First Date Series: The Griffintown Cafe
The First Date Series will take a look at restaurants in Montreal where you might want to go -- or might not want to go -- on a first date. Part 2 visits the Griffintown Café on Notre Dame.
What do you get when you combine good vibes, live music, and outstanding food, with a casual and charismatic atmosphere? The Griffintown Café: a perfect backdrop for a date-type encounter.
Spaciousness is the overwhelming first impression of the Griffintown Café. High ceilings and an airy, open layout characterise the eatery. It's not what I would call cozy, but on a first date, breathing room can often be preferable to claustrophobia. Wooden tables with maroon-cushioned chairs fill the space, chalkboards hang on red brick walls, and all the food hails from a small open kitchen at the back.
The Griffintown café hosts some pretty impressive live jazz and blues music three nights a week, making for a lively atmosphere. It can get a little loud for conversation, but what better way to alleviate awkward silences than jazzy musical interludes?
The menu is full of southern-style food under cosmopolitan influence. My date and I started with Kentucky-fried duck wings drizzled with warm spicy honey, which were lightly battered, extremely meaty, and the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. We also went for the pork jowl bacon tacos. I personally had never tried pork cheek before, so jowl was a first for me, and it fully exceeded my expectations: Not overly fatty, keeping in mind that it's still bacon. The tacos were decorated by avocado and homemade salsa, which sealed the deal.
As for the main course, we chose the Griffintown burger and the organic trout. The burger, which arrived in a basket beside a handful of baby potato wedges, is pretty hyped up around town. It lives up to its reputation: Half beef, a quarter lamb, and a quarter duck, topped with pickled onions, this was one of the tastiest burgers I've ever had.
The trout was extremely satisfying, and crisped to perfection. The highlight of this dish, however, was the potato portion: Boiled fingerling potatoes tossed with arugula and smoked almonds. This 'salad' was lightly dressed in a mustard vinaigrette, and the almonds gave a smoky crunch to everything on the plate.
I advocated for dessert, as I often do, and we settled on the pudding chomeur: a crispy-topped maple syrup bread pudding to be drowned in the cup of cream that was served alongside it. Poor man's pudding hit the spot.
Every first date can benefit from an atmosphere that's somewhat out of the ordinary, and the Griffintown Café is not your run of the mill eatery. Water is served in old-style bourbon bottles, and ceasars are garnished with a pickled okra. The casual, lofty atmosphere makes for a no-pressure encounter, and you don't get the feeling that you're being scrutinized as the two people on a first date. If the upbeat vibe rubs off on you and your companion, that sounds like a successful date to me.
The Griffintown Café is located at 1378 Rue Notre Dame Ouest and open Tuesday through Sunday. Brunch is served on weekends until 3 pm. Live music Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 7.30pm.
Do you have suggestions for other fun first date places that Midnight Poutine should take a look at? Leave a comment below!