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A trip to Montreal should include vibrant neighborhoods like Westmount, Saint Henri and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve

The city's less-visited sections offer fine dining, trendy shops and a non-touristy ambience

 

BY MICHAEL KAMINER / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2013, 2:00 AM

 

When New Yorkers return from visiting my hometown of Montreal, they almost always recall the same itinerary. Old Montreal, chain-store-clogged Sainte-Catherine St., Schwartz’s Deli for smoked meat. If they’re daring, maybe the Plateau or Mile End ’hoods uptown.

 

But in neighborhoods outside the commercial core — and off the well-worn tourist track — a different Montreal emerges. Locals outnumber visitors. Boutiques and restaurants cater to neighbors. And up close, you get to savor the zesty flavor, eclectic spirit and delicious contradictions of North America’s most exhilaratingly schizophrenic city.

 

I’ve never understood why Westmount, just northwest of downtown, does not draw more visitors. Low-slung and compact, this moneyed neighborhood boasts a bouquet of tony boutiques and smart cafes. It’s also packed with actual Montrealers, especially during warm weekends, when sidewalks teem with browsers.

 

On the main artery, Sherbrooke St. West, sought-after retailers are planting their flags. WANT Apothecary makes a good starting point. The store offers smartly curated clothes, tchotchkes and skin-care products. Splurge on items like a WANT O’Hare leather tote ($325). Just keep in mind Quebec’s staggering 15% tax on retail purchases.

 

Across the street, jam-packed gift emporium Ben & Tournesol makes a great source for cliché-free homegrown souvenirs, like cruelty-free “leather” products from cult Montreal brand Matt & Nat and porcelain animal-head jewelry holders ($39.95) from Toronto’s IMM Living.

The neighborhood’s coolest cafe is year-old Jonah James. Label-hounds and stroller-pushers congregate over powerful espresso ($3) and massive grilled cheese sandwiches with caramelized onions ($9). For old-school realness, there’s Cavallaro, which consistently serves some of Montreal’s best Italian-style coffee ($2.50) and heaping sandwiches like meatball, chicken and prosciutto ($6.50).

Saint-Henri may border Westmount, but it feels like a different planet. It’s a scrappy southwest district that’s slowly awakening as an indie/foodie destination. Notre-Dame St. is the rapidly evolving heart of Saint-Henri.

 

My late grandfather once knocked on doors in Saint-Henri to collect a dollar a week from mostly French Canadian customers who’d rented furniture. These days, you’re more likely to swing open doors on high-end eateries like Tuck Shop (4662 Rue Notre Dame O.). A Canuck-with-a-twist menu includes luscious grilled pork chop with maple reduction and apple-mustard seed compote ($26).

At Le Smoking Vallee down the street, a raucous bring-your-own-wine spot, smartly dressed hordes dig into clean, classic French fare. There’s mushroom-truffle tart with poached egg ($12) and steak frites ($24).

 

Storefronts here feel more artsy than those in Westmount. On nearby rue St-Jacques, BBAM! Gallery hosts local bands, boundary-pushing exhibits and even brunch. There’s a small, warm cafe too. It’s worth a stop for its Berlin-meets-Brooklyn-back-in-the-day vibe.

Way northeast, on the other side of the city, sits a funhouse-mirror image of tony Westmount. The Francophone stronghold of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve has for years been a low-key residential district. Factories here were the community’s lifeblood.

Fast-forward to 2013: The neighborhood’s been rechristened HoMa. Low rents and proximity to downtown have made the area a magnet for artists and creatives. And it’s become one of Montreal’s most crackingly energetic quarters, with sexy establishments opening on every block of Ontario Street E., the main drag.

 

The two-year-old HoMa pioneer is Hoche Cafe (4299 rue Ontario E.), a high-ceilinged, perpetually packed spot that feels at once hip and homey. Along with kickass coffee from hard-to-find Chicago roaster Metropolis, owner Dominic Roy-Blanchette features a soul-warming lunch special daily, like a recent grilled-cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo ($10.95).

 

What looks like a typical corner store across the street turns out to be Le Bierologue, a six-month-old hot spot dedicated to “100% Quebec” products. That translates as lusty Kruhnen beer (22 ounces, $6.49) from a tiny local microbrewery founded by a Romanian immigrant, or irresistible maple-infused barbecue sauce from Montreal outfit Printemps (7.49).

 

The strip’s newest addition is also its most tempting. Les Gourmandises de Marie Antoinette offers exquisite, refined pastries like picture-perfect macarons ($4) and summery coconut-mango tarts ($6). Top-quality ingredients like Valrhona chocolate and Quebec dairy products help set this place apart. Be warned, it’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

 

Montreal’s not huge, but it is deep. Layers and nuances await discovery, but it takes a little work. The reward of digging in these just-off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods is the discovery of cities within a city. And maybe even a richer understanding of this complicated, captivating capital.

 

IF YOU GO

Fly: Air Canada (aircanada.com) offers nonstop service from La Guardia and Newark, starting around $400 round trip.

 

Stay: Year-old Hotel Zero One (1 Boul. Rene-Levesque E., 514-871-9696, zero1-mtl.com), on downtown’s eastern edge, has clean, modern loft-style rooms. Suites offer sweeping views. From $139.

 

Casa Bianca (4351 Ave. de L'Esplanade, 1-866-775-4431, casabianca.ca), just north of downtown, is an imposing old mansion. Minimalist, all-white rooms feel like nothing else in town.

 

Drive: Montreal’s got a terrific mass-transit system, but visitors can also rent a car at the airport to save time. All major car-rental companies operate at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport; Enterprise (enterprise.com) generally offers the best service and rates, starting around $40 a day.

 

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http://www.nydailynews.com/montreal-westmount-saint-henri-nabes-article-1.1393151

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  • 2 weeks later...
Venez voir Hoche'lag et ses putes ,ses drogués , ses BS!

 

Excusez moi mais C'est bien un quartier ou je ne DIRAIS JAMAIS à un de mes amis américains d'aller voir!

 

Oui il y a un secteur d’Hochelaga qui est extrêmement trash mais il y a également de très beaux coins, excellents restos, marché, parcs, des bijoux architecturaux… mais surtout un mix intéressant de gens. J’avais les mêmes préjugés que toi avant d’y déménager mais j’ai été agréablement surpris! Oui il y a du travail à faire dans ce quartier mais ce n’est pas seulement un ramassis de déchet de la société. :D

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Oui il y a un secteur d’Hochelaga qui est extrêmement trash mais il y a également de très beaux coins, excellents restos, marché, parcs, des bijoux architecturaux… mais surtout un mix intéressant de gens. J’avais les mêmes préjugés que toi avant d’y déménager mais j’ai été agréablement surpris! Oui il y a du travail à faire dans ce quartier mais ce n’est pas seulement un ramassis de déchet de la société. :D

 

En effet, ça change beaucoup, et rapidement! De plus, l'Espace pour la vie (Stade, Biodôme, Planétarium, Jardin botanique et Insectarium) est dans HoMa, et c'est un incontournable pour n'importe quel touriste!

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