20/07/2023 Third Hour/Ώρα Τρίτη - Since moving to Montreal I have been pleasantly surprised at the rich tapestry of high-quality coffee places. “Third wave coffee” as it exists in North America is not something I had encountered before and since my first encounters with it at the now-defunct Pikolo on du parc & sherbrooke (may She rest in peace), I have been obsessed. What follows is a non-comprehensive list of the more notable cafés that I have gone to, that is, the ones that I have gone to enough to have an opinion about. I will certainly expand this list with addenda as I gain familiarity with more cafés.
Unrelated but as I sit here writing this on the Myriade terrasse on Mont Royal & Clark, a family with three small children just walked by and the three kids were munching on large yellow onions as though they were apples???? What on earth is happening

On with the list!

Espresso Bar 1720 (Côte-des-neiges, Queen Mary & Earnscliffe)
Good coffee! A comfortable coffee shop on Queen Mary Road in Côte-des-neiges, with a storefront terrasse that allows ample people watching. The pastries generally leave something to be desired, but if you come early enough in the day you’ll still be able to grab one of their delicious focaccia sandwiches. The clientele tends to be aged, but this doesn’t significantly negatively affect the vibe, and it allows me to feel myself the most fertile and breedable bitch in the establishment. The baristas are nice but the dude who founded the place and is often working there gives me an ick. Wannabe hipster looking dude with beard and tattoos, you can tell he wants to be cool, he wants to be cool so bad, but he’s a cop, he’s a cop and there’s nothing he can ever do about that and no matter how many tattoos he gets and how long the beard grows he will ALWAYS be a cop. He wants to be chill but you can tell he has a cop heart. Also he made himself the logo of the place which is a red flag.

PROS: good coffee and atmosphere. Good bathroom situation. Lots of natural light inside and a nice loft area, which is always nice!

CONS: owner has questionable vibes

HOW TO IMPROVE: the three young identical italian girls he employs should rise up and force him out, also the interior decor is a touch drab for my tastes. Also the “apple juice coffee” is an abomination before God that needs to be 86ed with extreme prejudice.

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Myriade Mont Royal (Plateau, Mont Royal & Clark)
The garden of earthly delights. Heaven on earth. Coffee at Myriade is my lifeblood, my eucharist, my raison d’être, my libidinal sublimation, my nectar and ambrosia. It’s better than sex and by a significant margin, though both typically end with me on the toilet nursing a slight soreness. Seats probably close to 50 people, 30 without the terrasse. The coffee is excellent as is to be expected from a Myriade location, the pastries from Hof Kelsten around the corner do however come with a significant markup. The interior decor is fairly standard weef-industrial (”Weef” -, pretty normal for a Montreal cafe. Their coffee grinder is loud as fuck so be aware that it can get a bit overwhelming in the auditory department. The baristas are super friendly and sweet once you establish a bit of a regular status, especially the two gay looking girls that work there, you’ll typically find one or the other there most days (however this is the plateau so they very well might be straight. they look fruity tho).

I also want to extend my deepest gratitude to the tall gay-looking one with the long hair. Recently as I sat down to take my coffee I accidentally released the full force of my groggy morning grumpiness onto the tall glass that held my moka and projectile launched the entire coffee all over my front and subsequently onto the floor. She was so fucking nice about it. She made me another one for free, told me not to worry about it and go home to make sure the coffee didn’t stain my nice skirt, and that she would take care of it. Now me personally, if I was a barista in that situation, I would probably have used my espresso tamper to beat the customer’s skull into a fine red mist, so I have to applaud the professionality and kindness with which she treated me. Myriade barista if you somehow see this, thank you!

PROS: Great coffee, kind staff. Vibe is immaculate especially on the terrasse, great spot for people watching. When I’m at Myriade drinking my coffee on the terrasse, all my worries and troubles disappear and everything is good with the world. Extremely clean gender neutral bathroom situation.

CONS: inside can get a bit cramped sometimes, also lots of bitches with laptops, which significantly wilts the vibe. Myriade Mont Royal is also renowned for having the worst fucking aux in history. I’m so serious gym music has NOTHING on the Myriade aux. You will be left scratching your head as to why Hindustani Classical Music follows a dirge-like acoustic cover of Dancing Queen, followed by some of the worst free jazz you have ever heard in your life. Sometimes it’s a vibe killer, other times it’s just so bad you have to laugh.

HOW TO IMPROVE: Again, the inside is a bit squished, so I honestly think they could do well to remove some of the tables. Fire the bald man baby with the glasses. You know who I’m talking about. He disrupts my chakras. Also bring back the old wifi, the new one sucks.

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Côte Café (Concordia quarter, Chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges & Summerhill)
If Myriade Mt. Royal is the great basilica cathedral for the MTL pious who lead their life in coffee, then Côte is the private, contemplative atmosphere of a small chapel. A brand new project started by a small group of Concordia theatre graduates, Côte is a cozy spot tucked away in an old carriage house on Chémin de la Côte-des-Neiges. Aesthetically it is unrivalled by any other place in Montréal. The lovely mural which adorns its southern wall is undoubtedly its most eye-catching feature, grabbing your attention as you walk up Côte-des-Neiges. The terrasse seats six, maybe eight at a stretch, at individual two-person tables under hanging potted plants. This limited seating means you usually get to take your coffee without being disturbed. The inside is once again immaculately decorated. The seating consists of a 3-4 person bench connected to to the wall and covered in cushions - a cozy coffee nook. Exposed wooden reinforcing beams on the ceiling remain from the original construction of the building, giving the interior a touch of the rustic. And the coffee is really very good, rivalling that of the more established local chains like Myriade and Faro. The location receives a lot of foot traffic, but generally only residents of the area or people going to work up at the hospital. As a result, this really has the feeling of a neighbourhood haunt - the baristas know the majority of the customers if not by name then by sight, and always take a moment to chat with them while they prepare the drinks. I cherish my regular status - I am a known quantity to the 5 identical early 30s bearded hipster men who run this place.

