Mile Ex Montreal: 15 Reasons Why You Should Go…Now!
There’s something riveting about taking part in the transformation of an emerging neighbourhood. Too often, we’re only privy to our city’s secret spots once they’re out of the bag and crowded. The quasi-recently dubbed Mile Ex however, is currently in the midst of its transformation, and still has that twinge of excitement and mystery to it. Officially called the “Alexandra-Marconi” district, Mile Ex spans Parc avenue to Clark street, between Jean-Talon and the train tracks.
Take a look at the list below to find out why you should go be part of the buzz.
1. Bar Alexandraplatz
Nestled between a semi-vacant parking lot and Mile Ex’s emblematic industrial buildings, Bar Alexandraplatz is like a backyard party you can show up to without invitation, every single (summer) day. This homegrown feel may be attributed to its garage door entrance, a “cash only” policy, its lack of a phone number, and the fact that it opens only for what their website calls the “beautiful season”. The seating arrangements, cafeteria-esque tables inside, and festive orange picnic tables outside, give off that pulled-it-out-of-the-basement look, tricking visitors into feeling right at home (or maybe they truly are). With a taco stand outside and a food truck spot across the street, you can get your gourmet on while you bask in the magical nook that is Alexandraplatz.
6731 Esplanade ave.
A restaurant that describes itself as serving food that is like “wood, rock, and wind” while seeking to be an ode to simplicity, Manitoba is like a culinary oasis amid the concrete dwellings that surround it. In this way, its unique concept is right at home in this new version of the Marconi-Alexandra neighbourhood. Serving all fresh, local ingredients and compelling dishes you won’t find anywhere else, this joint is becoming an increasingly popular attraction of the Mile Ex, slowly chipping away at its “industrial only” status.
271 St-Zotique W.
3. Le Ballpark
Photo: Le Ballpark
A spot on the periphery, Ballpark is one of the lesser homegrown things the Mile Ex has to offer. Calling themselves a “restaurant de boullettes”, which translates to “ball restaurant”, meatballs are the main attraction at this “park”. Fun cocktails, poutine, and a classy minimalist decor, Le Ballpark is a nice stop for those wanting quality in the Mile Ex without getting too… quirky.
4. Parc des Gorilles
Physically, Parc des Gorilles is pretty vacant right now. It’s a patch of rubble with concrete blocks on it. Sounds inviting, doesn’t it? It may not be a park to spend the afternoon in, but since it’s located on Beaubien and St-Urbain, you’re likely to walk past it on your way around. What makes the seemingly unmemorable rectangle interesting is that there is currently a strong community incentive to convert it into a green, neighborhood friendly space. The city of Montreal is on board, and in the next year or so we should see a true “Parc des Gorilles” rise from its ashes like a phoenix. This status of active mutation is what makes the spot emblematic of the Mile Ex right now, with its transition from an industrial area to urban, community oriented neighbourhood.
Beaubien & St-Urbain
5. Dispatch Coffee
If you haven’t yet ventured to their St-Zotique location, you may know Dispatch Coffee from their “food” truck, or from their location on McGill campus. Their Mile Ex spot takes the cake though, as it doubles as a roastery. That means that you can come enjoy the aroma of their judiciously curated coffee selection, in the freshest way possible. The decor is sleek: a matte, deep black colour drapes the counters, solid white stools line tables, and concrete floors are paired with industrial style high ceilings. Dispatch also has a front terrace in the summer, allowing for a taste of the unique Mile Ex terrace experience: instead of busy streets, a Mile Ex terrace keeps the visual allure of populated space with its large buildings, but maintains the quietness of a more residential neighbourhood.
267 St-Zotique W.
6. Café Guerrero
Located inside what’s sure to become an icon of the neighborhood, the Esplanade Loft Project building, Cafe Guerrero’s mission is simple: delicious, affordable, healthy food for everyone. The menu changes daily, a sure sign of a passionate chef. Their website explains that he refers to Guerrero as “the shop”, which leads to believe that each sandwich you’ll eat here is, indeed, a labour of love.
7. The Street Art
With the arrival of Mural Fest, Montreal could be said to have officially embraced the increasingly mainstream street art movement. But The Main isn’t the only street showcasing these free-of-charge urban expositions. Many alleyways and areas drape themselves in murals and decals, and businesses employ urban artists as their interior (or exterior) designers. The Mile Ex is no exception to this emerging liberation of street art. Of course, “tags” are rarely welcome, and one longtime local states that “it’s starting to look like New York in the eighties”. But balancing out these markings, the Mile Ex is also home to many politically minded, breathtaking murals. You’ll find odes to indigenous roots, current issues, and maybe even a certain Stephen Harper petting a laser beam eyed cat. Take your Dispatch coffee for a stroll and find these visual treats.
