Once a working-class neighbourhood for the mostly Irish labourers who worked in the Old Port and in the factories that lined the nearby Lachine Canal, Griffintown is undergoing a stunning transformation that is turning it into one of Montreal’s hippest locales.
Several talented chefs have set up shop in Griffintown, many of them along restaurant row on Notre-Dame Street W. One restaurant that shouldn’t be missed is Junior, a cosy eatery that features Filipino food, a cuisine that’s somewhat under-represented in the city. This restaurant was founded by four partners, including two DJ brothers, so the music is as good as the food, and you can even find their playlists on SoundCloud. If you’re there for brunch, try the Lechon & Waffles—the crispy fried pork belly served on delicious coconut waffles topped with maple syrup makes for an incredible combo.
As condominiums pop up to repopulate the Griff, as its Irish inhabitants once called it, several shops catering to new homeowners have opened up, such as MUST Société. The store features an abundance of upscale contemporary furniture that won’t fit into your luggage, but there are plenty of home decor items that you can bring home. Gain inspiration, and pick up souvenirs, in MUST’s selection dedicated to indoor and outdoor decor, flowers, kitchenware and electronics.
Part of Griffintown’s charm is the creative ways people are finding to repurpose heritage buildings from the area’s industrial past. One example is New City Gas, an imposing stone structure where coal was burned into gas to illuminate Montreal’s streets in the 19th century. Now, this building lights up the city’s nightlife as a high-tech music venue hosting international DJs and live events—think electronic dance music, dubstep, psytrance, rap, hip hop and more.
Griffintown’s southern border is defined by the Lachine Canal. This National Historic Site is now a popular space, with multi-use pathways following the waterway’s route through the city. Grab a flat white or jasmine tea at Chez l’Éditeur Griffintown, a café and book publisher—you may even see one of its authors inside. Then, take a stroll along the canal pathway and watch the boats rise and fall as they go in and come out of the locks.
Something’s always baking at La Bête à Pain, an airy bakery, pastry shop and licensed restaurant located on the corner of Young Street that is open early morning to early evening. The crunchy chicken sandwich, made with spicy mayonnaise, kimchi and cucumber, comes highly recommended.
Two More Things to Do in Montreal
Marvel at the art on display in the sprawling gallery known as Arsenal Art Contemporary Contemporain.
Wander the ruins of St. Anne Church, once the spiritual heart of Griffintown, in Faubourg St. Anne Park.
[This story appears in the December 2019 edition of WestJet Magazine.]