Is there anything—and we mean anything—that supersedes being on any one of the best terrasses in Montreal?
Everyone's got their own favourites, from neighbourhood haunts to destinations you'll haunt the doorway of until a table frees up, but we wanted to take stock of the very best in the city to grab a bite and drink—be it pints, pet-nats, or pretty little cocktails—in places ranging from swank high-end spots to unmistakeable classics, newcomers, and the unapologetically informal in no particular order whatsoever.
At peak summer when the heat's sweltering, the city will never feel more alive than when tables are packed from high noon 'til long after the sun's well below the horizon. It's such a simple thing, but where you go forms a rite of experiential passage for newcomers and a finessed art for seasoned residents.
We're calling it: This is where you're going to find us this summer, and why.
Bar Cicchetti: The aperitivo aficionado
Why? Named after the small bites you'd found in traditional Venetian bars, this Mile Ex bar's 30-ish seat terrasse is good for both getting some social time during the week or fashioning a premable before a bigger night out. Designed by architects Julia Manasas and Maxime Lefebvre and run by former ceramicist Elyse Leclerc alongside her partners Gabriel Lavallée and Mathieu Delisle, Cicchetti excels at classic Italian cocktails and—like the name implies—a whole range of inexpensive sancks that range from charcuterie and deviled eggs to polenta fries and crustless sandwiches.
Messorem: The punk rock beer garden
Why? A canal-side microbrewery in the Sud-Ouest from Marc-André Filion, Sébastien Chaput and Vincent Ménard—friends who met through Montreal's underground music scene of the early 2000s—is a stark yet inviting piece of brick and steel on the inside. When that huge back beer garden with lime green-cyan picnic tables opens up in the summer with music pumping and fried chicken sandos getting slung from an in-house Mitch Deli canteen? When the pints overfloweth with anything from smoothie sours and stouts to classic IPAs and lagers? There are few better places to drink up (especially after cycling with their club).
Taverne Atlantic: For dining under a Mile-Ex sunset
Why? Good rooftops without the corpo schlock are a tough thing to find in this town, making this Mile-Ex bar and restaurant all the more valuable. It's already got all the design trappings of a Wes Anderson film on the inside, but when you're upstairs at one of the tables running alongside its skylight, chowing down on hose hot dogs and pizza from its Chez Eddy Snack Bar while knocking back natty wines or cheap pints? Friends, there are few finer places to go for anything from a big night out to quite solo dining excursion, especially when this one is open every single night of the week.
Labo culinaire - Foodlab: Curiosities and cocktails
Why? Billed as the gastronomic experience of the Society for Arts and Technology, this literally and figuratively elevated place in the Quartier des Spectacles excels at appeasing to the more experimental tastes of discerning terrasse-goers. While chef Émilie Bégin puts together a seasonal menu of primarily organic and local ingredients, the bar on their spacious rooftop seals the deal with more-than-inventive cocktails, local beers and ciders, and biodynamic and natural wines "representing the vitality and renewal of worldwide viniculture methods, the return of forgotten grape varieties, and the desire to drink real and pure." Swish.
Réservoir: Where brews turn to bites to brews
Why? This piece of Plateau dining history involves the team behind the late and great Hôtel Herman coming in and amping up what was already a stalwart spot for beers in the neighbourhood. Now? Whether you're on the street-level terrasse or up and at one of the coveted tables on its 30-seat rooftop, you'll be treated to crafty pints and a tidy selection of interesting wines that'll go down even easier when eating from either the brunch or dinner menus that few breweries can hold candles to. This place is best experienced for a full evening turning to night, going from drinks to dining and back to drinks.
Bistro La Franquette: Making love in Westmount
Why? We're always on the lookout for spots that'll make for a good date night, and this bistro from young industry blood out in Westmount is where to take someone out and let the night roll: Book the second service that'll run late into the night, tell the server to let the kitchen cook however they wish to get some off-menu delicacies, pluck at the house sourdough, order up cocktails before dipping into their French and Italian-leaning wine list, wrap it all up with a memorable pastry or two, and make a move on the metro/Uber ride home.
Bar Mamie: Stepping inside the outdoor living room
Why? Coming in hot with all the conviviality of a dinner party held in someone's apartment, this is where we like to dive into a wine of private import wines and get snacking on small plates of charcuterie from Aliments Viens, truffle croque-monsieurs, sausage-stuffed tomatos, eggplant fries, and other delicacies. With no reservations, they've locked in that bar du quartier vibe where you can easily grab and go with a table—something you won't always find so easily (and reliably find quality) in Rosemont.
