Where to stay, eat and drink for a retro Montréal experience

Poutine and Burger - Gibeau Orange Julep
JP Karwacki

JP Karwacki

This article was published on March 3, 2023.

In a city that’s rich with history, Montréal’s retro restaurants, bars, and hotels offer a look into what eating, drinking, and living in the city was like way back when. Classic diners that have survived over half a century, modern addresses with designs paying homage to the past, new businesses inspired by nostalgia—each provide a unique, relaxing, and comfortingly familiar experience despite coming from another time and place. Here’s what to eat, drink, and where to stay with an extra dash of the past in Montréal.

Gibeau Orange Julep

Snacks from the past

When it comes to getting a taste of something retro in Montréal, the city’s diners and snack bars are among the best places to do so. Many trace their history back decades upon decades, and they all retain designs, fixtures, and menu items that have remained throughout that time.

 

Some of the best examples include addresses like giant spheric orange roadside attraction Gibeau Orange Julep which dates back to 1932, and still serves its original recipe for its namesake orange drink; the retro feel here is reinforced when mid-century car enthusiasts roll up with their prides and joys during summertime evenings from May to September. Similar snack bar experiences can be found at the Dairy Queen locations in Île-Perrot, Côte-Saint-Paul, and the Plateau which date back several decades, although their menus have stayed current.

 

Montréal restaurants where it’s retro

Diners are among the most retro of Montréal’s restaurants: There’s Greenspot in Saint-Henri, a family-owned greasy spoon known for its hot dogs, fries and burgers since it first opened in 1947 and it still bears original signage on its walls; Paul Patates in Pointe-Saint-Charles is rich with the original décor of steel tables and swivelling barstools either from or reminiscent of its opening year of 1958; and local legends like Beauty’s has been open since 1942, and being there feels like you’re back in time eating shoulder to shoulder with locals.

 

 

Mimi & Jones

 

Then there Montréal restaurants that offer a retro experience through their look, feel, and taste while having been established more recently. Jukebox Burgers, for example, was created in 2010 but is among one of the city’s best places to enjoy the vinyl seating and Formica tabletops of classic Americana eating (and it’s got the menu to match). It’s a similar affair at La Petite Dînette, where design features like checkerboard tiles, chrome, and neon give a retro feel while the restaurant’s menu is made up of dishes like Korean pogos, poutine cones, and ramen shakes, as well as the vegan diner Mimi and Jones where they cook up plant-based takes on classic diner eats and then some.

Drinks with a dash of nostalgia

When it comes to retro bars in Montréal, few if any will style their establishments in ways that recall different moments in history outright. Many cocktails from long ago are made everywhere today, but when it comes to design, many spots will have their own unique style to them.

 

The Plateau bar North Star Pinball is one place where patrons can enjoy vintage pinball games alongside pints of beer and a towering selection of vinyl records DJed by the bartenders. A nearby neighbour of theirs, Le Darling, has a distinct design of smooth wood and plush leather seats that feels as though it comes from a time between Victorian steampunk and the 1930s.

 

Many of Groupe Barroco’s bars have a retro inspiration to them, such as the French discotheque interior of Atwater Cocktail Club and its chic diner attaché Foiegwa that sports its own mid-century diner features; the cocktail bar Milky Way exudes touches from the 1980’s and 90’s thanks to its vaporwave features; and their newest bar Bon Délire, opened in February 2023, is a mash-up of Americana and old-school features unique to Montréal, such as pawn shop decals on their street-facing window.

 

 

 

Caffettiera

 

Those looking for a place to grab a drink with a bit more bombast might enjoy the colours, lights, and decorations of bars like La Petite-Patrie’s Snowbird Tiki Bar, which is among the city’s top places to experience the best of tiki culture’s tropical flavours both in drinks and décor dating back to the 1930’s. If you prefer something a bit more contemporary but no less tropical, bars like The Farsides lean into the nostalgia of the 1980’s and 90’s with a combination of ‘Thaiwaiian’ drinks and food, pop culture sealed inside their epoxy bar top, basketball court markings on the floor, and graffitied walls.

 

Finally, for anyone looking for non-alcoholic retro beverages, the 1990’s-inspired Italian café Bar Caffettiera offers coffee roasted in Rome made with Vittorio Arduino piston machines alongside snacks.

Hotels with retro history

There are plenty of hotels with rich stories to luxuriate during your stay, but some are especially geared towards those looking for a stay that has a more nostalgic feel to them. Among the top options in Montréal are places like Uville Hotel Montréal, where each guestroom is themed with their own exclusive stories from the 1960s and 70s thanks to photos and films from the National Film Board of Canada.

Alternatively, there’s the Hyatt Centric Ville-Marie Montréal, where Montréal’s rich history of railroads and railway stations and travel are embraced with slick, modern designs by the local designers from Ivy Studio found in its guestrooms and lobby as well as the hotel’s signature restaurant Cartier Arms.

JP Karwacki

JP Karwacki

JP Karwacki is a Montréal-based writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Time Magazine, the Montreal Gazette, National Post, Time Out, NUVO Magazine, and more. Having called the city home for over a decade and a half, he regularly focuses on spreading the good word about the amazing things to eat, drink and do in Montréal. One half raconteur and the other flâneur (with just a dash of boulevardier), when he wasn’t working on the frontlines of the city's restaurants and bars, he spent his time thinking about, reading about and writing about restaurants and bars.

 

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