Hochelaga is one of Montreal’s most colourful neighbourhoods. It’s packed with great restaurants, awesome bars, cool micro-breweries, fun shops and more. Many people, especially Montrealers, know very little about the area but its inhabitants are very passionate about where they live. Earlier this week the SDC Hochelaga (business development commission) invited us into their neighbourhood for a quick Vélopousse tour of a few bars and restaurants. We barely scratched the surface of what can be found in HOMA but it was a good start.
We kicked off our evening at L’Espace Publique, a brew pub on Ontario St. east. The pub, which sits on a series of vats located just under the bar, has been serving up their own brew for over four years and recently started selling their beer is small shops across the city. They love their bitter beer (and creatively name them) and despite an excellent selection of ales, IPA and more, the brew masters never stop inventing new tastes. We learned that their smokey ales are the best.
After the first stop we embarked up our Vélopousse and started the tour. Vélopousse is a modified two seat bike carriage (like a rickshaw) that’s pulled by a driver and exclusive to Hochelaga. At a cost of $20 ($10 if you live in the neighbourhood) your Vélopousse offers one of three tours of the area. There’s an hour long exploration of the neighbourhood, a 30 minute tour of the Olympic Park or a 30 minute quick tour of specific sites. It’s a great way to see the neighbourhood up close. You can learn more about Vélopousse here!
Stop number 2 brought us to Cabotins, a quirky restaurant on St. Catherine St. east. After leaving the first stop, our Vélopousse train caused a little commotion on the street and those looks and waves continued until we parked in front of the restaurant. The owner had set up a table for us outside under the evening sun. The light from the setting sun was remarkably perfect. Before sitting down we took a look at the unique decor inside Cabotins. Lamps bolted to the ceiling provide the ambient light of the restaurant which is filled with little nooks and crannies. The space used to be a men’s clothing store and homage is paid in various ways. For dinner he prepared some duck fat fried chips, blood pudding, scallops and octopus. The food was excellent which made it tough to leave.
After about 20 minutes (the time each stop on our tour lasted) we hopped back into our Vélopousse and were off to stop 3, Bistro Le St Cath. This bistro offers a kaleidoscope of activities and its a major contributor to Hochelaga’s music and comedy scene. Besides have a great menu (we tried their butter chicken burger and it was excellent) and spot-on cocktails, the bistro features 260 free shows per year and gives a voice to those who need a place to display their talents. From Improv to Hip Hop, there’s something for everyone.
La Cervoise was stop number 4. Daylight was dimming as we arrived at the small Ontario Street bistro. La Cervoise is chef-owned and serves up typical comfort food like burgers and poutines. Going beyond that we tried several delicious tartares including salmon and deer and fried mussels (pictured above). The place has a lot of character and ended up being a nice little surprise.
We were getting a little full as we continued our tour. I’m sure that must have made it hard for our Vélopousse drivers to keep going but they were professional all the way. Les Canailles was stop number 5 on our tour and it was the only place I’d actually already visited. Les Canailles offered us a foie-gras topped canapé that didn’t last long on the plate. This wonderful BYOW restaurant cooks up light French fare and is one of the more popular restaurants in the area. It was nice to be back and it will be worth making the trip again soon.
It was almost 9:30 when we made our last stop of the night. We capped our night off with an awesome ice cream dessert from William J Walter which is located in Place Simon-Valois. We scarfed down the ice cream which was blended with lemon pie. It was so refreshing and so good that it was hard to resist going back for seconds. William J Walter is a cute little store that sells everything from craft beer (from places like L’Espace Publique) to homemade sausage and much more.
Not every night in Hochelaga can be as eventful as the marathon we experienced. Taking an afternoon to walk along the promenades, drop into the shops and stay for dinner can lead to your own great story. It’s simply waiting to be written.
Learn more about the SDC Hochelaga here!
Image credit: Mélanie Dusseault