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Coffee Therapy #6: Cafe Central Portugais

Posted by Christy / September 26, 2006

Cafe%20Portugais%20Central.jpgYou've walked by it on Duluth, but you've never gone in. Cafe Central always looks full. Overflowing. There are always at least two or three heavyset old men standing around the entrance, eyeing passers-by. If you're young and female, they might tip a greeting your way, but I'll tell you what--they don't step away from the door.

It is The Most Intimidating Cafe in Montreal. It makes you wonder what's going on in there.

I tried to check it out a week ago. Three steps in, I panicked. It's not an illusion; the WHOLE PLACE is packed with nothing but old men from the neighborhood, all enjoying a quick five-hour coffee away from their wives. When a girl walks in, unattended, every single beery eye swings her way. You wanna latté, miss? Sweet mother of mercy, NO.

But take my advice: if you're a women, (or just a particularly hip guy), pay off a homeless dude to escort you inside. Because Cafe Central, it turns out, is a Citadel of Awesome.


1) The espresso is HOT and cheap. A take-out cup will keep you toasty for twenty minutes, but it only takes a minute or two for it to drop to sipping temperature. Hell, if you're just going to gulp it, Tim Horton's is down the street.
2) Deliciousness. I swear, my latté was like buttered popcorn on a slab of crushed cacao beans.
3) Formica. This is a new rule of coffee-related sincerity, as demonstrated by both Caffe Italia and Cafe Central, both beacons for old men who CLEARLY KNOW THEIR SHIT. If there isn't lots and lots of formica, their priorities are wrong.
4) You always get the window seat. Window seats, at Cafe Central, only mean two things: potential eye contact with wives, and increased distance from the TVs.
5) Do you hate everyone you know? Of course you do! You will not see them at Cafe Central.
6) No matter what I say, no matter how good it sounds, the beery old men will scare you away too. Cafe Central will never become a hipster hangout. I'm pretty sure they'd spank us and send us home before they'd let the kids overrun the joint. It's a place you will enter quietly, and you WILL leave quietly, and you will be GRATEFUL.

Cafe Central doesn't care if you can find it.



J Mac / September 26, 2006 at 10:50 am
Nice! I remember writing about this place for some rag a few years ago, and describing the lazy whirring of the ceiling fans as the place went completely silent when I entered. And then I walked by a few weeks later and realized there <em>were no ceiling fans.</em> But I swear it was till western-style pre-showdown outsider-stumbles-into-wrong-place uncomfortableness. Fans or no.
Hannah / September 26, 2006 at 11:05 am
The guts you have...unbelievable. It's legendary, and although it calls itself a Cafe, I never thought they actually served coffee there. And I was never brave enough to go in. I have noticed that the men hanging about outside have grown more sociable over the years, tossing out a greeting and a smile on occassion.
So, truth: how long did you actually stay inside?
Christy / September 26, 2006 at 11:18 am
J--No ceiling fans, but you're right... that's exactly how it would have to be for a guy. You just back away now, pardner.

Hannah--I returned to Cafe Central with Vahe, formerly of Java U Concordia fame. He is the zen master of coffee. For him, any place with an espresso machine is home. Apparently he goes there with friends for take-out cups regularly--but that was the first time he'd ever tried ordering a coffee pour ici. We hugged the window table for, I don't know, an hour? He even ventured through the thickest part of the old men crowd to access the restroom--and came back saying that apparently they also serve fantastic looking food.

Truth? My boyfriend's six foot, well-built, soccer and hockey three times a week... and even HE wouldn't take me to Cafe Central. No, you either need a mildly crazy homeless man, or Vahe.
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