Reposted from CNTraveler.
Date: August 13, 2018.
In a city where American and Canadian coffee chains are still perking up en masse (with a Tim Hortons at what feels like every corner), Montreal is bubbling up as a legitimate coffee destination, adding a well-deserved caffeinated notch to its "foodie destination" rep. A multicultural city that embraces its mosaic of flavors and inspiration, this Québécois metropolitan island makes room for iconic Italian spots and the more artisanal cafes. Catch the wave at these local spots, where signature drinks and buzzy ambience make a strong case for going beyond the standard coffee houses.
This cash-only destination in Mile End has been an icon on Montreal’s coffee scene since 1970. Today it's a popular meetup for locals looking to catch a soccer game while enjoying a cappuccino. Don’t request milk alternatives here: the baristas at Café Olimpico are espresso purists in every sense. With a minimalist menu that’s a far cry from popular coffee chains, you’ll find the staples here in hot and cold variations. Founder Rocco Furfaro’s determination to maintain his Italian traditions means that Olimpico has stuck to the same espresso recipe since the coffee shop opened.
With lush greenery, an array of record jackets and retro accessories doubling as decor, and the long, library-style tables, this cafe just east of Little Italy will make you want to stay a while. Fun fact: this was the first coffee shop in Montreal to serve up nitro cold brew and coffee lemonade fizz—exactly what it sounds like—on tap. The solid breakfast and lunch options, chocolate chip cookies, and muffins—not to mention vegan-friendly treats—make it hard to leave.
Caffè San Simeon
Set in the heart of Little Italy, Caffè San Simeon is a spot for people watching, catching the World Cup among like-minded coffee lovers, or enjoying a quick cappuccino al fresco. The tightly edited espresso-based menu—with staples likes lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos—proves, yet again, that quality matters more than quantity. Don't order almond or soy milk with fancy fixings; the milk here is whole, and the coffee packs a punch. Toppings are limited to cinnamon and chocolate—in a word, classic.
Dispatch has cultivated a strong reputation since appearing on Montreal’s food scene as a food truck in 2012. This standalone space in the Plateau, on the corner of Saint Laurent Boulevard and Duluth, is Dispatch’s third brick-and-mortar location. The space is bright and inviting, with a central counter island that adds to the friendly, accessible vibe. The cold brew, a standout, has been famous since its food truck days: it’s smooth, just the right amount of sweet, and unlike any other we've ever tried.
The Standard mixes up its roasters every couple of weeks; the fresh selection of espresso bean flavors keeps regulars on their toes. The food here is mostly on the sweet side; fresh pastries, including Nutella-garnished donuts and flavored brioches, are from Brioche À Tête in the hip Mile End district. The corner cafe is inviting and warm, figuratively and literally—the sun is always beaming through the windows. Just two minutes from Montreal’s posh Westmount neighborhood, it's impossible to ignore the luxe design details, including the white marble, the black-and-gold accents, and the plush Deco chairs.
Tunnel Espresso Bar
This underground—in the literal sense of the word—cafe draws you in with its neon sign and delicious aromas of espresso. Located in the underground tunnel at the intersection of the Eaton Centre (a downtown mall) and Place Ville Marie (a complex office tower in the heart of Montreal’s business district), this coffee shop attracts professionals looking for their caffeine fix, as well as passersby looking for their post-shopping pick-me-up. It’s a coffee counter that’s standing room only, with a tight drink and snack menu that makes use of every inch of the space. The menu is pretty impressive given the tight corners; there are all kinds of milk alternatives, including oat milk, and roasts from Calgary's Phil & Sebastian and Ontario’s Detour Coffee.
Café Humble Lion
With '90s style hip-hop beats, an aluminum ceiling, and students buried in their laptops (there are outlets in back), this downtown coffee spot is always a crowd pleaser. As a fun decor touch, there’s a retro school desk that’s repurposed as a caddy for sugar packs and other accoutrements. Croissants from Hof Kelsten, sweet and savory scones from Godley & Crème (which are baked fresh in-house at Humble Lion), and other treats satisfy all cravings while studying.
Cafe Myriade co-owner Anthony Benda was among the first to open a third-wave coffee shop in Montreal, and the rotation of roasters includes Chicago’s Intelligentsia, Dartmouth’s Anchored Coffee, and the local Saint-Henri Micro-Torréfacteur. Clearly something's working; in The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts, chefs David McMillan and Frederic Morin say, “Wake up, jump in a cab, and head to Cafe Myriade for breakfast and some of the city’s best coffee.” Loud music and a great mix of people make for an irresistible vibe; it's also centrally located near restaurants, shops, and metro stops in the heart of downtown.
This cafe-slash-record store in the Rosemont area serves up throwback music store vibes, with rows of vinyl displayed near the coffee counter. You’ll find genres like jazz, funk, soul, disco, and hip-hop, both for sale and blaring on the speakers. The espresso-based menu has a tight playlist of classic drinks like cappuccinos and cortados, while the music playlist (including '80s and '90s hiphop) will guarantee you'll want to hang out even longer.
Pikolo Espresso Bar
When you walk into Pikolo in the Plateau, the potent smell of coffee and electric vibe hit you instantly. Each tiny table is filled, and coffee lovers stand around mingling near the front entrance. You'll find all the staple espresso-based drinks here, as well as a vast tea menu (including a rooibos vanilla latte). Pikolo uses Canadian beans from Phil & Sebastian and Micro-Torréfacteur Saint-Henri. The mochaccino, featuring bitter dark chocolate, is a standout