Montréal’s hidden bars: speakeasies and other secret hideaways
An enchanted forest in a downtown basement. A Japanese bar hidden behind a grey door on the Main. A Tiki bar tucked into the depths of Chinatown. Montréal keeps things interesting by forcing you to hunt for some of its most unique spots. Here’s a guide to the city’s secret bars, revealed one neighbourhood at a time.
Plateau / Mile End
The Godzilla of MTL speakeasies
The big tastes of Japan tucked into a hidden hotspot right off the high street. Carefully hidden at the corner of Rachel Street and Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Big in Japan serves up a tasteful ambiance and tasty cocktails made from Japanese spirits. It’s a subdued spot that’s perfect for a romantic rendez-vous.
Cutting-edge on a cost-cutting budget
The definition of a neighbourhood spot: cheap, cheerful, and self-catering. This place would be easy to miss. Set slightly back on Rachel Street, A Bar Le A is one of those casual and affordable nooks that you and your friends will want to keep coming back to. Wondering what makes it really unique? You can bring your own food or even order from a nearby restaurant. For real!
Diamond in the rough
The meeting point between Cuba and Morocco in the heart of the Mile End. Previously known to a select handful of locals as Le Bar Sans Nom (the bar with no name), The Emerald is home to two distinct environments. In front, it’s 1950s Havana, while the back of the establishment takes you to upscale Marrakesh. It goes without saying that cocktails dominate the offer here, and the stylish servers balance efficiency with sophistication. This is a great destination in the Mile End!
Get some shade
For a third time running, Maïs restaurant’s pop-up wine bar is back for Montréal’s sun-kissed summer days. Ensconced in the back alley east of Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Parasol features yummy little barbecue dishes to go with cocktails, beers and a small selection of wines that change according to the owners’ inclinations. Refreshing!
His Royal Highness
Located below the popular Rouge Gorge wine bar in the Plateau-Mont-Royal district, the elegant Le Royal is a speakeasy bar featuring a cozy and relaxed atmosphere. Here, sumptuous cocktails, sparkling wines and champagnes flow in a musical ambiance and decor reminiscent of the 1920s and ideal for an intimate tête-à-tête.
Jazz veiled in the clandestine
Nestled on the second floor of 3481 boulevard Saint-Laurent, Bootlegger, L'Authentique offers a warm and mellow atmosphere in which to savour primarily whisky-based signature cocktails. Or sample the special selection of hundreds of brands of scotch, Irish, rye and bourbon whisky. Complementing the laid-back vibe is the eclectic variety of hip-hop/funk, jazz, blues and soul musicians who often take to the stage.
Little Italy and Villeray
A touch of Berlin on the St. Lawrence
A modern German beer hall tucked away in the warehouses of Mile Ex. AlexandraPlatz takes its inspiration from Berlin’s beer halls, and this summer pop-up bar features industrial décor punctuated by a bunch of long wooden tables populated by neighbourhood cuties. Though it’s hardly a secret anymore, this place is still a favourite with locals. Stop in to see Montréal-style art of living at its finest.
Under the tropical sun
Just behind Idole bar on Plaza St-Hubert is a brand-new hideaway that’s very tropical-vibey: the Snowbird Tiki Room. Open Thursday to Saturday, it’s a great spot for you and a tiny crew to do away with the winter dullsies by sipping fruity cocktails served in sculpted “Inca” or “pineapple” glasses.
Quartier des spectacles
Design-savvy rooftop dining
A view every bit as good as the food – and what a view it is. Located up on the top floor of the Société des Arts Technologiques, Labo Culinaire offers a seasonal menu centred on local ingredients and a list of natural wines. Its rooftop patio is one of the city’s nicest—and most popular—in summer.
The walls have eyes
See and be seen at one of Montréal’s best kept secrets. (But don’t forget the password…) Le 4e Mur keeps their address strictly under wraps. Want to find out where it is? Step 1: Become a member to get on their list (and to have the exact location revealed to you). Step 2: Challenge your brain to find the brick that activates the door. Once you go down all the stairs, you’ll be rewarded with burlesque performances and a Parisian-inspired patio that’s open year-round!
The Secret Garden (with booze)
A hidden leafy paradise of a patio amid the hustle-bustle of downtown. Nobody would ever guess that the massive Pub Le Sainte-Élisabeth has one of the city’s greenest and most tranquil hidden patios in downtown Montréal. This is the perfect spot for early evening bevvies before you venture into the nightlife on Saint-Catherine Street.
Another hidden bar has made its mark with its signature cocktails, sakes, private import sakes, Japanese whisky, tequilas and mezcals. Head to Ryoshi, a fish shack that makes traditional Japanese snacks, and right behind it you’ll find this Japanese treasure!
At the heart of the business district in the basement of Tiradito is Club Pelicano, the newest addition to Montréal’s bar scene. With its Art déco style inspired by the Piscine Molitor in Paris, Pelicano lets patrons do a little time travel with an upbeat modern twist. Private wine imports, house cocktails, delicious snacks and a DJ welcome you to step back into a 1930s- and ‘40s-inspired ambiance while moving to Afro, disco and even electro beats. Eclectic and oh-so pretty!
