If you're willing to eschew the conventional tools of navigation (map, guidebook, compass), discovering a different side of Montreal is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. Walking through any neighbourhood is an exercise in discovery; writing about your home turf is tricky. My impressions are bound to differ from those of the waitress, the florist, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. All that to say, there are as many perspectives at work in Monkland Village as there are people, and I'm just one voice. But one thing we all agree on is l'esprit d'été. The pulse of the terrasse culture starts beating with the first pair of shorts ambling down Monkland Avenue.
Photos by Jason Santerre
Monkland Village derives its name from the avenue that acts as its main drag. But the original source of the name is James Monk, chief justice to the court of the Queen's Bench from 1804 to 1824. Monk was also the Attorney-General of Lower Canada. He built a residence (known as Monklands) in 1804, which he willed to his niece, Elizabeth Ann Monk. From then on it was used as the Governor General's residence. The next phase of the building's history began in 1854, when the Congregation de Notre-Dame purchased the estate to open a boarding school called Villa Maria.
The neighbourhood's roots might be middle-class and anglophone, but today's Monkland Village has its share of colourful characters and eccentrics: Benz-driving grannies, soccer moms, skaters, joggers, dread-locked vegans, gym rats, pseudo yuppies, retirees and that one guy who wears a trenchcoat come rain, snow or July heatwave. Like urban critic Jane Jacobs said, "Design is people."
And what a design. This is where bourgeois meets bohemian, power suit greets poet and anglo buys franco a beer. Monkland Village, which is really Monkland Avenue running west from Villa Maria Métro over the Décarie Expressway, past Girouard over to Cavendish, is all about people watching other people watch people. After all, landmarks like the Monkland Theatre are long gone and none of the watering holes or eateries are likely to end up in the next edition of Fodor's must-dos.
This is where bourgeois meets bohemian, power suit greets poet and anglo buys franco a beer.
Something for Everyone
Jacobs said the point of cities is their multiplicity of choice, and here, there's something for everyone, from sidewalk sales and yoga classes to café culture and 5 à 7 conviviality. My days of libations by the litre might be long gone, but Monkland Village has everything I need: expansive, verdant parks, daycares and enough specialty shops to provide everything I might need without having to make a trip to the cold, faceless big-box stores. There's even a "canine lifestyle boutique" called Bark & Fitz. If I had a dog, my every whim would be catered to. And it's extremely quiet at night, which is strange for a street with so much hustle and bustle. Chalk it up to the neighbourhood's collective need for 'Zs.
I suppose all that sleep makes the villagers hungry because breakfast is big business here. There are at least a dozen bacon-and-eggers within a six-block radius, but the perennial players are Benedict's, St-Viateur Bagel & Café and Monkland Grill. I'm not exactly sunny side up first thing in the morning, so waiting in line for a smoothie and a bagel, world-famous or otherwise, isn't an option. But it seems most everyone is willing to wait for that perfect spot to sit back, sip a cup of joe and watch the Monkland world go by, one flavourful, microcosmic morsel at a time.
|Best Bets For...
5 à 7
Tribeca (5557, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-223-1411)
Typhoon (5752, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-482-4448)
A Pint or Two
Ye Old Orchard (5563, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-484-1569)
Monkland Taverne (5555, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-486-5768)
Fleur Sauvage Aliments Naturels (5561, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-482-5193)
Malibu Gourmet (5751, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-486-6200)
Patisserie de Nancy (5655, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-482-3030)
Monkland Grill (6151, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-484-2611)
St-Viateur Bagel & Café (5629, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-487-8051)
Benedict's (5950, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-481-6075)
Restaurant Mikado (5515, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-369-3659)
Le Maistre (5700, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-481-2109)
Au Messob d'Or (5690, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-488-8620)
Al dente Trattoria (5768, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-486-4343)
Pizzédélic (5556, avenue Monkland; Phone: 514-487-3103)