Notre-Dame-de-Grâce: Charming Gem of Montreal’s West End

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, referred to by locals as “NDG”, is one of those magical neighbourhoods that boasts beautiful tree-lined streets, fabulous eating, and an incredible community. Proud to call this neighbourhood home for 26 years, I’ve witnessed the steady buildup of small and family-owned businesses, which has resulted in an embarrassment of choice when it comes to shopping and dining.

Just 20 minutes from downtown by bus or metro, NDG is located in Montreal’s west end. It’s a big neighbourhood, so I recommend starting with Monkland Village and the corresponding strip along Sherbrooke Street, which lies three blocks south.

Dining in NDG

This is a neighbourhood filled with local and family-owned restaurants. If you’re looking for higher-end dining, you can’t go wrong on Monkland Avenue with either Hopkins, which offers a delectable charcuterie plate, or Lucille’s, which has a lobster roll that’s to die for.

If Mexican is your thing, there are two great little restaurants within four blocks of one another; Amaranto on the western end of Monkland Village offers a full menu that includes a cactus salad (believe me, it’s delicious) and a guacamole and homemade chip combo that’s simply addictive.

Hopkins. Credit: Monique Weston @moniquephoto

A few blocks south on Sherbrooke Street, you’ll find Tijuana Tacos, a tiny—and booming—hole in the wall well-known for its substantial tacos at a very affordable price. I used to waver between the steak and veggie options, because the bean paste that accompanies the latter option is so good, but now they offer a mix, so you don’t even have to choose.

Other great options include Chase, which serves Lebanese and Mediterranean—and my favourite shish kebab plate in the city. If you’re into lighter fare, stop in at Frisette’s salad counter. I am NOT a salad person, and even I love it there. Want a unique dining experience? Check out Gryphon D’Or, an adorable tearoom that features amazing brunches (stuffed French toast! Scone breakfast sandwiches!), daily lunch specials, and afternoon tea by reservation.

Organic is the Name of the Game

Sandrini Confections. Credit: Sandrini Confections

Where NDG really shines these days is with specialty and organic foods. Ecollegey, Food de toi, and Branche d’olivier are three organic, vegan and specialty shops that have recently joined Monkland stalwart Fleur Sauvage.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, head to Sparkles candy shop, where you can find just about anything your heart desires. Baked goods get your mouth watering? Check out Croissant Monkland (hello, chocolatines) or Meunerie Urbaine, which sells baguettes that are out of this world. On Monkland, pop into Maître Boucher, a neighbourhood staple that features pre-packaged, individual-sized servings of everything from Shepherd’s Pie to Boeuf Bourgignon, killer sandwiches, and one of the finest cheese selections in the city.

One of the more recent additions is Sandrini Confections. Owner Sandrine Campeau-Simeone is an NDG resident who decided to expand on her catering business and open a gelato and cupcake shop that rapidly became a local sensation. Her Oreo cupcakes alone are a near-religious experience. Delicious homemade gelato is served from April to September, replaced in the winter months by waffles on a stick dipped in different flavours of chocolate. She also offers Italian coffee and a whole range of cakes to order.

NDG Shopping

Rudston-Brown. Credit: Amanda Vandenberghe

If you’re looking for the latest in high-end fashion, you can head a few blocks east along Sherbrooke into Westmount. But if you’re into rare finds, NDG is your paradise.

Sherbrooke Street between Girouard and Royal is home to two wonderful used book/record/CD stores: Presque 9 and Encore Books & Records. Established in 2004, the latter is a father and son-run business that grew from their shared love for books and music. It’s an NDG community staple, and I can say from personal experience in trying to sell things that they are very stringent about quality.

For vintage clothing look no further than Rudston-Brown, located a couple of doors down from Presque 9. It’s a relatively new addition to the neighborhood, but thanks to owner Amanda’s discerning eye, the boutique is already well-known as being filled with gorgeous one-of-a-kind outfits.

NDG Murals and Alleys

Mural on the corner of Sherbrooke and Madison. Credit: Julie Matlin

For a break from eating and shopping, one of my favourite things to do in the hood is wander through the intricate network of alleyways that hide amongst the streets between Girouard and Cavendish. By simply turning off a main road at an unexpected place, you’re instantly transported from the bustle of the city and deposited into a quiet, nature-laden sanctuary. Some alleys are paved, some are just packed dirt, but they’re all lined with trees and birds and cats and somehow, the calmness of the country. One of my preferred alleys is the one behind the Monkland Tennis Club, between Royal and Melrose avenues.

Another pleasant surprise is the scattering of striking murals across various buildings in the area. The majority of which stem from a project called Prevention NDG, which engages graffiti artists to create these works of art. Since 2002, dozens of murals have been created through this initiative. You can find murals in many of the alleys as well.

If you’re in town and want a taste of a truly authentic neighbourhood experience, be sure to hit up NDG.

Header image: Michelle Little @michellelittlephotography

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