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First Date Series: Icehouse

Posted by Tara / May 28, 2011

Icehouse exteriorThe First Date Series takes a look at restaurants in Montreal where you might want to go -- or might not want to go -- on a first date. If your ideal first date involves eating with your hands on picnic tables in a low-key atmosphere with lots of character, then Icehouse is worth try.

Texas Icehouses, from which this restaurant takes its name, were roadside shacks that sold ice in the early 1900's, which later morphed into outdoor bars and BBQs. This Plateau restaurant captures the easygoing western countryside vibe, in both cooking and ambiance.

Icehouse insideThe wooden floor and picnic-style tables create a food-stand feel, as do the paper towel dispensers that line one wall of the eatery. Two chefs cook food behind a counter towards the back of the small room, which serves as bar, ordering station, and kitchen.
Icehouse counterWhen I visited Icehouse, the giant garage door front window was pulled all the way up, despite the fact that it wasn't all that warm outside. Albeit this created more of an out-of-doors feel to the place, though I'm not particularly excited about being cold while eating in my jacket, first date or otherwise.

The space is small, and all the tables with the exception of one seat four people. And although Icehouse looks like the type of place that you can sit wherever you want, if you arrive with two people and the only two-person picnic table is taken, they'll ask you to sit at the counter, or tell you that if you sit at a larger table there's a possibility that another party of two will be seated with you. Though the table-sharing with strangers may alleviate some of that first date pressure, I'm partial to the counter - first date conversation can be awkward enough without adding the cumbersome task of possibly being forced to converse with another pair. Come better weather, the terasse seating (which is actually more than inside the restaurant) will solve this problem.
Icehouse outside seatsA waitress comes around for our drink orders only, and food is ordered at the counter. The southern-BBQ-inspired drinks are a highlight here. The homemade bourbon lemonade is outstanding. Sour and potent, it goes down fast, and will take the edge off any first date. The Michelada is also worth a try - tasting like a meaty beer cocktail, this drink is somewhat like a Ceasar, with beer, spiced with Worcestershire, Tabasco and meat seasoning. Refreshing, but takes some getting used to.

Icehouse's menu features Texan specialties served with contemporary finesse. There's a selection of tacos and burritos, as well as fried chicken, ribs, oysters. Icehouse serves food on plastic trays, for the most part in cardboard dishes or paper wrapping. We started off with the crab-stuffed jalapeños and homemade potato chips. The chips, though baked and fresh tasting, were in no way exceptional. The jalapeños on the other hand were excellent: Stuffed with crab and cheese, breaded and deep-fried, these spicy little guys were a great start.
Icehouse stuffed jalapinosThe crab cakes arrived next, and were served on a miniature picnic table. Chunky pieces of crabmeat were found inside the crispy fried outer layer, giving a hearty texture to the cakes. Tangy, and drizzled with tartar sauce, these too were a success.
Icehouse CrabcakesThe tacos at Icehouse come two per serving, and the short-rib tacos did not disappoint. The meat was extremely tender and flavourfiul, and was topped with zesty coleslaw, peppers, and greens.
Icehouse short rib tacoThe pork burrito was my personal favourite, filled with slices of pork, sweet potato, and a sweet-but-savoury brown molé sauce that really made this dish.
Icehouse pork burritoThe grilled steak burrito was a slight disappointment, as the meat was tough, and the overarching taste was the cheesy sauce as opposed to the meat or various vegetables.

The food at Icehouse is messier than I would choose on a first date, but then again, seeing your companion's face splattered with food can add some humour to your encounter.

The portion sizes are relatively small. Even if you don't necessarily want to get stuffed on a first date, you may find that you'll want to share another burrito. Given the portions, Icehouse is distinctly more expensive than you'd imagine an open-air roadside BBQ shack, but you are on the Plateau and there's a real chef in the kitchen.

If you're looking for candlelight and white tablecloths, you're in the wrong place. However, if a casual and amusing first date venue is more your thing, Icehouse has a lot offer.

Icehouse is located at 51 Roy St. Est, and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 5pm tp 1.30am. They don't yet have a website, but can be reached at (514) 439 6691.

Check out some of our other First Date ideas like the Griffintown Cafe or Restaurant Jane.



Zeke / May 31, 2011 at 04:17 pm

I'm more interested in what you want in a sweetie. Going on that many first dates must not be good on the ego - maybe you should consider some other type of activity in your quest for a relationship.
Tara replying to a comment from Zeke / June 1, 2011 at 11:05 am
Thanks for looking out for my ego, but any quest for new love is superseded by my pursuit of notable dining experiences in Montreal....I think I’ll stick to eating.
kimberleyblue / June 5, 2011 at 11:46 pm
I think this series is great. I also think it's really just a more interesting way of presenting what would otherwise just be your run-of-the-mill resto reviews.

I don't think Tara's actually going to all these places on first dates...and if she is, well, congrats to her for having fun!
ststu / June 13, 2011 at 11:10 am
I've eaten at Icehouse on many occasions and I have come to the conclusion that this place is kind of full of shit. inconsistent service, blurry chalkboard menu, very little seating, overpriced. I mean don't get me wrong some of the food is really good but at the end of the day they're serving tacos, burritos , and friend chicken. For the price the portions are small, the service is shit and theirs this certain aura of pretentiousness to the whole place that I can't quite swallow.
p replying to a comment from ststu / June 19, 2011 at 05:35 pm
I agree with stsu, the service is the worst i've seen in ages. no way we're ever going back. awful
Ashly / February 4, 2015 at 05:59 am
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