Last Updated on May 4, 2021 by Pamela
COVID 🦠 UPDATE: As of May 28, 2021, the curfew in Quebec will be lifted. This is a preliminary step towards fewer restrictions for this summer. At this time, there is a plan to have restaurants and bars 🍻 open by mid-June. Keep up-to-date with regional restrictions here. You can read more about the recent changes in this article.
Montreal is known by many as the cafe capital of Canada. The word cafe is French, after all, and the city’s proud European heritage speaks strongly through its thriving coffee and pastry culture. Whether you’re exploring well-worn neighbourhoods like the old port or emerging ones like Mile-Ex, here are 6 of the best cafes in Montreal:
1. Tommy Café
There’s a reason for this spot’s cult status among Montrealers. Located in a beautiful historic building in the city’s old town, Tommy spreads upwards over 3 mezzanine-style levels in a bright, open-concept space filled with greenery.
It’s not only a perfect kicking off point for exploring Old Montreal; it’s got a knack for making very good coffee. If you can wait patiently for a coveted seat (lines can sometimes extend out the door), it’s easy to spend all day here people watching. I’d recommend the avocado toast for a surprisingly filling — and fittingly hipster — snack.
2. Crew Collective and Café
This might be one of the most unique and spectacular cafes in the country. Occupying a cathedral-like hall in an old bank building that was once the tallest landmark in Canada, Crew Collective and Café is architecturally unrivalled.
The combination of co-working space and café attracts all manner of creative freelancers, which means it gets quite busy and loud most days. But it’s worth grabbing a cup of something and admiring your surroundings while you’re here. In addition to tea, coffee, and specialty drinks they have a menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, healthy bowls, and snacks.
The headquarters of popular stock photo site Unsplash lives here, so don’t miss the big photography books which make for inspirational browsing.
3. Maison Christian Faure
Nobody knows pastry quite like international award-winning pastry chef Christian Faure. His whimsical “parlour and pastry” shop in Place Royale will transport you to the fairytale patisseries of Paris.
Treats on offer at Maison Christian Faure include everything from freshly baked croissants (you won’t find better ones anywhere else) to decadent mille-feuille and creative tarts with seasonal flavour pops. Drinks include Italian coffee, iced tea, homemade lemonade, and hot chocolate. Or how about a glass of wine or champagne?
You may be lucky enough to catch the ebullient, round-bellied Faure sporting his distinctive meilleurs ouvriers de France collared chefs’ uniform in the pastry shop. Above the shop is a pastry school where Faure teaches, in case your visit inspires a career change.
4. La Bête à Pain
Sandwiched between the old port and another of Montreal’s emerging neighbourhoods, Griffintown, La Bête à Pain is an ideal stop between the two no matter what time of day it is.
Take your time ogling the stunning herringbone floors, tiled counters, and a giant wall of colourfully painted shutters fitted together like Tetris blocks. The café shares its refurbished warehouse with a high-end furniture shop, a florist, and an audio equipment store.
They’ve got breakfast, lunch and afternoon grazing menus. If it’s early they’ve got coffee from local roaster Barista, and if it’s late they’ve got wine, beer, and cider to go with your plate. I’d recommend any and all of the sandwiches as they’re made with the café’s freshly baked bread.
MELK is one of my favourite places to go on a Saturday morning. The original location is on Monkland, a village-like community in a much less touristed southwest corner of the city. But they now have a downtown location too. Fans of trendy minimal interiors will no doubt approve of MELK’s Scandinavian-style aesthetic, but it’s the expertly crafted coffees that keep loyal café goers coming back.
They make a heavenly matcha latte which I order every time I visit, along with the usual suspects from espressos and cappuccinos to macchiatos and cortados. The selection of house-baked goodies is pretty irresistible, too.
6. Dispatch Coffee
Hidden among the industrial architecture of the newly trendy Mile-Ex neighbourhood is Dispatch Coffee, a favourite refuelling spot for local artists and visitors who happen to stumble upon it.
The place comes recommended by renowned local chef Alice Vanasse of Le Diplomate, who I had coffee with on their sunny outdoor patio, together with Dominique Dufour, now the executive chef of NORCA at Hotel Le Germain in Ottawa.
Its minimal aesthetic and close focus on the quality of the coffee fits the industrial surroundings. To complete the picture there’s a colourful graffitied alleyway across the street for Instagram-worthy snaps. They’ve got two more locations as well, one in the plateau area and one closer to downtown.