Elegant Atmosphere, Memorable Meals
Invitation V reminds diners that plant-based meals deserve a little pomp and swank. Co-owners David Boigné and José Leroux and chef Kelvin Au-Leong founded Invitation V to create an opulent experience promoting healthy and cruelty-free lifestyles and supporting local farmers. “I want to encourage people to eat healthier and consider the environment more,” Au-Leong explains. “Every meal consumed without meat, you are doing a lot. It may seem very insignificant, but it is significant.”
The menu changes often, but the rich and buttery shiitake meatballs tossed in a tangy tomato sauce ($6) remain a popular signature dish. Au-leong says diners love the Vietnamese bowl ($11), featuring rice noodles and tart pickled radishes mixed in a chili-based Vietnamese sauce. The crispy spring roll on top features soft, grilled tofu. Boigné recommends pairing dishes with their smooth house Pinot Noir.
With every dish, Au-Leong hopes to start a conversation about plant-based lifestyles. Invitation V prides itself on being a space for people, no matter their diet, and as a platform for understanding one other while enjoying a satisfying meal. “If everyone took some time to understand things, I think it would create less conflict. Even with eating meat,” he says.
Parking can be scarce, especially on the weekends, so owners of Invitation V recommend that patrons should plan to use the indoor parking available on Rue Saint Jacques for $6.
Home to the Famous Faux Crispy Duck
Chu Chai earns praise for their Thai dishes and faux meats — particularly the faux duck. Multiple menu items feature the item. Made from marinated seitan baked to a savory crispiness, the faux duck transforms Thai standards such as pad kee mao ($13) with soft stir-fried noodles, crispy red peppers, and fresh Thai basil. Diners praise Chu Chai’s other classics such as pad Thai ($11) and tom yum ($4.50). The full bar showcases the same spices found in the entrées. Try a Thai mojito with fragrant basil, lime, mint, and lemongrass for a refreshing nightcap before catching a show down the street at the nearby Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui.
Guilt-free Comfort Food
Tucked in between red-brick and old-stone buildings in the residential Milton Park area, the Mexican-style café leans into its heritage with vibrant red and yellow walls marked with Aztec symbols and charred wooden furniture. Lola Rosa’s warm and bustling dinging room serves as the perfect backdrop for its Tex-Mex classics such as hot quesadillas ($9), flavor-filled burritos ($9.50), crunchy tacos ($8.50), and spicy nachos ($8.50) topped with fresh cilantro and juicy citrus flavors. But the menu also offers unexpected favorites such as a belly-warming yellow curry ($9) and Tunisian stew ($9). Quell your sweet tooth with a Twix cake with caramel and cognac ganache or a frosted cake featuring matcha, coconut, and passion fruit. Too full for dessert? Top off your meal by pulling out the drawer at your table, which holds handwritten notes from past diners featuring personal stories and advice.
Meals Made with LOV
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White, exposed-brick walls, marble tabletops, and chic plating highlight the colorful and vibrant food in an Insta-primed space. LOV doubles down on iconic dishes from succulent beet tartare ($9) to spicy nachos ($12), hemp-and-cashew waffles ($9), and the indulgent late-night Canadian favorite poutine ($7.50). The gluten-free gnocchi ($12) is made from buckwheat sweet potato with a creamy basil and cilantro pesto with fresh charred lemon. Beyond the food, LOV’s focus on sustainability extends to their collection of biodynamic wines and signature cocktails, including a kombucha-infused mojito ($9) and a spicy sriracha-laced take on a Bloody Mary ($9). Beer lovers can rejoice for their ever-rotating selection of locally brewed and gluten-free brews.
Sweets with a View
Tommy Café and Apéro serves as the prime lunch spot thanks to the crunchy, colorful salad du jour (market price) and creamy Açaí bowl ($10). For those craving sweeter options, there’s the indulgent Snickers bar ($3) and energy bites ($2 each) from Chez Lolo in a variety of flavors such as salted caramel, chocolate, strawberry shortcake, coconut pineapple, and banana. Conveniently located down the street from Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montréal and situated in the British Empire Building, its mezzanine seating offers the perfect streetview for watching other tourists.
Joie de Vivre(s)
One of Montreal’s first vegan hot spots, Aux Vivres opened in 1997 to celebrate Montreal’s centuries-old tradition of global cuisine. Fresh and refreshing mango lassis ($5), warm homemade chapati ($3) and paratha ($4), and crunchy pakoras ($4.50) transport the tastebuds to India. Colorful bowls brim with crunchy carrots, beets, and steemed broccoli topped with grilled tofu or tempeh and drizzled in creamy peanut ($10) or spicy dragon sauce ($9.50). Their house chilli (from $5) with all the fixings can be had on its own or in a burrito ($11). Try our favorite brunch classic, the creamy and indulgent huevos rancheros ($10). Fresh juices ($5.50) and smoothies ($5) are a great to-go option for wandering the Mile End. There’s also tonics (apple, lemon, and ginger), nectars (carrot, apple, and beet), and smoothies. Try the creamsicle smoothie with coconut milk, OJ, carrot juice, dates, and vanilla for something hearty and energizing. All dishes host locally sourced ingredients, and, as a partner in “Compost Montreal,” the restaurant composts more than 250 pounds of vegetables a week.
Montreal enjoys a few late-night secrets — most notably its vibrant collection of speakeasies and bars modeled after Prohibition-style watering holes. The Coldroom, owned by business partners Kevin Demers and Daniel Boulianne, welcomes anyone who can find their unassuming entrance on Rue Saint Vincent in the Old Port. Boulianne was a cocktail waiter at the city’s renowned cocktail bar La Distillerie and created a menu centered around seasonally rotating offerings. Crafted by head bartender Pierre-Hugues Marois, the summer menu acts as the perfect top-off to a long day of walking the city. “A lot of berries coming up,” Marois says. “Fresh vegetables, fresh fruits as much as possible.”
Marois, who also serves as the food and beverage director, has offered changes like reusable straws, reduction of paper waste with coasters instead of napkins, and the use of every part of their fresh ingredients, including zests and pulps.
The Coldroom operates in a literal, former cold room (a giant refrigerator underground used to preserve foodstuffs). Nowadays, the space continues its tradition of preservation in a different way. To step inside the bar, listen below.
Banner photo by Peter Benson.