If you want to escape Williamsburg this Labor Day weekend but worry that your acute case of FOMO will result in Blue Bottle Coffee withdrawal, we’ve got just the end-of-summer getaway for you: the Mile End! No, not the NoHo sandwich shop. We’re talking about the neighborhood in Montreal, where — just like in Williamsburg — you’ll hear people speak French while enjoying the comforts of rustic-chic cafés and artisanal everything. You won’t even miss out on the gratifying hat varieties of your Hasidic neighbors.
The Mile End is basically Southside Williamsburg North, with shorter buildings and the added bonus of big, lush parks and infamously babely babes. Here’s what to hit up while you’re there.
The Mile End has a high concentration of popular cafés, many of which aren’t plagued with laptop-screen-lit zombie faces. Café Olimpico has the best terrasse around, which compensates for the fact that the interior looks like an Italian sports bar. The coffee is killer, though. Then there’s Le Dépanneur Café, which offers free live music, fresh-baked cookies (occasionally with weird but amazing flavors, like lavender) and a delectable grilled cheese on black bread. Café Le Cagibi, nearby, is another favorite hangout with live music performances and a penchant for mismatched vintage furniture.
If you like your Bagel Store always fresh and always open:
St-Viateur Bagel is open 24/7 and has multiple locations – or you could go a couple blocks away and give Fairmount Bagel a shot (same bagel, more flavor varieties). Forgo the whole which-is-better debate between Montreal bagels and New York bagels and just appreciate the fact that both exist and that both are readily available whenever the mood strikes.
The Mile End offers ample shopping opportunities, from well-curated but still super cheap vintage shops to higher-end boutiques dealing in obscure designers both local and from abroad. Drawn & Quarterly, which you may also know as a beloved indie book publisher, is a must-visit whether you’re into graphic novels or just looking for the equivalent of Williamsburg’s great bookstores.
Then there’s Boutique Oxford, which sells shoes and magazines. It may be the most Williamsburg store we’ve yet seen outside of Williamsburg.
If you’re more about BYOB loft parties:
Not to say the Mile End doesn’t have its fair share of good bars, but a lot of this hood’s nightlife magic occurs in the privacy of a third-story walk-up apartment (preferably a loft or janky studio). Make sure to stop by the SAQ before 8 p.m. if you want to load up on decent booze to tote to your friend-of-a-friend’s place — otherwise, you have until 11 p.m. SHARP to buy beer at a dépanneur (that’s Montreal for “bodega”). Seriously, it’s illegal for stores to sell alcohol here after 11 p.m. Yes, this is Montreal, not Vegas. We’re sorry.
If Hotel Delmano is your definition of a watering hole:
Check out Sparrow, a swankier nightlife experience on Blvd St-Laurent. Have a chic cocktail like a French 75 with the chic bird-printed wallpaper as your backdrop. Not unlike Hotel Delmano, Sparrow also serves some seriously good pub food. (Have the burger there while you’re at it. Sparrow’s giant, juicy burger is right up there with the one at DuMont Burger, especially if you get lucky and their truffle polenta fries are on the menu that night.)
If you catch shows at Union Pool:
The Mile End boasts a killer music scene that rivals Williamsburg’s for sure. Joints like Casa Del Popolo are small and cheap, but usually host some prime indie-hyphenated or weirdo experimental acts. With its front room dedicated to chilling, drinking beer and eating nachos, a back courtyard with seating for more of the same plus a smoking option, and an attached performance space, you’ll find Casa has similar appeal as Union Pool, but with 90 percent less “meat market” factor.
If you nurse your hangovers at Pies-N-Thighs or Diner:
Get thee to Nouveau Palais. It’s a Mile End favorite for its short but eclectic menu and weirdo converted-diner vibe. For dinner, you can have a tasty matzo-ball soup and a heap of steamed mussels, or make your way to the Palais for brunch after a long night and enjoy a lumberjack (that’s a breakfast sandwich of bacon, eggs and cheese between two pancakes) while local DJs spin your hangover-recovery soundtrack.
If you’re a fan of the poutine at Mile End:
Well, you may be out of luck, at least as far as the original Mile End is concerned. While poutine is the universally recognized Thing To Eat In Montreal, good poutine isn’t always readily available in this hood. There’s always La Banquise, located further south on the Plateau – but when you get there at 3 a.m. and see a line to rival the one at Mighty Quinn’s, you might reconsider.