Montreal’s St-Henri neighbourhood often gets its borders confused with neighbouring Griffintown and Little Burgundy, but the bustling area very much has its own distinct (read: kind of hipster) personality compared to its sister boroughs. I’ve even heard it referred to as the “Brooklyn of Montreal”. (I swear that’s a thing people have said!)
Historically an industrial area in the Sud-Ouest, it’s undergone a total transformation as is now a Montreal it spot. The eclectic neighbourhood is brimming with restaurants, cafés, bookshops and boutiques. There are so many amazing places, both established and new, that it can get overwhelming. But never fear! We are here to escort you through St-Henri with this convenient and essential neighbourhood guide.
Once the home of factories and working-class folk, St-Henri’s industrial landscape has recently resurged as a trendy foodie haven. There’s no shortage of fantastic restaurants in the area and you can go on a cross-continent culinary caper on Notre Dame Street West alone. For brunch, a stop at Arthurs Nosh Bar is a must. The establishment is known for serving traditional Jewish dishes like crispy latkes and chicken schnitzel sandwiches seven days a week in its upscale deli decor. Just a quick PSA: don’t be deterred by the inevitable weekend lineups—the challah bread French toast is worth the wait.
If you’re looking for a simple yet delicious breakfast in a cozy nook behind the hullaballoo of Notre-Dame Street, head to Café Joe. Breakfast sammies, omelets, home fries—you can’t go wrong here. Need some coffee? For your daily dose of liquid gold, you might want to check out neighbourhood newcomer Caffe Farina where you can sip a cappuccino or snack on a panettone overflowing with Nutella while seated on lush, blue velvet couches. Or try a fragrant coffee blend at nearby Café St-Henri, a local fair-trade micro-roaster.
St-Henri Dinner Delights
Now, please excuse me while I gush over one my favourite restaurants in Montreal. For some of the best Middle Eastern fare in the city, head to Sumac for dinner. This neighbourhood mainstay is well-known and loved for a reason—everything on the menu is delicious. From the creamy, hot pepper Muhammara dip, to the unparalleled chicken shawarma and spicy carrot salad, this restaurant can be found on almost any “must try” list and definitely merits a visit if you’re in town.
Montreal’s uniquely diverse demographic is best exemplified through its culinary scene, and St-Henri does a great job of showcasing this. A little further on St-Jacques Street you can find Marmite Su’l Feu, a hidden gem serving the gastronomy of Reunion Island. Brace yourself for mouthwatering creole samosas and heaping plates of rice with beans, and a daily rotation of either chicken, roasted pork, duck, shrimp, sausage, beef or fish. Pro tip: during the summer, you can find them serving up their tasty dishes at the Atwater Market.
Although there are plenty of cool bars and hot dinner spots, some old-school spots have remained unscathed by the recent makeover. Greenspot originally opened in 1947 and has been serving classic greasy spoon grub like poutine, smoked meat sandwiches and hot dogs in an endearing and timeless diner setting complete with jukeboxes.
And when you’re ready to wash all that deliciousness down, St-Henri’s bounty of bars have got your back. Check out the lengthy wine menu at Loïc or stop in to Bar de Courcelle, everyone’s favourite neighbourhood haunt, for a laidback beer and some great music. But no visit to the area would be complete without a stopover at the St-Ambroise-McAuslan brewery—arguably one of the area’s most well-known landmarks. Although the iconic terrace along the Lachine Canal is closed during the cold months, the Annexe St-Ambroise right next door serves the well-loved brews and can fill the terrasse-shaped hole in your heart during the fall and winter.
Shopping in St-Henri
Right off the main artery you’ll find the neighbourhood’s eponymous independent bookstore. Librairie St-Henri offers a wide selection of novels, memoirs, poetry books and more, as well as children’s literature in both English and French. Equipped with comfy chairs, you can easily spend an afternoon here, drifting off into your own literary universe.
Like any good trendy neighbourhood, St-Henri has a great second-hand and eco-friendly boutique, La Gaillarde, which is stocked with unique and interesting pieces. Operating on principles of sustainability, the shop prides itself on supporting local artists as well as selling recycled and organic clothing, footwear and accessories for both women and men. They also host monthly events like fashion shows and clothes swaps where you can trade items with fellow savvy shoppers.
Sit and Stay a While
After a day of savouring international cuisines, sipping home roasted coffee and shopping local, you’ll definitely need a minute to just chill out. Amidst the hubbub of Notre-Dame Street you’ll find Sir George-Étienne Cartier Square, a quaint square with a bubbling fountain in the center where you can crack open that newly snagged novel from the Librairie or devour a tasty treat from the Rustique bakery next door. But if, like me, you are a self-proclaimed and unashamed chronic people-watcher, the Lachine Canal right near Atwater Market is the place to be. It might seem like an obvious choice, but in the fall when the leaves are changing colour and the crisp breeze flutters by near the water, there is no better place to spend time in St-Henri.
Top image: Restaurant Sumac © Marlon Kuhnreich