A stroll through the Mile End (hipster free)
Not to blow my horn, but for circumstances beyond my own control (pure luck), I used to hang out in the Mile End long before kids with money or kids with style discovered it. The Mile End of the mid 90ies was a much different Mile End: Curt Cobain had just left the Earth, and the neighborhood didn't have much going on for it.
Evolution is good, and I love the Mile End of today. But thankfully some of the institutions from that grimier time are still around. Here are some of these survivors from a time where everything was less connected and took much longer than 140 characters.
St-Viateur and Fairmount bagels
While hipsters pack the Ukrainian Center listening to Arcade Fire into the night, working people spend the entire night baking amazing bagels at these two businesses. Urban legend used to say that some New Yorkers, up in Montreal for a business trip, used to jump into cabs and swing by these places just to get a bag-full of bagels. Maybe this doesn't happen anymore, since the secret recipes of these stores aren't that secret anymore, and are copied from Toronto to New York.
Arahova has attempted to spread-out of its Mile End beginnings, with some less-than-moderate success. That's mostly because the food isn't anything crazy. Except for their tzatziki, it's pretty much plain-old Greek fast-food. What makes the Mile End Arahova special is that it's open late, damn late. Instead of the traditional post-beer poutine, you can have a tasty post-beer souvlaki at Arahova.
La Croissanterie (5200 Rue Hutchison)
In the summer, La Croissanterie is a magical place. Sitting on their sidewalk terasse, and having the choice between beer, Scotch, good cofee, good pastries or good sandwiches, I really do feel like in a Paris café. It is really rare to find a terasse in Montreal on a truly residential street, surrounded by old trees and Bixi bikes. La Croissanterie offers exactly that.
Wilensky's (34 Avenue Fairmount Ouest) )
This deli hasn't given up, and we should be happy that there are hard-headed people like that. Or maybe it's just that their concept is really good, so there is no need to change. If you want to get a sandwich like they used to make them in the golden age of European-style delis, this is your place. Not much has changed in this store for years, and we like it like that.
Friperie Bohème (206 St-Viateur Ouest)
This store has been selling second-hand clothes since much before large eyeglasses and fluorescent shirts came back in style. And the same nice lady works in that store since the time when we put-up a theater play at McGill and bought a huge chunks of our 70ies costumes from there. So if you're looking for retro clothes, instead of spending hundreds on newly-made-retro from the Urban Outfitters, how about supporting a local store that sells the real stuff?
Visit these places, and keep your eyes closed while walking from one to the next and you will re-live the Mile-End like it used to be, when it wasn't cool yet.
But everything changes, and that's good. You just have to find the not-yet-cool places of today (South-West anyone, or is too late already?).
PS: Photo courtesy of StyleNorth.ca
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