I spent a lot of time during my last visit in Montréal reminiscing about the past. I guess that’s what happens when you’re back in a city you called home for four years. Suddenly, the dépanneurs (deps!) and S.A.Q.s (saqs!) bring back memories of carefree evenings with friends. That coffee you’re drinking at this trendy new spot tastes better with a side of nostalgia for the memories of that pretty green dress you had bought there back in the days when it used to be a chic boutique. Some of it is bitter sweet of course, like seeing that a place you loved went out of business and was replaced by something new or realizing that you used to live in a WAY nicer house (and for much cheaper) when you were a junior than now that you are a professional. Gosh, I miss Montreal and its cheap real estate!! I don’t miss the heating bill though 😉
That nice house I used to live in when I was a junior was on Rue Sainte Famille, right in the heart of the McGill Ghetto (<– not an actual ghetto, just how the neighbourhood is called). We had a dépanneur right around the corner, where we could get our milk in plastic bags, as is done in Quebec, or a bottle of “Château Dépanneur,” aka cheap 2-buck chuck. On the other end of the street, there was Place Milton where we would go for cheap breakfasts on Saturdays and Amelio’s where we would treat ourselves to dinner once in a while, and sometimes go on dates too. We loved Amilio’s: the food was good AND it was cheap AND it was convenient AND we could bring your own wine to diner. When you’re a college student, that’s a magic formula!
Being able to bring your own wine (Apportez Votre Vin as it is know in Quebec) with no corkage fee is a thing in Montréal. I’m almost ashamed of some of the wines I brought to very decent restaurant like Au 917. Yes, I’m French. But I was also 20 years old, wasn’t earning any money and was just beginning to appreciate wine for more than just my preferred method of getting a buzz. Well, wine and Molson, of course. It all started like a lot of things start… with a legal loophole. A couple of restaurateurs in the Plateau began allowing patrons to bring their own wine back in the 80s. The government corrected the situation a bit, requiring establishments to at least have a liquor license but the practice caught on and is still around today, and you will not be charged a corkage fee for bringing in your own vino to the table. The plateau is still where you’ll find most of the city’s BYOB resto, but new ones have started popping up all over Montréal too.
I know a 200%-400% mark-up is the norm in most restaurants, and that it is how dining establishments make money. But sometimes it just breaks my heart to spend THAT much on a bottle I know I could get for less than $20 at my favourite wine shop. In France, meals seem a lot more affordable, even with gratuities included, because the wine is so much more reasonably priced than it is in the United States. So if you’re visiting Montréal, definitely have diner at a BYOW one night! It’s a pretty unique only-in-Montréal kinda thing. Since my Montréal references are a bit dated – I mean, I’m not sure how much I’d actually enjoy Amelio’s or Place Milton these days, other than for the nostalgia factor – I asked a couple of my friends who still live in the city what their favourite BYOW are and here are some that stood out:
- Au 917 – Now this is a place I used to go to because its reasonably priced table d’hote menu AND BYOW option was basically a French-expat-on-a-college-student-budget’s dream! Try the veal tongue! Seriously, try it…
- Les Heritiers – pretty much all of them mentioned this upscale Plateau establishment from the restaurateurs duo Pierre Roy and Marc-Andre Paradis who own a mini-empire of amazing BYOWs including O’Thym… read below.
- O’Thym – What pairs with foie gras tarte tartin… because that’s one of the items on the menu. OMD! This one is in the Village, which makes me sad that I didn’t go because I was staying right there during my last trip…
- Le Quartier General – everyone also brought up this restaurant as not just one of the best BYOW restaurant, but also just one of the best Montréal restaurant. Noted for my next trip!!
- Wellington – I never went to the Verdun neighbourhood when I lived in Montréal, but it sounds like Wellington would have been a good reason for me to head there! It offers a $45CAN table d’hote on Sundays, which coupled with BYOW makes it a pretty good deal. Despite the name, the food it pretty French.
Do you have a fave restaurant Apportez Votre Vin in Montréal? Do you wish that concept could come to where you live? I know I do!!