Club Social P.S. / Elena: Neighbourhood joint with swagger
Why? Sitting pretty inside this salad, pizza, and wine-forward restaurant in Saint-Henri comes recommended no matter the time of year, but we're thinking that trips to its terrasse out back—a bottle or some coffees with pizza or some of their sangwiches in hand—are where it's at during the hotter summer months. While the food and beverages are going to make you feel like you should've worn some better threads, it's a place best enjoyed in the most casual of ways. They'll blind you with kindness here despite the high accolades they've got from critics across the country.
Palco: That next-gen Balconville experience
Why? With its terrasse out back facing a longstanding parkade in Verdun, things can get properly loud and raucous at this bar focusing on speedrail and signature cocktails alike. They'll shuck platters of oysters on the cheap, entertain you with live music, and make you feel like you found a real hidden gem with its hideaway feel. The front terrasse ain't too shabby either, where you can get out and enjoy feeding off the energy of a pedestrianized Wellington Street during peak summer.
Poincaré Chinatown: For all that bubbles and fizzes
Why? When you're perched up on their rooftop in Chinatown, sucking back a glass of one of their curated low-intervention wines, artisanal liquors, and microbrews, you'll feel like royalty here. If the drinks weren't evidence enough, fermentation is the name of the game here, where flavours come with much headier and pungent punches. If that sounds like your bag, you're going to really dig everything, from sourdough and kimchi to seven-day fermented *fries* with confit shallot mayo. Bubbles in the glass, bubbles on the plate.
Café Olimpico: Quinessentially Mile End
Why? What, you thought we'd be all about booze on this list? Wrong: The Furfaro family's Mile End destination for Italian coffee is all you need to see and do to get a slice of life of the neighbourhood, from local eccentrics to starving artists and every boheme socialite in between. This one's a bonus for how it's far from summer specific, as its terrasse curling around its bay windows is full of folks getting caffeinated and carousing from 6 a.m. to midnight daily so long as there's no snow on the ground. Things gets especially busy whenever there's a high-stakes football match to see, but otherwise, it's perfectly pleasant.
Verdun Beach: Oyster shucked and wine drunk
Why? While Parisian guinguettes, old French taverns to grab a cheap glass of wine, have served as inspiration at this Verdun wine-forward bar, it's not quite so déclassé. There's a bit more swagger to it here, especially on either the covered back terrasse or out front surrounding the bar, practically smack dab in the centre of Wellington Street, full of uncorked bottles and shucked oysters under low-hung patio lights late into the night. Don't be shy if your wine knowledge is lacking here either, as the staff is more than able to give you good juice according to your tastes.
Hoogan et Beaufort: Quebec cuisine, all fired up
Why? Chef Marc-André Jetté's wood-fired restaurant in the industrial CPR Angus Shops, old brick buildings from a bygone era of Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1900s, remains one of the more unique places to dine on the cuisine of the province. The terrasse remains one of the more unique places to eat it, spilling out of the restaurant into an expansive dining room across the covered parking lot behind its building. Long lists of fine wines, memorable table d'hôte and à la carte menus of seasonal fare made twice as delicious with the peak flavour of summer's fully developed crops... there may be a lot of fine dining spots in the city that'll be happy to host to outside, but few offer it in this enigmatic of an atmosphere.
Turbo Haüs: An anti-mosh, pro-dance venue
Why? After years of running aboveboard and experiencing not-so-aboveboard punk venues, Sergio da Silva crafted Turbo Haüs according to his own vision: While it's a punk-friendly "cocktail bar that puts on shows for bands we like... (you can) take your tough guy shit somewhere else." That makes the it and its spacious terrasse smack dab in the Quartier Latin a great place to drop in for simple but delicious drinks on the cheaper end, with none of that sideeye crap you get at some spots for being a 'poser'. Now that they've got Café Big Trouble supplying food as well, it's perfect for later-night lovers of rock to grab a drink. No fuss.
Jardin de Panos: For that Greek Island escape
Why? Located in the heart of the Plateau on its iconic cobblestone street of Duluth, this old school BYOB Greek restaurant dating back to 1978 remains one of the greatest—and one of the most understated to some—places to eat classics good and transportive enough to take you out to the blue Aegean Sea. Hyperbolic? Not really: Beyond its dining rooms sprouting trees and open to the sun, the enclosed courtyard with the right bottle and a table loaded down with grilled seafood, tirokafteri, and spanakopita provides a hideaway unlike anything found elsewhere in the city.
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