L’Avenue (Montreal, QC)

Way back in 2002 (years before this blog), a friend of mine from grad school went to Montreal, and recommended one particular place on Le Plateau for breakfast: L’Avenue. It’s a really funky place on Ave Du Mont-Royal Est, and several online resources and word of mouth have mentioned that it’s one of the best brunch places in Montreal. Well, our first visit to L’Avenue confirmed two things: they had a seriously good brunch, and that the word had gotten out, since the place had legendarily long lines (over an hour long on a Saturday morning). The long lines have led to us only returning once in the last few years, but my many visits to Montreal the last few years taught me another lesson: Les Quebecois tend not to be early risers. And noting that L’Avenue opens at 8am, we decided that when we were in town for Mondial, we’d simply rise early and head over to L’Avenue around opening time. So Rick, Sarah, Nancy, Carol, and I all hopped in Rick’s car and drove up to L’Avenue.

Well, our strategy was rewarded: L’Avenue was basically empty when we arrived a few minutes after 8am (the same could not be said when we departed an hour later: the place was packed). But we were easily able to get a nice seat by the kitchen, and started perusing the rather extensive brunch menu. I actually enjoy the fact that L’Avenue is one of the places in Montreal that doesn’t cater to les touristes Américains with English menus, with the only menus available en Francais, since it actually adds a little bit of mystery and excitement to life. But in any case, I knew what I was coming for. While L’Avenue does a great job with omelets and pancakes (les Crêpes Americains), they are most known for having interesting variations on Eggs Benedict. I opted for the “Sucre et sel” (“sugar and salt”) with maple syrup and black forest ham. Carol instead opted for the “Tout le monde à poêle” (if I’m translating that right, it’s “everything in a pan”), which was a Benedict with a rich mix of wild mushrooms and herbs.

As we waited for our breakfast to come out, they brought out an appetizer of fruit (they also feature fruit smoothies prominently on their menu), and this was a nice start to the meal (although most of the fruit was melon, which I really don’t like, but was able to barter with the rest of the table).

But soon enough, I was presented with my Sucre et sel, which was a most impressive portion of a rather unconventional Benedict, with nut-crusted French toast, Black Forest ham, and Hollandaise. And some maple syrup. The result was well in line with the name, with a nice intersection of both sweet and salty flavors. And the combination of Hollandaise and maple syrup was an interesting and odd combination, but it worked, with the tanginess of the sauce offsetting the sweetness of the syrup. I’m not sure I’d get this again (some of the other Benedicts look interesting as well), but it was pleasant enough.

Carol did quite well with her Tout le monde à poêle, which was a really rich and earthy Benedict with a nice mix of wild mushrooms, crispy bacon lardons, garlic confit, herbs, and a cream reduction, with that entire mess topped with Hollandaise sauce. It was definitely a bit of a mess… but a really tasty mess with nice earthy mushroom flavors. I may have to order that on my next visit.

Across the table, Nancy’s pancakes with peach and granola were also an impressive dish, with enough pancakes to feed at least two people (there was a lot left over). But these looked, and smelled, delicious, and I may have to try them sometime.

Most of the table’s orders also came with home fries (les patates), and for me, these were one of the best parts of the meal, with a crispy exterior, a soft fluffy potato interior, and more than a little garlic. Too bad most places down my way aren’t in the same league with their home fries.

One final note: the interior of L’Avenue is quite the treat. The main dining room is bright and colorful, with a motorcycle hanging from the ceiling and a very colorful mural on the wall. And if you find yourself going, make sure you check out the restroom (I won’t spoil the surprise!).

Overall, I loved our breakfast at L’avenue, and am happy that our plans to go early and avoid the crowds worked. I hope to go back on our next visit to Montreal.

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