, Kusmi tea and blah blah, the sky blue-eyed, tattooed barista/owner is so cute he makes me forget my own name when he talks to me, so like call me maybe?
123 Avenue Mont-Royal, 514.903.2618, Entre-le-Cafe on Facebook
Café Saint Henri
Also a micro-roaster, which means the beans are roasted in-house, Saint Henri is owned by Jean François Leduc, of the above Caffé in Gamba. Leduc travels to different farms to select the beans he wants and then grinds and sells them himself. So, after you’ve had a coffee in the café, you can buy a freshly ground mix to take home and attempt to recreate it yourself. The church pews as seats are neat and the posters on the walls walk you through various aspects of coffee culture, like the art of aroma perception. Which I maybe ought to spend some time studying.
3632 rue Notre-Dame Ouest, 514.507.9696
~ Lindsay Tapscott, Photo by Jonathan McIntosh