8 Mar 2017

MY (VEGAN) GUIDE TO MONTRÉAL


Before beginning this guide to Montréal I must acknowledge Quebec is on the unceded indigenous territories of the Cree, Mi’qmaq, Naskapi, Algonquin, Montagnais, Abenaki, Mohawk, Attikamekw, Huron and Malecite nations, whose lands were violently taken during formal colonialism. The ongoing struggle for the recognition of their sovereignty and humanity continues today.

Okay, bebes!! I have done it. It took a bit of walking, eating and dancing but I now have compiled a list of my fave eateries, stores, tattoo artists and music venues in this city. Lemme just say quick: I was only here for 6 weeks and I'm not omniscient. This list is not complete, but it's pretty decent. Here we go!


FOOD
I love Leaves Cafe! While I was waiting for a tat artist to get prepped (I was way too early...) she recommended I kill time in Leaves Cafe around the corner. It's an all vegan business serving up fresh baked goods and hot drinks. I got hot chocolate and a brownie and they were both DELICIOUS. The interior is super cute: pretty tiny, lots of natural light, high ceilings, white walls, every extra inch of space decorated with potted succulents. 

Le Cagibi is a new fave spot for me this year. Not only do they have a vegetarian menu with everything from BBQ wraps to date squares (it’s easy to get stuff veganized if it’s not already), they also host regular events that centre the voices of women, queer folks and other marginalized people. The music playing is my taste and the decor is charming: vintage arm chairs mixed with lots of cute lil figurines and plants. 

Le Pick Up is a bit of a hole in the wall: kinda out of the way, simple interior with a small, practical menu. (Do not get it mixed up with Depanneur Cafe.) They have a “faux” pulled pork sandwich that’s blown my mind a couple times. It’s chewy, salty, vinegary and one delicious mess. Normally they serve it with mayo but just say you want it vegan and they’ll throw on dijon instead. I hear their veggie burger is great too. 

Cafe Resonance is a lovely spot to hang out for the afternoon or evening, study, chat and listen to free nightly live jazz. Their entire menu is vegan and mostly house-made. Their bowls are always a good choice. All their food items are pretty whole-foodsy and fresh. The Chocolate Jesus smoothie is delish. Their bulletin board at the front usually has a useful catalog of neat local music- or arts-oriented events that you might not otherwise hear about (example: a queer sci fi movie night). 

A new restaurant I tried was Sushi Momo, recommended by several people. The space was relaxing and cozy with wood furniture, lounge music, warm lighting and hanging tapestries of Japanese-style art. I think everything on their menu is probably delicious, but I only tried a couple things (the bamboo roll and the portobello roll). I appreciate places like this because you can tell they are in love with the food they make. It is prepared carefully and the textures, colours and flavours complement each other wonderfully. 

Crudessence is an all raw/organic/vegetarian eatery that’s a bit fancier than most spots in Montréal (they’re nearly vegan, except for honey, which is labelled in a couple items). Their interior is beautiful: white brick, candles, calm music, water with chlorella, ya know? All their desserts are heavenly. If you're into this place, you'll like Lov too. 

Sophie Sucrée: hurray! I live for sugar so this delightful vegan bakery is one of my most-loved places in Montréal. They make cakes, tarts, cupcakes, cookies, cheesecakes, hot drinks and ice cream (but only in the summer, sad face). I don’t have a favourite item here because everything is good. The interior is as adorable as their sweet goodies: floral patterns, delicate china and 50’s diner-era tables and chairs. 

Petit Marché Végé is an unassuming place from the outside, but it's the spot to get the best - and cheap - vegan bahn mi and pho in town. I got bahn mi with a friend and also this amazing little thing wrapped in banana leaf (?) which I THINK was bahn tet, but in any case I could have eaten five. 

Other eateries worth mentioning: Copper Branch (get a burger and brownie), Lola Rosa (chocolate caramel pie… omg) and Panthere Verte (FALAFEL). If you’re in Notre-Dame-De-Grace (NDG) and on Sherbrooke I would suggest getting a smoothie from Mouton Vert, and pizza and soft serve from Vegan RapideEcollegey, an organic grocery on Monkland, has some really amazing flourless almond butter cookies and black bean brownies, but they're kinda pricey.


NIGHTLIFE 
La Vitrola reminds me of places I go to in Vancouver. Minimalist, smokey, dark and almost painfully cool. Unless you already know where you’re going it’s a bit tough to find. They seem to host a bunch of very different events, so check their calendar before heading in. Unfortunately accessibility is an issue, as you have to go up a flight of stairs to get in. 

I had the pleasure of attending Gender B(l)ender at Café L'Artère on February 24. It's a queer open mic night that happens every month. The inspiring performances included everything from poetry to dance to song to story, all from the perspectives of queer, non-binary and trans peeps. I am now on the search for something like this that I can go to back home in Vancouver. It motivated me to think about performing some of my own poetry. 

Notre-Dame-Des-Quilles (NDQ): I went here a couple times and sweated the night away among stylish hipsters to disco-ish music and 80’s new wave. I noticed they have vegan pierogies on their menu that looked suuuper good. Warning: it gets very hot, humid and packed with people by midnight on the weekend. 

Finally made it to Bar Le Ritz PDB on my last night here. All these factors came together to make it an evening where it felt like the world wanted me to do exactly what I was doing. Very cool spot, they host loads of great events and are open every night regardless. I wish we had bars like this in Van.

TATTOOS
Charline Bataille did a gorgeous rose and snake on my hip. Her work is unique, radical and inspiring. If you like colourful, playful tats about femmeness and self-love she's the person to see. 

Aisha Hadeija at XS Tattoo did a moon cycle and rabbit on my calf and informed me that there is in fact a trans-cultural folktale about a rabbit on the moon. Go figure. She's vegan was kind enough to give me a list of her fave veg-friendly restaurants to try. 

Both these artists are talented, genuine and next time I visit I hope to get more work from them on my bod. One [vegan] artist I didn't get the chance to see is Meagan Blackwood. NEXT TIME.


OTHER SHOPS
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly (don’t get it mixed up with Drawn & Quarterly). They have an extensive collection of books you need to have. Immediately. I bought an incredible lil coming-of-age novel about a trans girl of colour who joins a trans femme gang as they beat some long-deserved justice into the streets in high heels and lipstick (a lot more happens but that part is just so badass). I devoured the book in one night and plan to buy a copy for everyone in the world. 

Annex Vintage and Precious are two charming new+used clothing stores that also sell a variety of cute pins, cards, jewellery, stickers, and sweaters, buttons and bags with messages that say stuff like “F#ck Your Male Gaze”, “Not Your Baby”, “Don’t Worry, Be Gay” - fabulous. I found most of my gifts for friends back home here. Empire Exchange and Citizen Vintage are another couple nice consignment stores in the same area. 

If you're into vinyl: head to Phonopolis, it's next door to Librairie Drawn & Quarterly.

OUTDOORS
Living on the west coast of "Canada" (aka Turtle Island) leaves me spoiled by nature. So when I visit Montreal, it's not for the wilderness here. Soooorry. That being said, Mont Royal is gorgeous, especially in late Fall when all the leaves are bright red, yellow and orange. It's surrounded by a huge park and is central to the city, so definitely spend some time there. Otherwise... I enjoy the architecture and the human culture of Montreal more than anything else.