Human beings are creatures of habit and routine.  When those routines are broken, for whatever reason, we are either shaken by it, or pleasantly surprised.

My routines in Montreal tend to lead me into Old Montreal or west, towards St. Henri and NDG, but every now and then, I like to break those habits and head to the Plateau or Mile End where it’s all but too easy to have a great night.

A few weeks ago, I headed up to Mile End with a couple of friends.  It was early in the afternoon, the sun was shining and we were looking for something to do that was a little outside the Laurier limits.  We decided upon the Royal Phoenix (www.royalphoenixbar.com ).  I’ve been there before, back in November when our fundraising team hosted a Movember benefit, but this time was a little different.

This time, the summer sun was still shining and the temperature was no longer plunging towards freezing.  We walked without much direction from the street fair on Mount Royal all the way up to Bernard Street.  We were in no hurry, so we walked aimlessly, basking in the sunshine, and at one point it made me think back to when I was a child, when my friends and I would meander along the coast of the Atlantic, skipping rocks into the ocean, wondering about where life might take us.  It’s funny how the most curious moments can bring you back to the most interesting places.

We sat at the Royal Phoenix and were practically the only ones inside (the sidewalk terrace was completely full); it was nice to be in the shade after the walk.  We ordered a couple of beers and then some food, which turned out to be very good.  I ordered the Tandoori chicken po’ boy sandwich and some pretty great french fries (my food frenemy).  My friends had variations of the chili poutine (I’m sure it would be just as amazing at 2am, just sayin’); vegetarian vs. meat and that was also quite tasty.  Walking into the Royal Phoenix, the setting is more that of  a bar than a restaurant so I came out of there very surprised, very happy with the whole thing and very full.

Afterwards, on the way down St. Laurent I got to thinking about all the other places in Mile End and on the Plateau that I need to visit more often.  Baldwin Barmacie (read Pharmacy+Bar=One Very Cool Place) is one of my favorite places on Laurier to share a glass bottle of wine on a Thursday night and le Lemeac is a great place to get a spicy beef tartar (my favorite meal, by the way.  I’m not lying).  I also love le Dieu du Ciel micro-brewery, which is smack dab on the corner of St. Laurent and Laurier.

Next time I head in that habit breaking direction, I’m going to try something new.  Bar Waverly looks fun, and there’s a Juliette et Chocolat that I have yet to try (that place will be the end of me, the chocolate is so good) and then there’s Rôtisserie Laurier BBQ, a Montreal institution recently taken over by Gordon Ramsey, himself.

The summer is just getting started and I’m looking forward to spending more weekend time in Mile End.  Anyone have a place in mind I should try?