Tag Archives: Montréal Restaurants


Photo credit to Montreal Nitelife Blog

Damn, I’d been having a hankering…

Romado’s caught fire tonight around 7pm and I got to witness one of those great moments where the Twittersphere lights up with grainy cellphone photos and people’s first reactions as they are instantly recorded for posterity. It’s neat to participate in, even if you’re rather removed from the scene, as is my case presently.

The good news is no injuries and relatively minor damage. Hopefully they have insurance and get back up and running ASAP. It’s a veritable contemporary local dining institution and it’s reputation is well-earned, and incidentally I’m as much a fan of the porc sandwiches as the mouth watering chicken.

I’ve always been impressed with the obvious weight and precisely sharpened edge of their cleavers and knives, as no more than two strikes are required to draw and quarter a bird.

Some argue that it’s not as good as it once was but I’d say that’s only as a consequence of many other fine restaurants trying their best to compete. Competition brings in new variations, seeking to satisfy many diverse palates, and makes a good thing more popular and ultimately better. And yes, the members of our Portuguese community may say that their families have an even better recipe.

But I digress. I find it fascinating to watch people react in situations such as these. I mean, it’s not a disaster by any means, if anything it’s a lucky break no one was hurt and they may very well quickly rebuild.

But that people all over the city are now collectively grumbling about how long it has been, and when the last time would have been. An odd moment of collective reminiscence, of our collective good taste and love of delicious food.

That was made rather clear as people tweeted their no.2 options in terms of where to get quality Portuguese-styled rotisserie chicken in Montréal.

We have many more options than you might think; this is a testament to Romado’s success in popularizing their menu as a high-quality fast-food alternative to traditional casse-croute offerings. And given our considerable Portuguese population, well, naturally opportunity abounded.

I wonder if the recipe is in fact truly imported from Portugal or if it is more directly linked to the Azores, from which a number of our Portuguese community hail. Or perhaps it is an adaptation of Portuguese methods and spices to something more typically associated with French Canadian cuisine.

I should find out, I’m also ravenous at the moment.

In any event. Glad no one was injured and hopeful I’ll have a chance to enjoy their delicious chicken once more.

I remember once thinking it would be nice to bring my children there (if I’m so fortunate to one day have a family of my own), and introduce it to them as my parents and extended family introduced my brother and I to the staples of local cuisine.

They always made it seem rather exciting.

Eating at Momesso’s, or Chalet BBQ or going to the Main were big deals for me when I was a kid because it felt like some higher level of street smarts was being revealed to me. It was this idea that tucked away here and there in the vast and modern city were these mom & pop hold-outs, that might not look like much from the outside when compared with the slick suburban family eateries of which I was more accustomed, but where nonetheless of vastly superior quality. And they were right. And I felt like I had been brought into a club. It’s silly inn retrospect but fun for a kid.

And it also imparted a preference for that which was not advertised, slick and processed.

There are many times I’ve gone well out of my way to eat at Romado’s (and more specifically, so that I may eat it in the bucolic splendour of Mount Royal Park on a beautiful summer’s day), and this is a testament not only to their restaurant but every other restaurant like it.

It’s unlikely any of them are part of a chain. Says something to me, like we might want to consider laws that put a leash on corporate restaurants and make it a little easier for the small entrepreneur to get established.

Food for thought…

A Resolution: to be Even Better than the Real Thing

Apologies for the lack of new content over the last couple of weeks, but what can I say I think we’ve all been busy right?

A good friend of mine is back from San Francisco and we’ve been talking cities, comparatively speaking. We touched on a wide spectrum of issues and key differences between the two cities that he related to me as something our citizens may wish to consider for our own community (or perhaps that I may wish to consider when putting together my eventual campaign platform). Issues of design and philosophy, but also of prerogative, presentation and appeal.

Among others, he asked me the following; why are the really top-flight, high-end and gourmet restaurants of our city located in areas generally inaccessible to tourists? By contrast, he inquired why it was that our apparent ‘show-street’ (Ste-Catherine’s) was crammed with chain retail stores, family restaurants and other locales better identified by a corporate logo rather than the quality of the services within? For the life of me, I can’t think of a single excellent restaurant on all of Ste-Catherine’s from Fort to Berri. There are times when Ste-Catherine’s is completely inactive, a slightly better lit variant of Boul de. Maisonneuve in the same sector. Less than thirty years ago this was not the case. Has our city been ‘bylawed’ into an unrealistic hodgepodge of distinct districts-cum-cubicles? What has made Ste-Catherine’s a less than ideal location for good restaurants, fashionable clubs and vaudeville theatres, as it once was teaming with life, quality performances, food and diverse entertainment? What sapped its nightlife? And why is it that quality, in this city, is never located in a position of distinction?

