Benoit Tardif: An Illustrator's Guide to Montreal

From spots to work and places to print to undercelebrated artistic curios, few people are better to offer a guide to Montreal from an illustrator’s perspective than this enigmatic artist.

Benoit Tardif: An Illustrator's Guide to Montreal
J.P. Karwacki

J.P. Karwacki

May 27, 2024

He may live in Repentigny now, but illustrator Benoit Tardif’s known Montreal intimately for over a decade. From humble beginnings in Saint-Eustache, his work’s since appeared everywhere from the New York Times and The Walrus to Habs jerseys and iconic drawings of restaurants and bars like Joe Beef and Burgundy Lion.

There’s no style quite as playful as Tardif’s: Vibrant, whimsical, and characterized by bold colors, imaginative scenes, and a playful use of characters and elements, each of his pieces feel both exaggeratedly cartoonish and nostalgic, like a carefully filled in colouring book.

“I’m just trying to do something unpretentious. I want to have fun, so I’ve developed a style where I know I’ll have fun,” Benoit says.

“When my son was four or five, I’d draw a lot with him and I fell in love with the spontaneity of a child. I realized then it was important for me and already in my work, and I wanted to keep that close.”

That said, there are few better people who could offer a guide to Montreal from an illustrator’s perspective.

Lili & Oli

Lili & Oli’s got an inviting Italian ambiance and heartwarming family angle: Founded by Patrick Hébert, a Westmount native inspired by his stint at Café Olimpico, this café is a labor of love shared with his brother, Daniel. From its humble beginnings to a second location in Verdun, Lili & Oli remains thanks to its classics of coffee, pastries, and sandwiches. It’s fairly straightforward, but you’re not coming here to be wowed by trend recipes or jawdropping interior design—just to have a cafe experience that’s on point and from a local angle.

$$$$$
Café
Little Burgundy
Lionel-Groulx
Crew Collective & Cafe
Co-Working

Located within a former Royal Bank of Canada building in Old Montreal, Crew Collective & Café blends grandeur with contemporary functionality. Ascend the marble staircase into a space where neoclassical elegance meets startup innovation amidst vaulted ceilings and brass chandeliers. This is the spot where teleworkers and ornate surroundings improbably mix. Powered by Dispatch and Traffic Coffee Club brews, the café offers a curated menu showcasing satisfying sandwiches, gourmet pastries, and more. Whether indulging in espresso or collaborating in co-working pods, Crew Collective & Café inspires creativity in a setting steeped in history.

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Café
Old Montreal
Square-Victoria-OACI
Station W

Station W is synonymous with a quintessential café experience, whether you're in Verdun or the Angus district. Bright interiors greet patrons looking for signature sandwiches and pastries, as well as cups of expertly brewed Kittel coffee. While the original Wellington spot has been a staple since 2013, the newer Technopôle Angus location boasts great architecture. Both fill a void in the local scene with charming industrial and chic ambiances. With classics like a renowned grilled cheese and revamped menu that include cocktails, Station W is a must on the local cafe scene.

PhotoSynthèse

PhotoSynthèse, a distinguished graphic art atelier in Montreal, excels in visual arts projects from scanning to printing. Renowned for expertise and meticulous attention to detail, they collaborate with architects, artists, designers, and more. Services include advanced scanning, inkjet printing, laser printing, and digital cutting on various materials for diverse creative endeavors.

Mile End
Rosemont
Atelier Retailles

Atelier Retailles is a dynamic and inclusive paper workshop in Montreal that champions creative experimentation. Focused on transforming remnants into refined creations, the studio offers residencies, courses, and training in hand papermaking techniques. Founder Sophie P-Voyer, a Concordia University Visual Arts graduate, thrives on collaboration and large-scale projects. Atelier Retailles prioritizes using offcuts from the local fashion industry, promoting sustainability by repurposing materials into pulp and new paper, fostering a circular economy system.

Paperole

This gallery-boutique on St-Denis Street from Paperole, a Montreal-based publisher, revitalized its area with contemporary illustration and graphic art. This creative hub offers an array of paper-based media, including limited edition art prints, greeting cards, and posters, alongside clothes, accessories, and kids' toys. Founded by Jacinthe Pilote, Paperole collaborates with local and international artists, emphasizing environmentally friendly materials and local manufacturing. The space also features a design laboratory and plans to host public workshops, fostering community engagement and artistic expression.

Montreal Pool Room

The Montreal Pool Room’s a century-old institution that holds a special place in Montreal's culinary history. Founded in 1912 by Bulgarian immigrant Filipoff Dakov, it has evolved over the years, and remains a beloved spot for locals. Originally known for its steamies, the menu’s expanded to include fries, poutines, hamburgers, and more. This iconic greasy spoon’s seen a lot of faces over the years, from Leonard Cohen to Al Capone, serving up classic Quebecois snacks to them all—it’s a must-visit for those craving a taste of nostalgia.

Jean-Talon


Part of Montreal's metro network, Jean-Talon Station was initially designed by the architecture firm Duplessis, Labelle et Derome with side platforms in a tunnel. The station expanded in 1986 with the Blue Line addition by Gilbert Sauvé, featuring artistic tiling and a large mural by Judith Bricault. The station has four entrances and became fully accessible with elevators installed by 2019.

Judith Bricault’s 18-meter enamelled steel mural, visible from all levels, reflects the station's dynamic metro line intersections. In total, 256 panels form this gigantic work which reaches 18 meters in height.

Liverpool House
Oyster Bar
Restaurant
Griffintown
...

Liverpool House in Montreal's Little Burgundy has emerged from the shadow of its sibling, Joe Beef, with its own identity. Known for hearty French cuisine and exceptional seafood, it features a raw bar and dishes like Italian beef tartare and lobster spaghetti. Opened in 2007, it offers a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere and a diverse wine selection. The restaurant’s friendly ambiance and outstanding menu make it a favorite for both locals and visitors.

Restaurant
Fine Dining
Little Burgundy
Lionel-Groulx
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