The culinary guide to Montréal's Gay Village

Daniel Baylis

Visitors coming to Montréal for the annual Pride festivities will inevitably tackle a gamut of fun-filled festival activities. But as you groove around the city, don’t forget about one of life’s most basic needs: food.

Montréal has an international reputation for being a great food city, and the Gay Village — ground zero for Pride activities — is not exempt from this repute. In the past, the relatively affordable rents of the neighbourhood have enabled burgeoning restaurateurs to set up shop and experiment with a receptive queer community. While the Gay Village continues to evolve, what has remained consistent is a decent density of great food options.

From refined French fare to affordable sweet treats, here’s how to swallow your pride — à la Montréal.

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For haute cuisine (without haute prices)

Since arriving on the scene a decade ago, sophisticated French bistro O’Thym has become thefrontrunner among a competitive roster of “Bring Your Own Wine” restaurants in Montréal. Over the years Chef Noé Lainesse has found his stride with Canadian ingredients—bison medallions from Outaouais, beef bavette from Prince Edward Island and duck from Knowlton— while also eliminating gluten from most sauces. The architecture of most plates is simple yet artistic: seared pieces of meat served atop a healthy amount of vivid, Québec-sourced vegetables. Weekend brunch becomes more experimental, introducing international flair (think Indian-inspired veggie thalis and ginger-apple Spanish churros). Breakfast traditionalists can still get fried eggs — and, yes, they’re organic. Best make reservations. – 1112 De Maisonneuve Boulevard East

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For the crowd-pleasing menu

Saloon is the Neil Patrick Harris of Montréal restaurants—terribly attractive with a healthy dose of campiness. During the summer months, the stylish parlour spills onto the street, playing host to one of the most sought-after terraces in the Gay Village. With an evening DJ and the most comprehensive martini menu north of NYC—the bistro has served well over a half-million martinis!—voracious visitors are guaranteed an arousing atmosphere and a damn fine cocktail. The mammoth menu offers artisanal pizzas, burgers meaty enough for cowboys and a heap of sensible vegetarian options. Basically, everyone will feel gay (as in homo and happy). – 1333 Sainte Catherine Street East

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For the wood-fire oven pizza pies

Fetching and self-assured, you’d never guess that Magpie is a newbie in the Gay Village culinary scene. Start your meal with a Magpie Caesar, spiced with Frank’s RedHot and rimmed with Montréal’s legendary Schwartz’s steak spice. Then dig into the comprehensive list of pizzas. The boulettes de viande pizza is the definitive crowd favourite. Why? Probably because of a time-honoured relationship between gay men and meatballs. Culinary-curious queers (or vegetarians) should select the aubergine — with eggplant, caramelized onions, béchamel sauce and BBQ-spiced almonds, it pushes the boundaries of what pizza can be. Chef Federico Ghergo also concocts house-made pasta each day. Ask for Sophie’s section and just try to not fall in love with her. – 1237 Amherst Street

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For the Haitian vibes

A new edition to the Gay Village culinary scene, Agrikol is a oh-so-sexy bistro and wine bar with a focus on Haitian food, drink and culture. If you’re in a group, order a selection of main dishes to share, such as chevre avec legumes (goat with vegetables) and a whole roasted fish. Music nerds take note: Agrikol was opened by Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne (who herself has Haitian roots). – 1844 Amherst Street

For the vintage environment

The antique-hunting lesbian demographic will swoon over the vintage décor of diner Comptoir 21 (picture a long, polished wooden bar and walls adorned with mismatched photo frames). Ostensibly a “fish & chips” joint, the shipping container-sized diner also offers one of the best beef burgers in the Gay Village. If you haven’t yet sampled the local poutine — French fries and cheese curds soaked in gravy — this is your big moment. And while you’re exploring other Montréal neighbourhoods, look for Comptoir 21 locations in Verdun and the Mile End. – 1117 Sainte Catherine Street East

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For the fragrant Vietnamese street food

Vietnamese-born and Montréal-raised chef Phong Thach serves up one of the cornerstones of southeast Asian culinary culture: affordable street food. Portions are small but shareable at Le Red Tiger, so order at least two items per person. (Tip: pancakes are the crowd pleaser.) Great food. Great drinks. Great people. – 1201 Maisonneuve Boulevard East

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For the updated soul food

Located directly across the street from the iconic CBC building on René-Lévesque Boulevard, Kitchenette is the premiere lunch eatery for busy broadcasters. When the evening arrives, the bistro clientele switches to a more neighbourly cast of characters escaping the humming terraces of the Gay Village to wander the one block south for more intimate dining. – 1353 René Lévesque Boulevard East

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For the perfect pick-up

The Pride movement is about ending discrimination against the LGBT community. When it comes to coffee, however, discrimination is a perfectly acceptable behaviour. In the gaybourhood’s gaggle of cookie-cutter corporate cafes, Pourquoi Pas is a king among coffee commoners. Using single original beans, owners Max and Ben serve the requisite list of espresso-based drinks, each presented with imaginative flair. Over-caffeinated queers can opt for the homemade iced orange blossom tea — concocted from a Camellia Sinensis tea blend. The artwork on the walls changes monthly, and might just make a perfect Montréal souvenir. – 1447 Amherst Street

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De Farine et d’eau fraîche

It’s perfectly acceptable if you can’t correctly pronounce the name of this handsome gourmet bakery: De Farine et d'eau fraîche. Also perfectly acceptable is ordering a brownie, a raspberry chocolate chip muffin, a kitten-shaped cookie and all the macarons that a drag queen could possibly carry in her purse. After all, get your fill of authentic French pâtisseries while you can. Turn your visit into lunch with a smoked salmon sandwich on a Montréal-style bagel and a cup of organic mint tisane — served in a fine-bone china teacup with a saucer, of course. (Romance tip: Before you leave, buy a bisous cookie and offer it to your official Pride crush.) – 1701 Amherst Street

For the whimsical interior design

The freshest café in the Gay Village — literally, it just opened — offers a selection of stimulating beverages served in a stimulating environment. The décor is amusing, as is the name (La Graine Brûlée): “graine” translates to both “grain” and “penis.” – 921 Sainte Catherine Street East