As an example, Dorchester Square’s dining options are severely constrained on the high-traffic Peel side while some new options on the low-traffic Metcalfe side remain largely hidden. Within the square only a tired casse-croute that never seems to be open, despite immense daily pedestrian traffic and a high concentration of office workers that could easily support a restaurant in this most public of public spaces. In Central Park, they have the world-famous Tavern on the Green. See what I mean? For a city that prides itself on exceptional nightlife and fine restaurants, we do a shit poor job making it obvious to find. And why should such things be hidden – does it make the find more valuable to the patrons? Are restaurants supposed to be exclusive or hiding in plain sight? Is any of this good for business?

Consider Place Jacques Cartier, arguably one of the most beautiful public squares in the Old Port. Have you ever eaten at any of the restaurants there? How many of them are quality local institutions compared to the number of tourist traps serving subpar food at inflated prices? Why do we, the citizens of Montréal, allow this? I can imagine in another city, perhaps a more thoughtful city, a public space of such quality and importance as this one would be filled with perhaps some of our very finest restaurants and shops. I ask again, when was the last time you went shopping in the Old Port? There’s nothing worth buying down there. There are few if any services, despite a stable local population and a stable daily traffic of locals going about their business. And yet, one of our most visited neighbourhoods and districts is far from emblematic of the city a seasoned local knows and loves. It is a very large tourist trap with all the good stuff barely identifiable, as if Montréalers are attempting a covert reclamation of the antique city. One of my favourite Old Port haunts is identifiable only by a set of antlers over the door. I love subtlety, but this is too much.

There’s something wrong if we can’t get tourists to the Mountain or to Parc Lafontaine or Ile-Ste-Helene. Why must these be our secrets? What are we trying to hide from the global stage? Why are these places inaccessible to tourists who may be unwilling to travel more than thirty minutes in a given direction from their hotel. Does our city really require so many secluded parks? And why does the city invest so much time in re-branding areas already well visited by tourists while doing nothing to lead tourists towards other equally well defined but locally-oriented neighbourhoods?

It seems as though there is a highly compartmentalized, perhaps sanitized, version of quaint Montréal we present to tourists and visitors on a scale that resembles cartoonish stereotypes of American excess. We don’t show the outside world what makes us powerfully unique and a thoroughly desirable place to live. No, instead, we put a dinky local spin on what remains a bad interpretation of American pop-culture. Its the Three Amigos, the Nickels and the thankfully forgotten foray into Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Café territory that I think make some of the distinguished addresses of our city thoroughly un-Montréalais. We need to stop designing our city along what’s popular elsewhere, because at best we can only reproduce a pale imitation.

But people love us for who we are, and love coming her specifically for what sets us thoroughly apart from the pack. A good deal of the tourism experience in this city, based on what I’ve read in guide books, is the insistence on exploration. In general I agree with this kind of mentality, but why not open the market the better competition for key commercial real estate a little closer to beaten path.

Consider our local film industry, constantly advertising our city as a universal stand-in for any other city on either side of the pond, but never advertising Montréal for Montréal’s sake (and as we should know by now, capturing the aesthetics of Montréal on a whole is a difficult proposition, despite the beauty so apparent to any visitor). I’m tired of being told I’m looking at New York or Paris when I know I’m looking at Montréal. What sets those cities apart is that their citizens are perennially dissatisfied with the status quo, and we’re desperately trying to slow ourselves down and take the path of least resistance. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

All great cities need to prepare for and execute a constant self-criticism that leads to impassioned and driven local entrepreneurs to lead individually for the common good. Ultimately, the common good is typically well aligned with the business interest’s bottom line.

And so I’m left to wonder – are we regulating ourselves into oblivion? Have we become so dependent on municipal intervention in all areas of city planning that it has stifled individual investment and creativity?

Government involvement has lead to the re-alignment of whole sectors with the hopes of streamlining operations and making it easier for tourists to identify, and yet they all seem a degree artificial in the end. New developments favour chains and franchises to independent businesses, yet only independent businesses are left with the will to set themselves apart by offering superior service and products. In other words, we don’t need any more starbucks or second cups – but I do need a new mom and pop coffee shop. New businesses on St-Catherine’s or at the Place des Festivals rarely seem to be anything other that a new franchise for an existing foreign label. Where is the investment in ourselves? Why don’t we take pride in the homegrown innovation as much as we’d like to think. And why doesn’t the city provide local institutions a chance to bid on properties along prestige addresses or major public spaces?

So if I was to ask for just one common resolution, adopted by all citizens equally for this coming new year, it would be that we all do all we can to instigate the changes we want to see for our city, individually or as a societal conspiracy. It would be to resolve to promote Montréal for Montréal’s sake, and to retake our city for our own business interests. Otherwise, we tend to look like a tacky and cheap imitation of everything we despise in the typical American city, and lay down no roots nor foundation for our business interests to grow and prosper.

So this year, let’s be more than what we are, let’s realize what we want and cease our finger-pointing and incessant whining. We can do whatever we set our minds to, and there seems to be a sufficient interest in instigating widespread change to the kind of city we live in. Let’s do what’s ultimately best for us – which is to say let us more thoroughly invest in that which makes us innovative, independent and unique.

I’ve seen far too many new Tim Horton’s open up in a city supposedly renown for excellent cafés this year, let’s try something new.