Tucked to the side of the main dining area and opposite the open kitchen, the bar at Maison Boulud is sectioned off from the rest of the restaurant by a transparent fireplace wall, an illuminated wine locker and a light catching fragmented wall screen. Whether you pull up to the rectangular bar or cozy up to one of the surrounding side tables, the bar offers an elegant and comfortable space for both groups and individuals who may be passing a night in the city.
While the wine and drink list is exhaustive, the bartenders’ extensive knowledge of the offerings make choosing the perfect drink simple. All drinks are carefully assembled, but the bar elevates the Irish coffee, a well-known after dinner drink, to a new level. Maison Boulud’s variety is not only delicious but meticulously prepared with a blow torch finished sugar rim on the glass. Small plates are offered in the bar but a clear standout would be the madeleines. The French butter cookies are served warm, swaddled in a folded napkin bowl and lightly dusted in powdered sugar. A combination of refined ambiance and high quality offerings, the bar at Maison Boulud is well worth any visitor or local’s time.
1228 rue Sherbrooke between rue Drummond and rue de la Montagne, Montreal, CA
Walking into Dominion Square Tavern will feel like stepping back in time. This in part due to the intentionally antiqued decor and attention to traditional drinks and dishes and in part to the building’s own storied history in downtown Montreal. Located adjacent to its namesake park, Dominion Square, which was renamed in 1987 as Dorchester Square, the name which it is still known today, Dominion Square Tavern first opened its doors in 1927 as a hotel and restaurant. Though the business thrived during the roaring twenties and survived the Great Depression, a fire would later destroy the majority of the hotel leaving behind a few rooms and the restaurant. In its second incarnation, the restaurant evolved into one of the city’s most popular gay bars throughout the ’70’s with restricted access for men only. In 1988, a Quebec law revoked the exclusive access to bars throughout the province, thereby allowing women patrons.
In 2009, Dominion Square Tavern took its current form, once again returning to a restaurant and bar. The tavern maintains the original chandelier and terrazzo floors from its early beginnings and holds on to its historic sensibility through other elements that hint to its illustrious past.
The restaurant caters to a French-Canadian palette with clear British influences. Appetizers include the traditional Scotch Egg and Pork Terrine and main courses range from Braised Beef to Roasted Cornish Hen to salads prepared with fresh seasonal ingredients. As such, it can be difficult to choose among the many enticing offerings on the menu, but the Fish & Chips special, generally offered on Fridays, is highly recommended. The cocktail list sticks to traditional classics, all carefully crafted and not likely to disappoint, but the simplistic, Gin & Tonic, prepared with house-made tonic is a clear standout.
Reservations recommended; outdoor terrace in warmer months.
1243 rue Metcalfe
18 years and older only
Although the race takes center stage and everyone’s attention turns to the elite F-1 drivers racing 70 laps around the city’s track on race day, Grand Prix weekend transforms Montreal as the jet set and race enthusiasts storm the city for a three day celebration that offers 24/7 entertainment both on and off the track. Canada has a long history with the Grand Prix, hosting its first official race in 1967 when it first joined the F-1 calendar. Initially the event rotated between English and French-speaking Canada, being held in Ontario-based Mosport Park and Quebec-based Mont-Tremblant. Due to the danger of the Mont-Tremblant track, the race was permanently held in Ontario before finding its eventual home in Montreal in 1978. The race was not held in 1987 as a result of a sponsorship dispute between Molson and Labatt and again in 2009 when it was dropped from the F-1 calendar, which also marked the first time the F-1 calendar did not hold a North American race in over fifty years. 2010 marked the official return of the Grand Prix to Montreal at the famed Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, named for the beloved Quebec born F-1 champion, who raced for Ferrari for the majority of his career before dying in a crash during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982.
Along with its storied history, visitors to the city during Grand Prix weekend also get to enjoy non-stop entertainment throughout the city for the race weekend. The popular downtown streets of rue Peel and rue Crescent are restricted to only pedestrian traffic. The local cafes, bars and restaurants all take advantage of the festival atmosphere by setting up pop-up terraces in the streets. Additionally, race sponsors display cars for visitors to see up close and promotional race events, such as contests to change a race car tire, are in full swing. Live music fills the streets day and night allowing crowds to enjoy every minute of the summer festival atmosphere. It is also common for world famous musical acts and DJ’s to hold performances around the city leading up to and during the big weekend.
On race day, general admission visitors are free to roam around the track and find their desired spot behind the catch fences to watch the F-1 cars zoom around the track at speeds around 200 mph. Ear plugs are a necessity if you plan to get close to the action and a radio if you want to hear the race called while watching the cars zip by in a blur before your eyes.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve-Parc Jean Drapeau, Île Notre-Dame
Held Annually: July
As its name hints, La Drinkerie is located in the Montreal neighborhood of Little Burgundy, which used to be a town known as Sainte-Cunegonde before it became part of the city of Montreal around the turn of the century. The bar offers a charming and sophisticated spot to enjoy a drink. The decor is mid-century with a modern touch. To best exploit the knowledgeable bartender’s mixology skills, grab one of the leather tufted chairs at the bar and let them either prepare you a cocktail based on your own preferences or choose from one of the numerous unique drinks on the constantly evolving cocktail list. If you came with a group pull some stools up to one of the narrow wooden communal tables situated just behind the bar or grab some more intimate seating against the brick wall lining the room across from the bar. Drinkerie plays host to weekly music sessions in addition to showing the Habs games (this is Montreal after all).
2661 Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal
One of Montreal’s most popular summer festivals, Mondial de la bière is a unique beer tasting and educational event that brings foreign beers and the beers of Quebec to center stage. The annual event features over 600 beers from over 100 breweries, transforming Montreal into the Beer Capital of the World for a span of five days.
The 20th edition of the festival will take place in 2013. The 19th edition highlighted beers from South America, with a specific focus on beers from Brazil and Argentina. In addition to reserved ticketing seminars, the event space featured a playful layout that broke the exhibitors into regional themed pubs that included a Latin Pub, European Bistro Pub and Oktoberfest Pub, which provided much needed seating areas amid the heavily attended event.
Tasting coupons are sold at CAD $1/each and tastings can range from 2-5 coupons for a 3-4 oz. pour. Ticket packages including a souvenir tasting glass are also available. Admission is free and the general tasting floor remains open for the majority of the day and evening so visitors can tour and enjoy the festival at a leisurely pace as opposed to being limited to ticketed tasting sessions.
Held annually (late May-Early June)
Top left photo credit: © Olivier Bourget