A secret bar where the pineapple falls
You want Batman? Use the Bat signal. For a Chinatown twist on tiki bar follow the neon pineapple. If you want to find Le Mal Nécessaire, look for the neon pineapple, then head down into the deepest depths of Chinatown. Inside, Mexican styling meets Tiki cocktails and cheap Chinese tapas. You have to see it to believe it!
The hidden permafrost down below
Discover a whole new definition to freezer burn in Old Montréal’s most secretive bar. The Coldroom truly lives up to its name, set up in a real 19th century coldroom hidden behind a black door at the corner of St-Vincent Street and St-Amable. Need a clue on its whereabouts? #followtheduck
The Clark Kent of Old Montréal bars
A nightly transformation turns back the clock to prohibition-era surprises behind the hidden door. Le Speakeasy leads a double life. It’s a deluxe sandwich shop by day and gentleman’s watering hole by night. From 5 p.m. onward, look for the red light over the refrigerator door. A retro space with a rough-around-the-edges, gangster-chic appeal awaits!
Behind the velvet rope
An Old Montréal cellar transforms into a world-class nightclub where the beats don’t quit. Some of Montréal’s steamiest soirées happen at Velvet Speakeasy in the basement of Auberge St-Gabriel. This happening club attracts beautiful babes in search of high-heeled shoes, tight clothes and a hazy recollection of the night.
Now we’re flyjin
A clubbing night out that’s equal parts educational, exclusive, and off the hook.The sophisticated Asian pub Flyjin turns into a high-energy club at 11 p.m. They have a wide selection of Japanese whiskey, sake, wine and exclusive beers.
Le Boho is a cross between the swanky stylings of Florida and the sunny energy of Cuba. Tucked away at the back of the Venice restaurant on Saint-François Xavier Street, it serves fruity cocktails in an ambiance that’s all palm-tree-breezy and chic. The perfect getaway on a hot evening.
A secret bar inside another secret bar? That’s what Venice restaurant cooked up when it designed Clandestino, an offshoot of Boho. Go there to sip tequila- and mezcal-based cocktails made from one of their 100 private import bottles in a cozy/chic setting. Caliente!
Nhâu Bar is neatly hidden in the new Hà restaurant in Old Montréal. Relax in an elegant ambiance decorated with pretty paper lanterns and enjoy Asian-inspired cocktails and exquisite Vietnamese finger foods from the Hà restaurant.
Tucked away inside the Bistro-Brasserie Les Sœurs Grises, Le Couvent is another little hidden secret on the former site of the Grey Nuns congregation, founded by Marguerite d’Youville in the 18th century. Will you taste the Forbidden Fruit (a cocktail made from calvados, Laphroaig 10 years old, lemon and sparkling wine)? A sinful new treat to discover in Old Montréal on McGill Street.
Good trouble in the Henhouse
Don’t be a chicken and head downstairs to Griffintown’s newest hidden gem. Tucked away in the basement of beloved fried chicken joint Bird Bar, Le HENDEN is Kimberly Lallouz’s latest development. A lengthy, carefully curated cocktail list offers the perfect after chicken dinner (or before, or both for that matter) aperitif.
In Deep Waters
Open Wednesday through Saturday until 3 a.m., King Crab Bar and Lounge is located on the lower level of Grinder’s little brother, the new Makro Pêcheries Restaurant on Notre-Dame West. With its subdued yet glitzy jet-set vibe, it’s the perfect spot to cap off your evening after enjoying a succulent meal in trendy Griffintown.
Quartiers du canal
Down the back alley to luxury
First appearances can be deceiving: Past this back lane door awaits a golden paradise. Just a stone’s throw from the trendy Foiegwa diner at the back of an alley is the intimate—you might even say sensual—Atwater Cocktail Club brimming with luxurious vegetation, welcoming bench seats and mirrors on the ceiling. The menu features 450 types of alcohol and 16 signature cocktails, all served in a flamboyant ambiance. Look out!
Golden Square Mile
An ultra-stylish triple threat
A tailor, a barber, and a mixologist walk into a bar, but it’s no joke. The seductive Maison Cloakroom speakeasy is hidden in a high-end menswear shop in the heart of the Golden Square Mile. Both chic and confidential, it only seats 25 people. If you’re looking for an even more intimate setting, ask to sit in their private alcove. The bartender will happily make your cocktail just the way you like it or offer you one of their latest inspirations. Immerse yourself in this modern and elegant throwback to the turn of the 1900s.
The Enchanted Forest underground. Dine amongst the trees in a secretive basement wooded setting unlike any other. Soubois is an enchanting environment that’s also the best place to take the pulse of downtown Montréal. Imagine a bistro featuring local food, a bar and a nightclub, all within an underground forest. Thursday through Saturday, this place shakes until 3 a.m. Magic!
Adventure à l’orange
Literally hidden away in a cave below the Soubois, L’Orangerie speakeasy can only be accessed via the adjacent alleyway. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact the establishment directly.
Laure Juilliard, blogger
Laure is a writer, community manager and the founder of the blog Une Parisienne à Montréal. She’s also an epicurean globetrotter who’s always on the hunt for innovative concepts and must-try restaurants. In 2016, she co-founded Slow Journeys, a webzine that focuses on ecotourism and design.
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