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Montréal's Secret Neighbourhood

By Jessica Raya
  Looking for great eating, shopping and people-watching? Mordecai Richler's ghost knows the way-to Mile End. You can feel the summer storm brewing, the air growing heavy with moisture, but nobody on Rue Bernard seems worried. Orthodox Jewish men in long, black wool coats recline inside air-conditioned SUVs chatting on cell phones. Cats stretch lazily across stoops. Lush vines, flowers and grasses spill over iron fences, coiling around chained bicycles, ready to catch the rain. And when it comes-tropical, torrential-you run for cover, following a jazz grove into a warmly-lit bistro. The waitress delivers a bottle of red wine and a heaping plate of poutine. You sit back, damp but happy, and hope the sun won't return too soon.
     You're in Mile End, the setting of (Canadian literary icon) Mordecai Richler's celebrated The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and an up-and-coming Montréal, QC 'hood. Here, rents are still cheap enough to draw writers, musicians and eateries where patrons are always welcome to wait out the weather. Officially part of Plateau Mont-Royal, Mile End is more easily defined by its vibe than markings on a map. Most agree that, geographically, it's bordered by Jeanne-Mance Park and Van-Horne, Hutchison and St-Dominique streets. But what makes Mile End so beguiling is the space it occupies between old and new, traditional and trendy, funky and fabulous.
     When the rain stops, the air is light and cool again. And from the posh resto-bars on Laurier to stylish boutiques on St. Laurent, to the two 24-hour rival bagel shops, there's plenty to keep you busy.
     Food favourites: Café Local for poutine-a Quebec crowd-pleaser of French fries with cheese curds smothered in gravy (200 rue St-Viateur Ouest); Senzala for Brazilian-fusion brunch (177 rue Bernard Ouest); Laurier Barbecue (381 Laurier Ave. Ouest); rival bagel shops Fairmount Bagel (74 ave. Fairmount Ouest) and St. Viateur Bagel Shop (263 St-Viateur Ouest)
     Hot spots: Baldwin Barmacie, 115 Laurier Ouest, www.baldwinbarmacie.com; Boa Bar, 5301 blvd. St. Laurent; La Bête Humaine, 1637 ave. Van Horne
     Fashion: Denis Gagnon, 5392A blvd. St-Laurent, www.denisgagnon.ca; Morales, 5392 blvd. St-Laurent, www.renatamorales.com; Tavan & Mitto, 5334 blvd. St. Laurent, www.tavan-mitto.com; Atelier Woodenapples, 5319 ave. du parc, www.atelierwoodenapples.com

Jessica Raya has an insatiable hunger for all things cultural, from where people eat to what gadget they're using to tell everyone about it. Blame it on an addiction to magazines that began at the age of ten. Since then her name has appeared in a number of those magazines, including Elle Canada, Flare, FASHION, and Vancouver Magazine. www.jessicaraya.com

Photo Credit & Article:
courtesy, Canadian Tourism Commission

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