Travel: Mile End – Day 5

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Our last day in Montreal started off somewhat leisurely (unsurprisingly), as we spent the morning packing and doing laundry. Our plan for the day was to explore the Mile End neighbourhood a bit more, which we’d seen a bit of the previous day during lunch at Lawrence. This area was traditionally a multicultural area, home to Jews, Greeks and Portuguese, but has transformed somewhat into being a very hipster, artsy area, with cafés, restaurants and little shops abound. After a bit of poking around, we had a few interesting coffee spots on our list as well. So we headed off in search of the first one: Dispatch Coffee. This roaster, which purportedly opened its doors within the last few months, was actually located just outside of Mile End, but we thought we’d start there and work our way back. It did involve taking the metro and a bus, which was easy enough to find. Unfortunately, the bus did not indicate anywhere what stop it was approaching, so we resorted to using David’s GPS on his phone to give us a rough idea of where we were at.

Dispatch Coffee
Dispatch Coffee

We got off just a little past where I thought it was but couldn’t actually see the shop (or the appropriate street). After attempting to stand outside a Tim Horton’s to use their wifi (with no success), we eventually gave up and started walking around in search of it. After much walking around (and a grumbling stomach on my part), we headed back to the Timmy’s to grab a donut and use their wifi. I don’t always write down blow-by-blow directions or screen grab Google maps, but I usually kick myself when I don’t. It’s different when you’re not just interested in exploring an area but are interested in finding one specific destination. We eventually found that we’d overshot a bit and so backtracked. At long last, hidden in a bizarre little industrial area, we came across Dispatch Coffee. The space was definitely production-oriented (with the roaster and production floor very prominent), but it did have a very sleek bar and clean-lined design, with an in-counter espresso machine. Despite this slickness, there were touches that made it feel more casual and inviting, such as a pegboard back drop and the odd potted plants. I went with my staple hot chocolate, which was very good. David ordered a Guatemalan single origin espresso, which he declared to be delicious. Light roasted but very well-developed (not grassy or tea-ish, as can often happen with lighter roasts). Because he can’t help himself, David was soon chatting with the head roaster, who happily talked to him about his beans and their production in general. He grabbed a pour-over, also quite good, which we ultimately took to-go so we could be on our way.

Wilensky's
Wilensky’s

We wandered our way over to Mile End, which was an interesting mix of residential and commercial, with residential apartments on parallel streets and commercial shops on the perpendicular streets. I thought it might be nice to check-out one of the famed bagel shops to have something to eat. There’s apparently a bagel war between two bagel places, St-Viateur and Fairmount. We came across St-Viateur’s first, so it got first dibs. However, when we entered, it didn’t look like a place where you could actually sit and eat a bagel (despite the misleading photo in my Lonely Planet guidebook, which had a photo of a bagel with salmon and cream cheese and a some roasted potatoes and the caption St-Viateur!). It looked more like a wholesale bagel shop where I certainly could have bought a single bagel but would have to buy a tub of cream cheese and salmon to make my own. Alas. We continued our wanderings through the streets, until we eventually stumbled across Wilensky’s, another famous Montreal institution. We’d heard of it from Anthony Bourdain’s travel/food show Parts Unknown, where he’d sampled their Wilensky Special (all-beef salami and bologna on an egg roll with mustard and Swiss cheese). As it was past 3 pm, we were the only customers in the shop, which was a little bit awkward, but the friendly staff chatted us up about the history of the place (open since 1932 and still in the family). David scarfed down a special with a root beer soda, while I had a hot dog and Swiss cheese. David noted that he would happily eat more of it–simple, “feel good” food.

delicious drinking chocolate at Juliette & Chocolat
delicious drinking chocolate at Juliette & Chocolat

From there, I was eager to investigate a chocolaterie that I’d heard of called Juliette & Chocolat. The place itself was surprisingly commercial feeling; however, they know their chocolate. We sat down for cups of drinking chocolate, choosing from a menu of chocolates organized by region and percentage of cocoa. David bravely went with the 80% dark chocolate from Uganda, and I had the Peruvian 65% dark chocolate. They were thick and super-flavourful! David’s was bold and crisp–despite being melted chocolate, it had a sharp mouth feel, almost like a dry red wine. Mine was surprisingly creamy and fruity with just the right amount of sweetness to make it exceedingly drinkable. All of the yums.

inside Hotel Herman
inside Hotel Herman

Bellies full of chocolate, we decided to make our way back over to Boulevard Saint-Laurent for a bit of browsing. We amused ourselves along the way with photos of the fun murals and street art (many of which involved bagels). We eventually made our way over to Hotel Herman, a interesting spot that we’d passed the day before and, upon further poking around on the Interweb, looked to be a good place to have some dinner. The interior was beautifully designed, with a gorgeous U-shaped bar that dominated the space. We started off with a pair of cocktails. I had “La Farigoule”, a pear-based drink with thyme and lemon juice (absolutely delightful!), and David had a “Bitter Smoke”, Scotch, Montenegro and Vermouth, (also delightful).

veal sweetbread with parsnip
veal sweetbread with parsnip

As we were informed that people usually order a couple of plates per person, we ordered three to start with. I couldn’t resist getting the potato dish which had morels and cheese curds. The potatoes were incredibly smooth and creamy, punctuated by the occasional cheese curd which made for a nice textural complement to the creaminess. David similarly was compelled to order the sweet breads served with parsley roots and parsley puree. The sweetbread was seared perfectly to give it a nice crisp on the outside and creaminess on the inside. Finally, we enjoyed the guinea fowl with parsnip and brown butter. The parsnip seemed to be made into little parsnip gnocchi which were divinely good (must try at home!). Everything was crazily delicious. Beautifully-presented. A win. We ordered ourselves another round of cocktails and the cheese plate, which was also lovely (and unphotographed because we tucked into it so quickly), before calling it a night. A wonderfully delicious send-off from Montreal.

potato dish with morels
potato dish with morels

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