Total last minute Montréal vacation.
April 13, 2009 6:11 PM   Subscribe

MontréalFilter: 'moonMan and I are very suddenly going to Montréal from Wednesday to Saturday. What should we do while we're there?

I checked out some previous Montréal threads and found some good hotel and bar recommendations. I'd like to know about some other stuff though, like:

Cafés! We're big nerds who like to sit around and drink beverages and do crossword puzzles. Recommend some places that are awesome.

Museums: there must be some, right? Are there any that are particularly awesome? Bonus points if they have weird exhibits.

Bookstores: The nerdier, the better.

And yes, we will eat poutine. Oh man, will we ever. Oh, and ps: I speak French. 'moonMan... is charming. Not so much with the French though.
posted by grapefruitmoon to Travel & Transportation around Montreal, QC (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I can recommend the brunch at Byblos Le Petit Cafe - you get a basket full of different breads, jams, tea, and an omelet. Service was pretty slow when I went, but it was still worth it. Here is a review somebody did.
posted by pravit at 6:26 PM on April 13, 2009

Well, for starters, in English you don't have to put that accent on the e in Montreal.

It's still a little chilly here and we're a bit pre-festival season. But cafés: Laika, at the corner of Duluth and Saint-Laurent, has good laid-back electronica, good snacks, free wifi (get a free Île Sans Fil account); Café des Arts on Fairmount puts you in Mile End, as do the Club Social and Café Olimpico on Saint-Viateur (both too cool to need websites).

Drawn and Quarterly's bookshop is on Bernard in Mile End and is definitely worth a stop. There are various cafés along Bernard there which people also like: Romolo, the Dépanneur café and others.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is doing a free show looking back to John and Yoko's bed-in here 40 years ago. I think you could just catch the last few days of the Kees van Dongen show, too, which isn't free.

The Musée d'art contemporain will still be doing the big retrospective of Claude Tousignant's work; big in Quebec, I'm not sure how much relevance he'll have for you.

Poutine: La Banquise, 24 hours. Or Maaam Bolduc on de Lorimier.
posted by zadcat at 6:35 PM on April 13, 2009

ok ok, this does not meet your requisites (apologies - really). But if you eat meat, please go to Schwartz's Deli. So good, so authentic. You will be waiting in a line, outside, but take counter stools when they are offered (and they probably will be if it just you and 'moonMan). Get the smoked meat sammich, fries and a soda.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 6:37 PM on April 13, 2009

Do you read French? The Librarie-Bistro Olivieri is pretty awesome for the human sciences and arts, but it's mostly French. You could eat there or go to the Brûlerie St-Denis on the other side of Côte-des-Neiges. The Oratoire is right next door, if huge concrete churches and small kitsch chapels are your thing.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:42 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some thoughts - I've written about Montreal a lot in here over the years.

Off the beaten path but plenty nerdy and with a restaurant on the premises as well: Olivieri on Cote-St-Catherine.

Cafes: Olimpico, Club Social (on St-Viateur), Laika (café, resto, and bar on St-Laurent), Au deux maries (on St-Denis). A very small sample.

I think the Claude Tousignant exhibit is still on at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art. Tousignant is a local and this is a major retrospective exhibit.

The Pointe-à-Callière archaeology museum is pretty cool, though small.

Poutine has been well-documented here in AskMe already, but: Banquise, Patati Patata, many more.
posted by mikel at 6:47 PM on April 13, 2009

OH HOLY COW, JOHN AND YOKO. Ok, I have kind of an unhealthy love for John Lennon.

And yes, I read French. And art. A French arty bookstore sounds awesome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:48 PM on April 13, 2009

stony monday is right - olivieri is on cote-des-neiges not cote-st-catherine. Brain fart on my part.
posted by mikel at 6:48 PM on April 13, 2009

If you want to see quirkier art, the thing to do is hit up the Belgo building at 372 Ste-Catherine West – just go to the top floor and make your way down through all the galleries.

Thursdays the arts weeklies come out. Pick up an Hour and a Mirror and peruse the listings.
posted by zadcat at 6:49 PM on April 13, 2009

Second the "smoked meat" thing. Smoked meat is an amazing thing--more tender than brisket, spicier than corned beef, more complex than pastrami. And seconding Schwartz's as well. It is a trip.

I like the Canadian Centre for Architecture a lot, and they have an interesting mainspace exhibit up right now.

If you like wacky old-school natural history museums with dioramas and taxidermy, the Redpath Museum is a lot of fun.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:55 PM on April 13, 2009

If you go to Olivieri, (Côte-des-Neiges metro, but if you're on the green line, it's quicker to stop at Guy-Concordia and take the 165 or 535 from there), do a quick visit to Le Livre Voyageur [Swail is the little cross street next to the "Kebab" restaurant].
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:02 PM on April 13, 2009

If you follow zadcat's excellent suggestions and wind up in Mile End, a couple other things to hit (all on St. Viateur):

- Cafe Le Cagibi. Great place to sit, do crosswords, and eat vegetarian food that's pretty damn tasty. And listen to live music every now and then too.

