Walls of vines, fountains, fish ponds and wonderfully oppressive sunshine combined with blissful shade. When Montreal decides it’s finally warm enough to not need a toque, it becomes warm weather paradise. Brunches, long afternoons, and evenings spent with friends, drink, and food in a city of terrasses all help make this city great. Since there are way too many times of day and situations when a terrasse is required, read on for the categorized list of Montreal’s best…
Best Hidden Courtyard: Le Sainte-Elisabeth (1412 rue Sainte Elisabeth)
Find your way to a dark alley, enter a dark pub, and step through to a secret garden of light. Look up to the top of the 30-foot walls of cascading vines and feel like you’re on a patio oasis. Doesn’t hurt that Leffe Brun is on tap and imports are two-for-one on Wednesdays. Also doesn’t hurt that happy hour is 4-8 on weekdays and the pub’s own microbrew goes for $4 a pint.
Best Forest/Lunch Terrasse: Santropol (3990 St-Urbain, at Duluth)
I was going to call this the “Best Forest Terrasse” but it has really amazing sandwiches that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention. They’re huge, so even with a lot of area in the back, expect to wait in line while the servers wind through the restaurant wielding big, heavy plates. There’s a fish pond, good people, and amazing coffee, though. I’m sold.
Best Laundromat Terrasse: Blanc de Blanc Buanderie (248 Villeneuve West)
Yes this is a laundromat, but a laundromat with good coffee. Have a turkey and pear sandwich, or a veggie-pate and pesto, both made fresh in-house with thick Premiere Moisson bread, and sit in the partially enclosed terrasse or at one of the backyard picnic tables while the suds do their work in the adjacent room. Kids can even play with the pedal cars and toys set in the back for laundry-doing moms. Or you can just hang out in the back and pretend like you don’t own your own washing machine. Either way, hipster that you are, you definitely have your own retro clothesline to air dry all the skinny jeans of the male population of your home.
Best Spralling Terrasse: Le Saint-Sulpice (1680 St-Denis, south of Ontario)
One giant fountain on the huge back terrasse. Or sit out front on or over-looking St-Denis for some great people-watching. You could get lost in this place, and you will during happy hour when you’ll never find your way through the crowd to find your friends. Upside is you’ll make new merry friends along your way, and you’ll definitely find a bar or 2 wherever you end up in the place. Drinks are pricey when it’s not happy hour ($6.25 for a standard mixed drink), but no more than your average St-Denis watering hole. So get a pitcher of Hoegaarden for $16.00 (it’s $18.25 for Keith’s) and settle in for awhile.
Best Terrasse with a Hammock: Picapica (1310 de Maisonneuve East)
Yeah, it’s a category. See far right of picture above.
Best Upscale Old Port (but not touristy) Terrasse: Boris Bistro (465 rue McGill)
Considered calling this category the “Best ‘If you have the guts to walk through the metal gates to luxury’ terrasse”, but maybe I’m just a chicken? If you work downtown, this is a beautiful place to feel secluded, have a great lunch, and enjoy the sun in a gorgeous, elegant courtyard. Probably you should think about wearing a suit or something designer. Lunch, dinner and drinks will all cost you a pretty penny, but you pay for location and ambiance.
Best Brunch Terrasse: La Croissanterie Figaro (5200 rue Hutchison)
Contentious, I know, but what is a stereotypical Montreal brunch without a perfect croissant, and these are the best. Brunch can also stretch into the afternoon and its accompanying craving for a piece of cake, which is where the “Best Montreal Desserts” post pushes La Croissanterie to victory.
Runner Up: La Petite Ardoise (222 Laurier West)
A little piece of heaven hidden in the back of a cute French bistro. Unpretentious and with free WiFi, this is a great place to have an afternoon espresso, an after-dinner drink, a date, or take your Grandmother for brunch. You need to go experience this place for yourself to understand how it’s possible to cater to all these audiences, but keep in mind it closes by 10pm, so whoever you come here with, keep in mind that this place is just a touch classier than, say, Foufounes Electriques, no disrespect intended.
2nd Runner-Up and the only winner from Griffintown is Brigade Volante (1414 Notre-Dame West), a little lunch/brunch spot just above a parking lot. You don’t see the cars when you’re nestled under the metal overhangs. It’s kind of industrial, but the flowers are a nice touch. The menu is overseen by a nutritionist and features organic salmon actually decently priced, home-made soups, home-made pasta, and entrées like lamb curry, or you can take advantage of the catering service if you like.