8. Dépanneur Le Pick-Up
Perhaps the most famous “dépanneur” in the city, Le Pick-Up resonates the Alexandraplatz intimacy of stumbling into a neighbour’s private event. But this time, you’re stumbling into a half restaurant, half convenience store. What? The combination may sound strange, but thats’s exactly what gives Le Pick-up its homey makeshift character. The “couple of tables strewn around a store” look gives the impression that patrons would do anything for their food, including post up in some last-minute seating arrangements. In addition to their few tables, you can eat at a diner style bar adjacent to a tropical palm tree mural. You’ll be wedged between mismatched dishes and both a candy bar stand and a zine stand. Its quirky (but functional) decor is only part of what makes Le Pick-Up one of the most buzz-worthy spots in this neck of the woods. What keeps people coming back is, of course, the scrumptious, consistently well-reviewed food. Their halloumi sandwich is internet famous, their pulled pork feeds as many artists as mechanics, and with the option of cheddar or Kraft for your cheeseburger, these folks respect the different moods of the hungry heart.
Any beer lovers reading this list may have been getting concerned. Worry not: microbrewery Harricana fills the neighbourhood’s mandatory craft beer void. With events like “Tap Takeovers” on the last Tuesday of the month, where they host specific local brews, it’s no wonder this spot is bringing people together. Harricana is a new but major player in the increasing community vibe of an area where only a few years ago, that couldn’t even have been imagined. What’s more is that they’re open until 2am, keeping that vibe well into the night.
95 Jean-Talon W.
Like any good neighborhood, the Barber Shop Revival is alive and well in the Mile Ex. With at least five different types of wood as part of its decor, and shelves showcasing the finest products in pretty vintage packages, Emporium exudes an old-timey, cozy basement vibe, making it one of the chief leaders in the neighborhood’s laidback aesthetic. Their “Espresso Contour” combo will trick you into believing you truly are in your friend’s kitschy basement shop: a quick neck shave and espresso, just enough for your barber to welcome you and send you off with a caffeine buzz.
283 St-Zotique W.
11. Dinette Triple Crown
Located on Clark and St-Zotique, this popular joint is right on the Mile Ex border. Its visibility to the “outside world” acts as an invitation to this budding, secret-ish neighborhood. Now if the cozy, homegrown, intimate theme of Mile Ex venues wasn’t obvious yet, Dinette Triple Crown surely makes it so. A Southern food restaurant specializing in… fried chicken, mac & cheese, and featuring tons of other comforting treats, Dinette Triple Crown sets itself apart by putting your food in a picnic basket and letting you bring it across the street to Little Italy park. In this way, the restaurant truly breaks the wall between business and personal event, as it becomes your very own picnic assistant. You can also buy some of their products in ever-popular mason jars, breaking that restaurant/home wall even further.
12. Parc de la Petite Italie
If Dinette Triple Crown extends itself into Parc de la Petite Italie, then Parc de la Petite Italie extends itself to the Mile Ex. This little oasis lines St-Zotique between St-Laurent and Clark street, making it something of a Mile Ex skirt. It’s quite small, but this park’s got the mother of park breads and butters: old trees, picnic tables, grass, benches and… a big fat gazebo in the middle. It’s no wonder restaurant goers bring their takeout here.
St-Laurent & St-Zotique
13. Notre Dame des Quilles
The cleverly named part bowling alley, part bar venue takes its spot on Beaubien near Saint-Dominique. Here you’ll find a healthy LGBQT community and, as with most Mile Ex venues, the staple hipster crowd. Although drinking and bowling is far from a new concept, Notre Dame des Quilles revives it. The bar’s Prohibition era aesthetic feels particularly ironic when it houses dance parties, DJ events and karaoke, all with bowling lanes in the middle. But this busy nightlife at NDQ makes those bowling lanes feel like an inevitable architectural occurrence, in which you can take part or just appreciate.
32 Beaubien E.
14. Boulangerie Regal Matinal
Perhaps the cutest name on this list, Boulangerie Regal Matinal makes an equally cute thing happen: fresh bread and pastries delivered to your door in the morning. Sounds a little familiar? That’s because the concept was inspired by the old school milk delivery system. Yep, yet another sounds-too-good-to-be-true Mile Ex phenomenon. Although it recently moved it’s headquarters to Outremont, Regal Matinal’s roots remain in the Mile Ex, and they continue to deliver there. And besides, the frontless bakery is quintessentially Mile Ex: it joins Dinette Triple Crown in blurring the lines between the restaurant business and intimate food gatherings, by leaving its own front door and bringing its goods to yours.
15. Le Mile-Ex Restaurant
Le Mile-Ex is a small, cozy, open concept fine food eatery. Appropriating the new Alexandra-Marconi neighborhood name (and maybe even unofficially inaugurating it), Le Mile-Ex has become a popular spot for food-fanatics from not only Montreal, but from all over (a New York Times review never hurts). The joint is something of an ode to the modernization of street food: brioche hot dogs, seafood mac and cheese, and a pop up ice cream shop in the summer, all of which you can enjoy on the characteristically Mile Ex shared tables, under hanging bare lightbulbs.
6631 rue Jeanne-Mance