25 years ago I was a 14 year old boy living in a fishing village in Newfoundland and dreaming about life in the big city. That same year le Saloon opened in Montreal’s Gay Village. It was a very different time in Montreal. In 25 years a lot has changed in our city’s gay community but Saloon, though it’s had a little work done, remains steadfast, a pillar in the community and one of those rare Montreal restaurants capable of standing the test of time.
Perched on the restaurant’s terrasse for the 25th anniversary party last night, I couldn’t help but drift back to the years I spend coming to this restaurant with my friends every Thursday night. It was a time without Instagram, Facebook was just beginning and our thumbs finally became useful through the power of early T9 texting. To meet up at a restaurant a plan had to made a week in advance or we emailed but for the three of us (B, J and Y – the real names won’t be used so to protect their crime riddled past) it became instinct to show up at 7:00pm every Thursday for our ritual dinner and drinks. I was usually tasked with making the reservation and depending on the time of year I would book our summer table (the booth closest to the door so we could people watch judge everyone) or our winter table (the same booth but closer to the wall so we would have to suffer the draft). Our dinners ended up becoming more than just friends getting together. We got into more trouble before, during and after those meals than I am ever allowed to admit. The hours spent at Saloon were formative for us, moments where we came to understand that family sometimes goes beyond the borders of blood. To this day those Thursday night dinners still come up in conversation and though we don’t gather anymore like we used to, the memories which have become almost mythical remain as strong as ever.
Being invited as media to celebrate the 25th anniversary was a pleasure to accept. There were plenty of familiar faces, some former employees (a few who may or may not have let us get away with happy hour specials all night long) and plenty of customers who have their own scandalous stories to tell about their days at Saloon, all gathered on the terrasse and inside the restaurant to celebrate the milestone anniversary. Bubbly poured all evening long and items the new chef’s new menu kept the hunger at bay. There are definitely a few new items that will be worth a second try (the rice krispie pogos are the greatest thing on Earth) and as summer is kicking off, Saloon’s terrasse will without a doubt remain one of the Village’s hotspots.
A few elements of the decor have been expertly updated by design team BlazysGérard. With a couple of subtle winks to the past, le Saloon’s makeover features pops of yellow, neon and wooden paneling, harking back to the days when the restaurant first opened. The updates are remarkable in that they designers use fresh elements to create the new space. Avoiding current, overused trends (Montreal is great for that), the updates are jarring at first but the more you see the more exciting the decor becomes.
You can visit their website here for more info or you can join me on the terrasse during the summer. Chances are you’ll find me there. I no longer limit my restaurant outings to Thursday nights. Just in case you hadn’t noticed.