by Amanda Tripp
Are you tired of franchise cafes mirroring each other’s block letters all over downtown Montreal? Every metropolitan coffee-addict secretly longs for caffeine fixes that also satisfy some desire for a sexy, smart, but cozy cafe to call their own. Isn’t that what you dreamt of when you saw yourself in college? Writing your first political tract, poem, newspaper article, and staring deep into the eyes of someone who really gets you: the barista of your dreams. I will sit in sunlit window nooks, you said; there will be real plants, novels, eye-contact; there will be quirky but charming regulars and they won’t be rattling off extra-hot-soy-no-whips. And yet, you sit in a Starbucks hating yourself and your over-priced probably-too-acidic concoction. Broken hearts, we hear you. Come on over to Shaika Cafe.
It first happened to me just when I thought hip, affordable quality had given up the ghost in our fair city: I should have known better, I know, and Montreal, I promise never to doubt you again. Shaika Cafe is located at Sherbrooke West and Old Orchard, across from a big open park regularly populated by big dogs and little old men, where you can watch both demographics navigate middle-of-the-day social adventures. The cafe doubles as a vernissage and gallery space for local artists by day (Gallery V), and as a concert space by night, when you can trade your medium roast for a glass of wine or beer, and enjoy the sweet sounds of folk, jazz or bluegrass, depending on the night. No matter what time of day it is, Shaika is spatial therapy: whether meeting friends or grading papers, there’s an appropriate kind of table-chair match-up for everyone, from low-lying vintage-y leather and hand-painted coffee-tables, to stools and counters, to window seat desks, to the long sofa that lines one wall of the room. The cafe itself is a work of art, designed by the talented Julie Trudel. Above all, Shaika cultivates a rare kind of respect amongst its clientele: people smile at each other, pet the dogs outside, have real conversations, and pay attention to people around them so everybody can enjoy their time there equally. The bold roast is a revelation, and they offer the coveted Mighty Leaf, not to mention an assortment of house-baked goods and fresh lunch food, including vegan options. Remember that place you dreamed about? Then you know exactly what you’re missing. Get on down, we’ll save you a seat.
5526 Sherbrooke Street West
You can visit the Shaika Cafe website at shaikacafe.com.