PROS: Some of the nicest and most competent baristas of any cafe I’ve tried in Montreal so far. Excellent coffee, excellent atmosphere, I am always BURSTING with excitement to go to Côte.

CONS: Can take a bit longer for them to make the coffee than other places, but for one thing there’s typically only one barista working at a time, and for another they literally just started this place like a month ago, so I expect it to get better as they grow and adapt. Also: THERE IS NO TOILET. Keep this in mind! Espresso with no easy access to a toilet is like entrapment.

HOW TO IMPROVE: guys, you need to cool it with the markup on the Hof Kelsten pastries. Same shit as Myriade, but ridiculously more expensive. A pastry at Côte turns a $4 coffee into a $13 breakfast. Same pastry at Myriade would turn a $4 coffee into an $8 breakfast. I’m watching you.

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Café Olimpico Centre Ville (Downtown, Boulevard Robert Bourassa & Rue Ste-Catherine)
No other place in Montreal makes me turn up my nose faster. Olimpico on Robert Bourassa is a mid cafe with mid coffee and the worst vibes you have ever felt in your life. The interior decor is smoking lounge chic, fairly cozy but nothing special, and seats maybe 15 at a stretch. The coffee is mid. The espresso tends to be bitter and over-extracted, it can be fine in a big milky espresso drink but I would not order it on its own.

None of the people who work there have a soul. It’s just a rotating cast of AI-generated male manipulators who look like they’re trying too hard to be hot, like they’re about to post a thirst trap on tiktok that’s destined for one of the last YouTube channels that still posts cringe compilations. Olimpico’s location in the heart of downtown attracts it the worst of the worst of clientele: execs in suits, stock market bros who “have something big cooking and just need investors”, and students of the Schulich School of Music. The pastries are pleasant but overly decadent. All in all the café has a homophobic atmosphere and is generally best avoided.

PROS: In the spirit of the original Olimpico location in Mile End, Olimpico Centre Ville is open late, until 9pm.

CONS: makes me want to throw up

HOW TO IMPROVE: Some places are beyond (and not worth) saving.

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Humble Lion (McGill Ghetto, Sherbrooke & McGill College)
Overall a very nice experience! Sort of mid espresso, but beyond that the drinks are typically nice. A big plus for me is that they have white hot chocolate, which is a nostalgia drink for me that reminds me of growing up in Germany. Humble Lion is one of the few places where I will actually eat the scones, they’re very good and fresh every day. I especially recommend the apple cinnamon scone. The interior decor is standard, unexciting. Great place however to sneak away for a coffee between classes, and has now held the crown for the best coffee and café experience in the McGill Ghetto for over a year since the tragic demise of Pikolo on Du Parc and Sherbrooke.

PROS: good coffee, good vibes

CONS: not much seating and due to its proximity with McGill it’s often completely packed. Also, some of the baristas do have icky vibes. Only the male ones actually now that I think of it.

HOW TO IMPROVE: actually I don’t really know what they can do. Just make better coffee? It would be nice if they could somehow reduce the frenzied atmosphere but it’s just too close to a big university for that to happen. Humble Lion is doing alright.

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Myriade Golden Square Mile (Concordia Quarter, Mackay & Ste Catherine)
I think this might be the original Myriade location, and I include it as a contrast with the Mont Royal location because really it shows how much the stuff that is not the coffee matters. The coffee is totally fine here, like any other Myriade, and it even has one up on the Mont Royal location because it doesn’t have that god-awful aux. But the vibe is rancid. The baristas are mean and there isn’t wifi.

PROS: it’s Myriade. You get the quality you expect of a Myriade

CONS: Horrid vibes

HOW TO IMPROVE: have the entire staff executed by firing squad and transplant in the baristas from the recently closed Dominion Square location.

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Toledo (Plateau, Mont Royal & Saint Denis)
Toledo is one of those bakery-café places. As a bakery, it’s really good, with a large selection of very nice sourdough breads, decent pastries, efficient service. The coffee is nothing special, fairly standard. The vibes of the sitting area are horrible. I don’t know why it’s so bad. Something about the people that go there intersects with the way the place is set up to produce a uniquely bad vibe. First of all, this is one of those places that prioritises aesthetically pleasing furniture over comfort and functionality. Both are important, but one should never come at the expense of the other. The majority of the seating is a large wrap-around bench without tables - bitch where am I supposed to put my coffee? Then there’s a large table that seats like 10 people which SOUNDS good except there aren’t chairs, it’s just a large bench. You either have to scoot in from the end, which isn’t always possible if there are people sitting already, or you’ll have to swing your legs over the bench which is a humiliating display of awkward clambering in which you are more than likely to knock things over and piss off the people around you. Finally there are like two sofas with adjacent tables which make up the only decent seating in the entire place. But once you finally do manage to get yourself settled and comfortable, you’ll notice that you feel EXTREMELY observed. Again, I don’t know if this is because of the makeup of the clientele or because of the way the seating is set up, but at Toledo I just feel like everyone is staring at me all the time. Something about it feels very exposed. Overall a good bakery, but I would take my coffee to go.

PROS: good baked goods

CONS: rancid vibes

HOW TO IMPROVE: overhaul the entire seating area

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If you've read this far, good on you! I hope you will all find this enlightening and life-changing. More reviews certainly will follow.

Tomorrow I fly back to France. Perhaps a travel blog will be in order?


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