Published Sep 05, 2014In our annual Hangout Handbook, Exclaim! asks some of our favourite artists what an ideal day in their hometown would entail. Here, Andrew Barr of the Barr Brothers outlines the perfect way to spend a day in Montreal.
Head on over to Bagel Etc (4320 Boulevard Saint-Laurent) for the best $5 breakfast in town. Be sure to sample some Montreal bagels there and have a friendly chat with the wait staff. Imagine that you are L. Cohen and scribble some words on a napkin. You might surprise yourself.
From there you can stroll down to Rue Rachel, turn right and head for the mountain. A purifying hike to the top should take less than an hour and offers a lofty view of Montreal and the St. Laurence river. You might see some intense LARPing or drum circle mania going on at the bottom of the hill.
Already time for another coffee? When you reach the bottom of the mountain you might be a bit walked out, so I'd hop on a Bixi bike (credit card needed) and ride north up one of the quiet streets just east of Parc Ave (Esplanade or Jean Mance). Head in to Cafe Club Social (180 Rue Saint-Viateur) on the corner of St. Viateur/Esplanade and relax for a minute with an Italian coffee. You'll see why they call it Cafe Social — this is not a laptop-filled, caramel drenched coffee joint, but a genuine neighbourhood social club.
Hungry for a quick bite? You can grab a great deli sandwich across the street at Epicerie Latina (185 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest), or head a few blocks east to Green Panther (66 Saint Viateur Ouest) for a delicious falafel sandwich served on a homemade pita. If you feel more adventurous, take that Bixi right up to Jean Talon Market (7070 Avenue Henri Julien) and sample some of Quebec's finest local foods. If the weather's right, get yourself some goodies and head over to Parc Laurier for a picnic.
Like records? Books? Of course you do. Just one block up from Cafe Social on Bernard you can hit the 1-2 punch of Drawn and Quarterly book shop (211 Rue Bernard Ouest) and Phonopolis record store (207 Rue Bernard Ouest). Check out some graphic novels and have a listen to what the Montreal music scene has to offer. Check out the latest records by Suuns, Patrick Watson, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Miracle Fortress, Half Moon Run, Aurora or Leif Vollebeck — most of these records were made just minutes from where you are standing.
Time for a drink. If it's after six, head back down south on Rue St. Laurent to Sparrow (5322 Boulevard Saint-Laurent) where the usually suspendered and bowtied staff will fill your cup and spin you some tunes. They might even be able to tell you what shows are in town that night.
Maybe now it's time to jump in a cab or ride that bixi downhill to the Old Port. Touristy, yes, but still worth seeing. If you feel like poshing it up a bit, make a reservation at L'Original (479 Rue St. Alexis), a great restaurant serving an interesting take on Canadian cuisine. Like if Jaques Pepin got stuck in the Quebec wilderness for a year and could only cook with what he hunted and foraged. If you're feeling loose, just ask the chef to cook for you, he won't disappoint. For you vegetarians, this might not be the place, you might want to head over to Aux Vivre (4631 Boulevard Saint-Laurent) for some CocoBanana smoothies and Buddha Bowls. If you want to keep it casual and stay in the neighbourhood you've been in all day, try the tapas at La Sala Rossa (4848 Boulevard Saint-Laurent) or stay right at Sparrow and enjoy some Indian fusion with those drinks.
Still feel like going out? You can head back on up to the lively quaintness of sister music bars Casa Del Popolo (4873 Boulevard Saint-Laurent) and La Sala Rossa to see if there are some late shows or dancing going on. Even if not, both bars will offer a cozy seat and good company. It would take you about 45 minutes to walk from the Old Port, but you get to pass through Chinatown, across the notorious Rue St. Catherine, and up the clubby stretch of St. Laurent that might make you scared to ever have children. If clubbing is your thing, you might find it on that stretch — I would recommend pushing on and making it north of Mount Royal before you stop. Most of the dance parties I've been to in Montreal happen spontaneously in someone's apartment. Maybe you will just have to wiggle your way into one of those.
And who could spend a proper day in Montreal without sampling the city's finest delicacy: poutine. A well deserved end to a night out, or really an anytime snack to be shared with a beer. Some of the most beloved spots are the Main Deli Steak House (3864 Boulevard Saint-Laurent), Fameux Viande Fumée Et Charcuterie (4500 Rue Saint-Denis), Chez Claudette (351 Avenue Laurier Est), Patati Patata (4177 Boulevard Saint-Laurent), or La Banquise (994 Rue Rachel Est). Now you can enter the citywide debate on who does it best.
On a side note, I'd recommend taking a glance at the Pop Montreal website to see what those fine folks might have in store for you. From outdoor open market events to spontaneous rooftop parties, they might be your ticket to fun for the day.
The Barr Brothers' new album, Sleeping Operator, comes out on October 7 on Secret City Records.
Read our October 2014 cover story on the Barr Brothers here.