FOOD AND DRINK
Five Lively Places to Watch the Habs
Arguably, any Montréal watering hole with a television is, by default, a Habs bar. That’s because hockey fandom goes beyond obsession in this city and veers into lifestyle, religion, or even identity. That said, some Habs bars are more equal than others and, if you want a slightly more, ah … civilized – or interesting – experience than the one offered at hockey institutions like the Peel Pub and McLean’s, here are a few options to catch the famed Canadiens.
Although it’s a lively place to grab a game, the Midway Tavern is far more than just a sports bar. Established in 1927, it’s one of the city’s oldest, hearkening back to a day when Montréal’s nightlife put the rest of North America’s to shame. Unfortunately, the years took its toll on this Lower Saint-Laurent landmark and until recently, it was certainly showing its age. Thanks to a major renovation project, though, the Midway has been restored to its former glory – and then some – and is now one of the city’s most stylish taverns. You can still order a pickled egg and Labatt 50 for old times’ sake but with solid, fresh craft cocktails and artisanal beer, you don’t have to anymore.
1219 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, 514-398-9669
Brasserie Rachel Rachel
Although it’s unabashedly a stronghold of the Blue-Blanc-Rouge, Rachel Rachel isn’t marked by memorabilia, red and blue colours, or hundreds of big-screen televisions. Instead, it’s got a distinct, elegant steakhouse feel, an excellent cinq-à-sept special, and a deejay spinning contemporary beats – after the game is over, of course. The chic bar is home to the Plateau neighborhood’s smart set who meet there to cheer on the local sports team, all the while tasting smart cocktails, and eating elevated bar food. The signature anchovy-garnished Caesar is a popular pick, as is the beef tartare but it’s the grilled cheese (brie!) that’s winning over the hearts and minds of the patrons.
500 Rue Rachel E, 514-524-4446
The term “party bar” might well have been coined at Chez Serge, a hockey haven with a mechanical bull, dancing on the bar, popular tunes, and no shortage of televisions. In fact, there are even extra screens installed on the ceilings of the washrooms so that fans needn’t miss even a minute of the action. With flashing lights, zebra print on the walls, and moose heads, there’s nothing subtle about the place. But fans of free popcorn, bucket-drink specials, never-ending rounds of shots, and an exaggerated Coyote Ugly roadhouse aesthetic, will quickly realize this place is at the top of its game.
5301 St. Laurent, 514-270-3262
The wait is finally over. For a Mexican wrestling-themed Montréal Canadiens bar, that is. Enjoy cheap tacos and other Mexican(ish) fare such as quesadillas and nachos while you catch the game in this day-glo red warren for fans of Les Glorieux. As if those weren’t already ample selling features, this candidate for Canada’s Weirdest Restaurant also offers vintage video games to fill the void in between periods (and seasons), as well as some of the more eccentric drinks encountered in a sports bar – notably, Mr. Freezie cocktails served with the popsicle (wrap and all) sticking out and garnished with a marshmallow. Good times.
913 Rue Beaubien E, 514-273-6222
They take game-day pretty seriously at the Plateau’s Taverne Normandie, an old-school hockey bar that dates back to 1917. A series of rituals mark Habs games, which may or may not include a live rendering of the national anthem, urinal pucks with logos of the opposing team, and the trashing of other team’s jerseys. Each table is randomly assigned a Canadiens’ player and every time he scores, the table is treated to a round of shots on the house. Despite the loyal fan base, the jocularity is fairly good-natured and it’s rumoured to be safe for supporters of other teams, possibly even the Leafs. Added bonus: stay long enough and the karaoke machine might come out. It’s the kind of place everybody needs to visit at least once.
1295 Rue Amherst, 514-522-2766