No matter how you brew your cup of Joe, there's little argument that coffee ranks high among the world's best-loved hot beverages. Roasted, French pressed or espresso, Montreal offers several coffee houses to satisfy even the most discriminating of coffee palates.
Montreal's Van Houtte coffee is the city's premier gourmet coffee, and the story of how this European-inspired cafe etched its taste upon Montrealers is a fascinating rags-to-riches tale. In 1912, French-born Albert-Louis Van Houtte arrived in Montreal with a dream of importing horses.
That dream did not work out, and Van Houtte yearned for the rich taste of coffee as prepared in France. Pursuing his dream, he traveled to New York in 1919 to buy a coffee roaster and he began roasting coffee beans. At first, Montrealers found his European roast too bitter for their North American palates, so he blended his roast to make it milder. This blend was a hit. Van Houtte's coffee roasting business was born.
After Van Houtte's death in 1944, his children expanded the business, and by the 1980s, they created a chain of cafe-bistros that served gourmet coffee, cakes and sandwiches. Today, there are more than 60 Van Houtte cafe-bistros throughout Quebec, with 23 cafes in Montreal.
Locations in Montreal include 500 Sherbrooke Street West, 359 President Kennedy, 165 St. Paul Street West, 2000 McGill College, plus others listed on the website. There's even an intriguing blog about coffee in Paris. To locate a Van Houtte cafe-bistro nearest you, use the website's Find a cafe-bistro locator. The typical cafe-bistro menu includes filtered and espresso-based special coffees, muffins, bagels and croissants, ciabattas, wraps, tortilla club, whole-grain sandwiches, foccacios and hot meals.
Of course, no bistro is without its offering of decadent desserts. Jazz and blues are piped into each cafe-bistro. WiFi at all locations. Special Van Houtte K cups are also available. Do you prefer woodsy or fruity coffees? Find out on Van Houtte's Discover Your Coffee Profile quiz.
The Second Cup
is Canada's largest coffee house, with its headquarters in Ontario and 360 cafes in Canada, including 30 locations in Montreal. These include: 1551 St. Denis, 800 Place Victoria, 2200 McGill College Avenue and 5206 Cote des Neiges.
The Second Cup blog lists maple as the flavor for March, which is the prime time for maple sugaring. In addition to whole bean and ground coffee in roasts that range from light to dark, The Second Cup also offers Swiss Water decaf, organic and certified fair trade coffee, as well as flavored coffees, teas and flavored hot chocolate. Cinnamon cookies, summer fruits and pumpkin treats are available seasonally. Live music by local artists in many cafes. WiFi in all cafes.
At the 24-hour Cafe Depot, the baristas speak French and English. Headquartered in Quebec, Café Dépôt franchises began in 1994. Today, 76 Café Dépôt coffee houses exist in Quebec. The Café Dépôt in the photo at right is located is at 3601 Blvd St. Laurent, on the corner of St. Laurent Prince Arthur. This location signals the beginning of the Prince Arthur Pedestrian Mall, which runs along Prince Arthur from St. Laurent to Carré St. Louis on Laval Street. Like Van Houtte's cafe-bistros, Café Dépôt offers wraps, sandwiches, fruit smoothies, fruit drinks and cold salads, as well as cakes.
WiFi is available at most locations. Low fat, hot or iced coffee is available in macchiato, cappuccino or maple cream (sugar-free is also available), plus exotic teas and Nutrivo, Café Dépôt's signature banana yogurt smoothie.
For lunch or supper, pair a cup of Asiago bisque soup or pesto salad with a Lyon or Szechuan baguetine. Or, try the Montreal classique with pastrami, swiss and creole Dijon sauce.
In the mood for something different? Try a ham and brie wrap, a grilled Thai chicken or braised pork chipotle sandwich. Add a cup of full-bodied Brazillian coffee, roasted with fruity notes to give an air of jazz.
Add a slice of mocha almond or chocolate mousse cake for dessert. Speaking of cakes, this reviewer would be remiss not to mention that Café Dépôt cakes are out of this world.
For Americans who yearn for European gateaux and tortes, outside of France no other cake (except those at Café Dépôt) can satisfy your preference for European cakes. About a dozen cakes are offered daily. You would be hard pressed to find European gateau quality in any American bakery, such as you find at Café Dépôt. A key a difference between American and European cakes is that American cakes are sweeter. European tastes run to semi-sweet chocolate, rich creme and moist layers in the cakes.
Locations in Montreal include:
Tim Hortons is also a popular coffee chain, with more than 20 locations in Montreal. Tim Horton's can coffee is refreshingly bold, a plus for a coffee gourmand, like this reviewer. Tim Hortons also features a decadent maple shortbread cookie, Tim Hortons-inspired ice cream flavors (in partnership with Cold Stone Creamery), peach mango fruit smoothie and Tim Horton NHL team cards. Steeped and specialty teas, espresso and latte, as well as specialty coffees, iced coffees and fruit smoothies are featured menu items. Bagels, croissants, breakfast sandwiches, lunch wraps, soups and sandwiches round out the menu. Many locations feature in-restaurant seating and some are open 24 hours. Several have drive thru.
Locations in Montreal include:
1250 rue University
Montréal QC, H3B 3B8
1030, rue De La Montagne
Montréal QC, H3G 1Y7
674, Sherbrooke Ouest
Montréal QC, H3A 1E7
48, rue Notre-Dame Est
Montréal QC, H2Y 1B9
Copyright © The Insider's Pocket Guide to Montreal, Kathryn Esplin. 2007- ad infinitum. All photos and content copyright © Kathryn Esplin. All rights reserved.