Today would mark the beginning of what I would like to call my "summer of George" (if you know, you know). With free time on my hand on this crisp, late-spring Monday morning, I decided to take a two-hour bicycle ride on the Westmount heights at the foot of Mount Royal.
After some intense physical activity, I met my wife and a friend for breakfast for some much-needed recharging. Our rendez-vous was at Monkland Village's Pigeon Café, which opened during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020, taking over from St-Viateur Bagels, which closed the year before.
The second location under the Pigeon banner following Pigeon Espresso Bar near the Concordia University downtown campus, the fledging group was created by Johnathan Dresner, who is also behind Notre-Boeuf-de-Grâce.
tagged: EARLY BIRD
Pigeon Café boasts an airy, stylish interior thanks to exposed brick walls, a handsome bar, wicker chairs and a picnic table. Touches of green are spread throughout from an indoor tree and hanging planters. A touch of humour is added via quirky bird decorations and a mural dedicated to Larry David!
Let us not forget the café's very own motto of "world's worst coffee", which is ironic considering this is in fact a third-wave coffee shop. Walking into an empty-ish dining room a little past 9AM suggested this Pigeon is not popular with the "early bird" crowd – no pun intended. However, by the time we were done closer to 11AM, the turnout progressed to two-thirds full.
Until a few days ago, I had no idea this location of Pigeon Café had an extensive food menu. I had wrongly assumed it was another espresso counter serving pastries at most. A quick inspection of the menu reveals its Jewish leanings but also its strong similarity – in both design and content – to that of the other famous Jewish brunch spot in town: Arthurs.
The placemat menu with its black font on white, both carrying matzah ball soups, salami challah and chicken schnitzel sandwiches, latkes, smoked salmon towers… The parallels are too many for a coincidence, not to mention the decor as well matches in certain ways – light grey marble tabletops, brown leather banquettes. An acquaintance of mine with inside connections confirmed to me this is in fact an intentional act of copycat.
It seems someone had a fallout with the folks at Arthurs after a stint there and mirrored as much as possible here afterward. Dishes will cost a couple dollars below what Arthurs charges, with the quality and execution also trailing slightly behind. To compare something as basic as a breakfast ‘which, the cheese here looks like plain old Kraft Singles whereas the home potatoes are a tad soft and need a bit of a bite.
"mushroom, salami & cheddar, served with breakfast potatoes & challah roll with jam"
"toasted bagel, harissa, 2 fried eggs, bacon, cheddar, served with breakfast potatoes"
"egg, lettuce, tomato, cheese, spicy mayo, beef salami, challah roll, served with breakfast potatoes"
Claims of imitation aside, which if true do not necessarily take away from a restaurant but make it unoriginal, Pigeon Café is one pretty spot dishing out hard-to-resist morning fare. While I did find fault with my breakfast sandwich today, the fact that I did not try anything else does not give me enough meat on the bone to wholly evaluate this bird.
Not to mention that I would not know about the quality of its coffee since I'm a rare species of human who does not drink any. A return visit – perhaps at night to soak in the dinner and full liquor menus – will be required to settle the question.
tagged: DESERVES A RETRY
Price per person: $22.70
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.