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Montreal vs. New York: Round 1

Posted by Olivier / June 23, 2008

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Midnight Poutiner Olivier is spending his summer in New York, and can’t help but compare the Greatest City in the World ™ to his beloved Montreal. In the weeks to come, New York vs. Montreal will be a battle raged on different fronts: music, food, arts, and, of course, good-lookingness of the respective citizenries. In this inaugural edition of New York vs. Montreal, the raison d’etre of both these cities is put to the test: nightlife.

New York is a funny place, and not only because the most popular family event over the weekend was a Mermaid Parade at Coney Island featuring topless sea creatures. For starters, New York lacks the centralization of Montreal. There is no area equivalent to the Plateau/Mile End; instead, there are many Plateaus/Mile ends. There is the East Village, West Village, Williamsburg, Park Slope, SoHo, and an infinite scattering of other places to see live music, grab a beer, be seen, be entertained. And that is its biggest downfall.

I have talked to New Yorkers who rave about Montreal’s nightlife. Why? Because so much of where you want to be in Montreal is a drunken step or two away. While there is lots of choice spread around in neighbourhoods throughout the city, the highest concentration is centered around Montreal’s two biggest arteries, St. Laurent and St. Denis.

There is no “main drag” in New York. Here, you are left with a paralyzing sense of “FOMO”: Fear Of Missing Out. It is almost a definitive fact that, any given night, what you are doing in New York is less fun than something else going on somewhere in the city. New York veterans talk about letting go of your FOMO; it is a necessary corollary to surviving in this city. But like the Buddhist pursuit of abandoning earthly attachment, losing your FOMO is easier said than done. In Montreal, FOMO is not an albatross but an advantage: given the human scale of the city, it is entirely reasonable that, on any given night, there is nowhere more fun to be than on the sweaty dance floor of Green Room, or eating 4 am poutine at Banquise.

Of course, New York has its advantages. Everything is open later, and there is always a crowd no matter if it’s Tuesday or Friday. The only places that charge cover are places where you’re likely not famous enough to get into anyways. And you can go out anywhere from stuffy clubs in K-town to Bulgarian dance parties in the Lower East side (as I did Friday night, at an after-party for Gogol Bordello, a local gypsy band playing Montreal’s Osheaga in August. Preview to come).

Still, I’ll trade a Bulgarian dance party any day for the confidence I have heading home from a night out in Montreal. All that matters in our city on the St. Lawrence is that we got crazy, and that most other people getting crazy in the city that night were in the place next door to us. It’s like some sort of nightlife solidarity, capped off with a celebratory poutine. FOMO? Good luck translating that to a Montrealais.

Photo from midnightpoutine flickr user Steveyb

Discussion

19 Comments

G / June 23, 2008 at 02:49 pm
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An excerpt from the Saturday NY Times:

"New York correspondent Olivier (a.k.a. 'Dirty O-bag') demonstrates precisely why Midnight Poutine, aside from being ideal snack, is also Montreal's finest blog."

I guess that also explains why NY Times reporters all wish they could work for the Gazette instead. I can't blame them.

New York used to be cooler until the the Fat Black Pussycat became a "main drag". Reports say the shift began in August of 2004.

By the summer of 2008, MTL had clearly won over the world's most talented individuals, while the has-beens preferred to spend their summers slaving away in NYC.

A question for the author:

"Why use Green Room in a piece that tries to convey Montreal's superiority over NYC? Is that not the same as using the VARA to prove that the US protects moral rights?
Sarah / June 23, 2008 at 04:46 pm
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They talking about us in the New York Times? And saying good things at that?

wow. that's awesome.
O / June 24, 2008 at 02:05 pm
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I guess that's why the Times has no credibility anymore. That, and Noam Chomsky.

G, I chose Green Room because it is my favourite spot to get down: great music, cheap drinks, good crowd, arguments with my friends when I don't stand up for them against hipster girls skewering them for being dude-bros. It's the total package.

Fat Black Pussycat, R.I.P.
pastywhitegirl / July 2, 2008 at 03:00 am
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yeah, nyc is all over, and anyone who's been there more than five years NEVER LEAVES THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD. how old lady is that?

i'm a non-hep williamsburg lass heading to your city for a week of those cholesterol x3 frites. i'm nyc from seoul via philly and the flatlands, so those "old lady" habits don't apply to me.

lata.
O / July 7, 2008 at 10:51 am
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PWG, wish I was in Montreal to help you avoid any missteps. My advice: stay clear of crescent street.
Fairfax / July 23, 2008 at 11:50 pm
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The concentration of Montreal's main nightlife areas that you mention has always been one of my favourite things about the city. I've never visited another city of similar size (or bigger) that had all its cool areas so close together.

To me the best thing about that is you don't necessarily have to make plans in advance to meet up with friends on a night out... once you've been here long enough, just walk down St-Laurent or St-Denis or Ste-Catherine and you're almost certain to run in to somebody you know. Call somebody you feel like meeting up with on their cell phone, and 9 times out of 10 whichever bar they're at will be no more than a 20-minute walk/10-minute bike ride/10-minute cab ride from whichever bar you happen to be at. It's awesome.
ijijij / May 10, 2012 at 05:19 pm
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Oh please! Montreal is such a cold pitiful poor city , don't compare it to the most exciting city in the world!
I'm pretty sure you're one of those stupid canadians copycats
they have no culture and they imitate the USA
Don't compare the uncomparable, a phoenix remain a phoenix and bug remain a bug!
mkat / August 30, 2012 at 08:43 am
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As a Canadian I loved NYC and didn't really like Montreal a whole lot. I like Toronto alot more than Montreal. I like all metropolitan cities but I found Montreal to be boring. They lacked people... many times I felt like I was in Hamilton, ON or another town of around 500 000. Another big thing is that Montreal lacks diversity. I love how many ethnic people there are in NYC and TO. Quebec is full of french white people and not too much else... it is a very homogeneous urban city. I felt alot safer in nyc than in montreal. Imagine that. Montreal has alot of bums, drunks and druggies for such a small city... Comparatively NYC had far less of this crap.
Another thing French is the dominant language in Montreal although almost everyone speaks english there are still plenty of people that hate anglophones. And I felt some tension on the streets when we were talking in english.
Another thing Montreal is a copy of Paris. NYC is the original. The 5 burrows is iconic. Each burrow has its own identity. I know Montreal isn't all bad but personally it wasn't for me. I've only been to montreal once and nyc 3 times but I'd choose nyc or even TO over montreal any day. It's New York!!!!... why would you choose montreal over the greatest??
Gee / December 20, 2012 at 07:15 am
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Are you crazy "McKat"?? Montreal is definitely not comparable to NYC everyone knows that, but it is a lovely and clean city compared to New York! Montreal is not "copying" the USA at all as is definitely NOT a copy of Paris! Have you ever been to Paris?? Ate we talking about the same Paris in France??? Montreal is super multicultural, more than the States. Ad no, we are not only French Canadians cause personally I agree with you they are freaks and really have a problem with anglophones (because the feel so threatened by us) and they aren't even really French. The Québécois have bothered the ratio duo French language and are just ignorant hillbillies who hate anything and anyone English. But aside from those people, montreal is filled with immigrants (good and bad) and everywhere you go, you'll hear someone speaking another language. It's a great city. But definitely not comparable to the greatest cities in the world like NYC, Rome or Paris.
Jason Gerring / April 8, 2013 at 09:00 pm
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Comparing New York City to Montreal??? I mean, seriously...... Let's not even waste breath pretending that the two cities are even on the same scale.....
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