“Okay, who wants to go out on the town with me tonight?” Credit: MLSSoccer.com
The MLS Travel Series, Entry #2
James Grossi can’t get any love from the Toronto FO on covering his home side…so he takes to Montreal.
Salut mes amis et bienvenue à Montréal,
Acclaimed Montreal abode dwelling, Habitat 67
As a Torontonian, obvious barbs aside, I could not be more chuffed to have Montreal be the nineteenth club in MLS and its third Canadian side. It’s a wondrous place and it’s nice to have a local rival and relatively close opponent that does not require going to Columbus – sorry Crew fans.
I’ve already taken the opportunity to head over to Montreal on three occasions, though time and finance have meant that I have had under twenty-four hours combined on the ground – each time making only a day trip including the six-hour bus journey each way.
In order to introduce you to what the city has on offer, I’ve enlisted the assistance of some local experts, who will lead us through a myriad of options to ensure your time in one of the more unique urban centres in North America is well spent.
But first a brief introduction to our guides:
Philippe Germain (@SoccerPlusEN), World Soccer’s Canadian correspondent and Canadian Soccer News’ Montreal-based contributor ; he is the host of SoccerPlus, the first French-language soccer podcast in North America and has been the voice of the Montreal Impact on radio and television for a decade prior to this season.
Olivier Tremblay (@OliTremblay), MLSsoccer.com’s Montreal beat writer and weekly contributor to Radio-Canada’s Sports Extra; audio files of which are available along with additional examples of his writing at his website, Mise au Vert, loosely translated as “Pre-Game Retreat”.
Both were very generous with their time and I recommend in particular getting a few podcasts under your belt before travelling; SoccerPlus includes English-language interviews – usually when the subject is more comfortable as such, while both offer those of us out of practice with our French education a chance to retrain our ears to the meter and parlance.
I sent round a list of a dozen or so subjects, what follows ties their recommendations together.
Food & Drink
A bit of travel always works up a sizeable appetite and one of the easiest ways to dip your toes into the water’s of another culture is to sample their cuisine.
That’s not to say one has anything to fear, it is still North America, if McDonalds or a simple pizza is your thing, then you will find it available in abundance.
Artist rendition: Sherbrooke St.
If you’re in search of something near the stadium, Philippe recommends heading north along Sherbrooke Street – “Across from the Olympic Village you’ll find a bunch of options – Grill, Asian, Deli – even a Belle Province the institutionalized hot-dog joint with poutine as greasy as Uncle Joe’s hair”; if you go to Belle Province for the poutine, grab a couple of steamé – steamed hot dogs – as well. Cheap, plentiful; all-dressed or Montreal-style, gets you mustard, chopped onion, and sauerkraut.
Olivier offers – for those looking for something quick and easy – Brit and Chips (433, McGill St.), adding “Fish. Chips. Goodness. Lots of variety too; haddock in a maple syrup batter and hake in an Orange Crush batter are two delicious examples.”
For those looking for something a little more sophisticated he suggests Tapeo (511, Villeray St.) “Lovely, LOVELY Spanish food. Book in advance or you’ll need to get a quick burger somewhere else.”
Philippe suggests hunting along St. Laurent Boulevard, north of Sherbrooke back towards the downtown core and offers this bit of wisdom, “Downtown Montreal is filled with great places to eat, whatever the type you are looking for. Bad restaurants don’t survive long in this city.”
A recommendation from me, for the foodies amongst us, check out Au Pied du Cochon (536, Duluth Av. E) Chef-Owner Martin Picard is a bit of an icon, having hosted his own Food Network show, The Wild Chef. Rustic Québécois cuisine with plenty of foie gras can’t go wrong with that.
If you find yourself in need of a coffee, Philippe – a confirmed Starbucks dude – calms any concerns, “Name your spot downtown; there it is.” If you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, Olivier suggests SoupeSoup (1228, Saint-Denis St. & five other locations) “Not just for the coffee, but for the overall experience – convenient location, excellent food and drink.”
For the tourist in you, Olivier recommends a Montreal landmark, Schwartz’s Deli (3895, Saint-Laurent Blvd.) “Food again. Schwartz’s has been written off by some, but I think it’s still the very best smoked meat sandwich in town.” And really you can’t travel all the way to Montreal and not have some smoked meat.
Whether a bistro, brasserie, or deli; an old-fashioned Cabane á Sucre (Sugar Shack) for some tourtière or just a healthy dollop of poutine, Montreal has just what you’re searching for.
Pints, Pubs & Sport
Getting away for the weekend doesn’t mean you have to fall behind on your regular soccer viewing. Montreal has several soccer-friendly establishments where you can grab a pint and catch up with the latest international action.
Philippe suggests Champs Bar (3956, Saint-Laurent Blvd.) “A three-story building always full for big matches,” while both our guides also speak highly of Burgundy Lion (2496, Notre-Dame St. W) Olivier adding, “Excellent British pub – crumpets for breakfast while watching Newcastle thrash Sunderland is a must.”
Les Trois Brasseurs
Noel Butler (@thesoccernoel) host of Oranges@Halftime, Montreal-based TSN 990’s soccer radio show chimes in with Les Trois Brasseurs – a microbrewery-gastropub with several locations around the downtown core and beyond.
For those solely with refreshment in mind, Olivier points out Dieu du Ciel! (29, Laurier St. W) “A brewpub with a great selection of ales, stouts and other varieties of good stuff – really crowded at times, but good fun nonetheless.”
For those unfortunate souls riding the bus into town, head North from La Gare des Autocars (Coach Station) on (Rue) Berri St., turn right and walk East along (Rue) Ontario St. to find a cozy wee spot called Le Cheval Blanc (809, Ontario St. E.), perfectly located a quick jaunt away from the station for those in need of a pint, but short on time and concerned about getting too lost in the more far-flung marvels of the city.