Best Rooftop Terrasse: Suite 701 (701 Cote de la Place D’Armes)
The swanky cocktail bar in the St. James hotel also boasts a great look-out. The lounge is itself is busy year-round, combining a DJ, suits and fancy heels (the male clientele in suits, the women in heels, the DJ in neither), but the elevator to the top is what you want to take if a great view of the city is what you want to see.
Runner-Up: Magnetic Terrasse (1430 rue de la Montagne)
The food’s not as good on the 20th floor of the Hotel-de-la-Montagne as it is at Suite 701, and you can only get it until 4 or 4:30pm depending on the day, but there’s a pool. WAIT! It’s only for hotel guests. You’re allowed to look at the pool, at least, and you’re definitely encouraged to drink until the wee hours while looking at the pool, and wishing you were in the pool. Are you allowed to swim if you meet a hotel guest who kindly invites you to room? Is that prostitution? Selling yourself for a pool?
Best Coffee Terrasse: Cafe Olympico (124 St-Viateur West)
One of the great Montreal experiences: buying bagels, cream cheese and lox at St-Viateur Bagel and taking your picnic to the outdoor seating of Olympico with one of their beautiful espresso drinks. Very old-school, competent service. Only downside is the outdoor seating is not exactly comfortable for a good long sit, but the fun of watching all the action and friendly people in the Mile End neighbourhood will make you forget about your sore toosh.
Runner-Up: Cafe Myriade (1432 rue Mackay)
It’s still too small for all the people who want to sit, even though the terrasse about doubles the café’s capacity. Sitting outside, you won’t hear the timer being used to measure the drip length of every espresso in this Third Wave coffee place. Free WiFi and very nice counter staff unless you ask for something special, like more lemon in your lemon, ginger and honey drink when they’re busy, or if you ask for an espresso served at a different temperature than theirs. That’s frowned upon. It’s kind of like asking for your organic, locally-raised prime rib to be cooked well-done. Someone in the food industry dies every time a request like that is made. Hopefully it’s someone mean on a silly television show. So take your perfect espresso, or your huge cup of latte art and enjoy the sun-filled day. One question: Can you get the Soma hot chocolate on ice? The exquisite sipping chocolate goes for $3 for a tiny glass but is worth every penny. Myriade brings it in from Soma Chocolate Maker in Toronto, the best quality, they say, that they can get in Canada. Note that though the terrasse itself is actually better at Caffe in Gamba on du Parc, and both places make fine espresso, Myriade still wins. Tough call.
Best Dinner Terrasse: Il Piatto Pieno (177 St-Zotique East)
This Little Italy restaurant is perfectly quaint and family-oriented. In fact, you might have trouble even getting on the back terrasse since there’s probably a communion, an anniversary, a retirement or some other special event using the space. Their group menu is ordered about as often as their regular one, it seems. Still, ordering a la carte makes for a great dinner, starting with an acqua frizzante (sparkling water), then prosciutto and melone, fettucine primavera (it is spring, after all), gelato and espresso all for less than $40 including tax and tip without wine. Or try one of the more expensive table d’hotes ($45-$50 with tax and tip) that skip the pasta and give you one of the 8 kinds of veal or chicken cutlet (that, un-traditionally, can come with vegetables or pasta in tomato sauce anyway) and be unable to push down that last bite of cannoli. Probably better to go for the flavoured granita. There’s always room for sugar and ice.
Best Club Terrasse: Tokyo Bar (3709 St-Laurent, at des Pins)
Lots of martinis but a young-ish crowd, plus music ranging from house to hip-hop, to electronic to disco depending on the night. Expect more standard club programming on weekends, a fair-sized St-Laurent club line to wait in, and busy dance floors. Nice thing about a rooftop is there’s always a place to get some fresh air and a great view.
Best Street of Terrasses: Bernard (Outremont, west of Hutchison)
Little Italy and St-Denis come in close 2nd and 3rd but there’s nothing like the quaintness of sitting in front of Les Enfants Terribles (1257 avenue Bernard) or Le Petit Italian (1265 avenue Bernard) for brunch, or just under the awning of La Moulerie (1249 avenue Bernard) for dinner, watching the strolling young couples with or without (not yet, anyway) baby-strollers. Then there’s Bilboquet (1311 avenue Bernard), which has almost no seating but what terrasse post is complete without mentioning amazing ice cream? The line around the block is worth wait at any hour of the day. Oh, and you can’t forget du Parc, stretching from Mont-Royal up to Bernard with great spots like Le Massillia (4543 du Parc) and Buvette Chez Simone (4869 du Parc).