- S.W. Welch is a nice little (English) used bookstore. Small but selective.

- A little further down is Librairie L'Ecume Des Jours, a smallish French bookstore (no website that I could find).

Feel free to MeMail me for more suggestions!
posted by googly at 7:15 PM on April 13, 2009

Seconding the archaeology museum, especially this tour. Plus it's right in Old Montreal, so there's a lot more to see around there.

Yes to smoked meat, but another yes to Montreal pizza, whether it's gourmet thin crust or a slice from a corner shop. I think there's something in the water that just makes local crusts awesome.
posted by maudlin at 7:23 PM on April 13, 2009

You could get my favourite croissants (and a nice, if small, seating area) at Duc de Lorraine, near the UdeM and St Joseph's Oratory.

I second the contemporary art museum, which has free entrance on Wednesdays after 6pm. The Canadian Centre for Architecture is, I think, free on Thursday nights.

Don't forget about the bagels.
posted by jeather at 8:47 PM on April 13, 2009

McGill campus has a museum that has samples of ancient and modern organisms, minerals and artifacts. Stop around here, and I'll show you the okay Indian place on Parc too (where the curry burns like fire, if that's your bag) and if you want I'll me-mail you the Italian place I know where the food is good and filling. They have nice Tiramisu.

Anywhere in the downtown core, 'moonMan will find fluent English speakers. The only odd bookstore I know about is "The Word", on Milton, where the selection is eclectic and tends towards non-fiction or $0.25 fiction and surprise books. They date back to my mother’s teenage years, which would be about twenty five years ago at this point.
posted by Phalene at 8:53 PM on April 13, 2009

Come to the Greasy Goose lecture series.
It's kind of like...hipsters with powerpoint
lecturing about quirky things.
And you can drink beer.

Hopefully you can see the details here:

If not, let me copy and paste the info.

Thursday, April 16, 2009
7:30pm - 10:30pm
5490 St. Laurent
Montreal, QC

The Greasy Goose Salon Series -- 'FEELING'

*Sofia Gassieva -- How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Civet
*Coral Short -- Performing Intimacy
*Raji Sohal -- "Feeling: More than a Thought?" Sound and Theory in Janet Cardiff's Audio Walks
*Julia Thomas -- Draw Your Doubt, accompanied by a string quartet featuring: Laura Horn, Madeleine Tait, Lilian Belknap and Fjola Evans

Followed by the Cagibi 2nd anniversary party! DJ Mitz, food and drink specials, and enormous nacho platters for all!


good luck.
posted by Sully at 9:08 PM on April 13, 2009

Oh, forgot.
You'll also want to stop
by Monastiraki and
say hi to my pal Billy.
The story is a gallery
slash curiosities store
slash archive of old and
weird magazines slash
bookstore of local oddness.
posted by Sully at 9:18 PM on April 13, 2009

For interesting offbeat museums, you might keep in mind the Maisons de la Culture. For books I like Argo at 1915 Ste.-Catherine O. No website that I can find, but here is a mention that gives an idea of the place, as well as several other bookstores.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:27 PM on April 13, 2009

L'Olympico (aka "Open Da Night") is IMO one of the best coffee shops in Montréal, located in the Mile End district. We were lucky enough to stop there for a mid-afternoon iced mochas after grabbing bagels from the St. Viateur bakery up the street.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:14 PM on April 13, 2009

I really like Cheap Thrills records, close to downtown (2044 Metcalfe st. 2nd floor) - it's a combination book and record store in the upstairs of a slanty old building. Great selection of both books and records.
posted by Gortuk at 10:35 PM on April 13, 2009

There is a weird store on Rachel, just east of St-Laurent
that specializes in all things mushrooms.
They opened up fairly recently, and is very bizarre.
posted by Sully at 7:22 AM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you are still in Montreal on Saturday afternoon, and you
like to draw, we have something called Dr. Sketchy.
It's kinda like a life drawing class, but the person who
is posing is a burlesque dancer in full make-up and outfit.

Here is the website details:

Also, later that night is Oboro's 25th anniversary party.
Oboro is an artist-run center. Here are more details:
posted by Sully at 8:14 AM on April 14, 2009

Awww, it turns out that just as suddenly as plans were made to run off to Canada, they were cancelled :( I'm definitely going to go to Montréal at some point (and like putting the accent in it because it makes me feel fancy), but I'm not going to be able to mark any answers as "best" in the near future. Thanks a ton for all your suggestions, though! Hopefully someone who IS going to Montréal will find some of them to be awesome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:35 PM on April 14, 2009

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