The identity and location of Mile-Ex, and certainly its name, is a complicated investigation.
For some, Mile-Ex may simply be a trendier nickname for the neighbourhood of Marconi-Alexandra. Others may see it as the no-man’s land portmanteau of two bordering neighbourhoods. Not quite the residential melting-pot of Parc-Ex, yet not quite the hip Mile-End, Mile-Ex falls in-between the two and brings its own particular qualities. It’s bordered by Jean-Talon on the north, south by Van Horne (or, disputably, the train tracks nearby), east by Clark and west by Parc. Within these boundaries, streets stop and start up again at will, interrupted by interactions and intersections, twisting and turning about. Building types seem to be strewn about haphazardly. Houses share backyards with factories, restaurants rub elbows with auto-body shops.
The neighbourhood has an oddly-pleasant mixed smell of baked goods, cured meats and motor oil–an accurate representation of the neighborhood’s character. While most neighbourhoods have distinct boundaries delineating their commercial, industrial and residential sectors, in Mile-Ex, everyone shares the same space. Interestingly, the commercial buildings, in terms of their appearance, are just as understated as the residential and industrial buildings. Unlike stores on St-Denis, for example, where each shop needs quirky décor to grab the attention of passers-by, storefronts in Mile-Ex have little to no indication of their presence. Mile-Ex has its share of very unique experiences, ones you’ll hear about and go out of your way to find them. These places will rely more on their special talents to attract interest. Everything is subtle and unassuming. These are places you’d easily walk past and miss entirely (spoken from experience); places you know from notoriety or habit, rather than a chance encounter. Mile-Ex may not have the foot-traffic or coziness of places like Mile-End. Mile-Ex is raw and unprocessed. It doesn’t worry about frills and thrills. It is straight to the point.
EMPORIUM: 283 St-Zotique Ouest
It’s hard not to feel at home at Emporium Barbershop. From the all-wooden interior, to the sweet spice of aftershave, entering Emporium feels familiar–like visiting your grandparents home, unchanged since the 70s. Alex, the owner, was inspired by the new wave of barbershops opening in cities such as New York and London. Coming from a fashion background, he always saw men’s grooming as a natural extension and complement to men’s fashion. When the possibility arose to open up a shop of his own, he didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity. Alex had several reasons to locate the shop in Mile-Ex had . As a small neighbourhood, it has a tight knit community where everybody seems to know everybody else. In addition to being conveniently situated on the island, and near other larger neighbourhoods, Alex saw a great potential from the vibe of other successful up-and-coming entrepreneurs and felt a likemindedness with them that would fit in well with his own venture. Alex sees the neighbourhood as a strong and supportive area for new small businesses to open their doors and begin their stories, and would love to see it continue to grow that way.
MANITOBA: 271 St-Zotique Ouest
Restaurant Manitoba–or, as their Facebook page describes, wildlife sanctuary – has opened its door in the past few weeks to a great deal of buzz. From the outside, the building looks like any other, with nothing more than a large M (formed by two logs) on a window to indicate it may contain more than what meets the eye. Mangez Sauvage, their tagline reads–their menu is comprised of just that. Flora and fauna native to Québec, as well as items less domestic and more, well, “wild.” Previously they’ve served up tantalizing plates of deer tongue, elk flank steak, and wild boar. What’s most interesting about the restaurant is that the location itself inspired the entire concept. The initial plan was for the space to be a woodworking shop. Upon arriving on site for the first time and seeing the large garage door at the back, the idea quickly morphed into what we get to taste today. Though Manitoba does not currently possess a permit for a terrace, the restaurant does plan on having a large garden out back and the garage door wide open all summer. Which will certainly solidify its wildlife theme and its oneness with nature.
REGAL MATINAL: www.regalmatinal.com
Waking up at 3AM every morning, Jakub–the owner and sole employee of Regal Matinal–tackles each day with tremendous passion and commitment. Running a one-man operation, he takes care of everything from baking, to managing, to deliveries. Regal Matinal is a bakery like no other. To begin with, it doesn’t have a physical location where you can drop in and buy pastries. Inspired by the tradition of the milk man, Jakub bringsthe pastries to you. Regal Maitnal operates as an online delivery service. You simply log on the night before and place an order. Then, awake the next day to a gentle knock at your door and the sweet aroma of fresh croissants. Since it lacks a storefront, Regal Matinal needs only to concern itself with their products and services. It can operate simply on the bare essentials in its location. Situated in a large industrial complex on the corner of Parc and Beaubien, the set up is simple and efficient. Jakub’s passion lies in the management, organization and the entrepreneurial aspect of the bakery. He focuses on the quality of service and customer relations. As someone who delivers straight to your door, he takes time to get to know his customers and build rapport, not just make a simple transaction.
BAR ALEXANDRAPLATZ: 6731 Avenue de l’Esplanade
If Bar Alexandraplatz didn’t have its doors open, you probably wouldn’t even know it was there. They rent out a small space in the BVM Brewery, and open their business only during the summertime. The Alexandraplatz feels like walking into an 70s teen movie, or going to your friend’s garage after school and knocking back a few beers. With two top-sliding garage doors pulled open, you’ll see masses of people gathered around the concrete space, sitting on the cafeteria-style picnic tables, spilling out onto the patio outside. The Alexandraplatz feels like a dream of never ending summer house party. In addition to their standard stocked bar, they also serve beers from the neighbouring brewery. The Alexandraplatz also brews their own IPA on site–a must-try for any fan of local brew (or fan of brew from any location, really).
CAFE GUERRERO: 6750 Avenue de l’Esplanade
Across the street from the ‘platz is Café Guerrero, another “blink and you’ll miss it” locale. Located on the ground floor of a loft space, the only indicators of Café Guerrero’s existence are a small sandwich-chalk board with opening hours and a tiny window on the side of building where, from the right angle, you can sneak a peak at someone preparing an order. In it’s 5th year of operation, Guerrero easily recruits a significant amount of its clientele from the building it’s located in. Housing a myriad of businesses, each tenant shares a common need: food and coffee. In commercial offices such as these, you would usually find a slew of fast-food chains like Subway or Tim Hortons crowding the lobby area, but Cafe Guerrero provides independently-owned, home-made, fresh meals and coffee.
Dépanneur Le Pick-Up: 7032 Waverly
Situated on the corner of Waverly and Alexandra, Dépanneur Le Pick-Up is quite literally your friendly neighbourhood corner store. They stock all the essentials you find yourself needing from a dep; beer or cake mix or dandelion & burdock soda. However, what distinguishes Le Pick-Up is that it doubles as a diner, providing some of the most exquisitely greasy and divine sandwiches you’ve ever tasted. A word of warning, combining their pulled-pork sandwich with potatoes and chipotle mayo may be a decision you’ll find yourself endlessly repeating on a delicious loop. Most importantly, DLP serves as an excellent hub for the neighbourhood, residents constantly bumping into acquaintances they might not have seen in some time while picking up an order, or hanging around on a picnic table. It’s the sort of place where everyone becomes a regular after their first visit thanks to an exceptionally kind and wonderful staff.
LE MILE-EX: 6631 Rue Jeanne-Mance
From the inside, Restaurant Mile-Ex appears no larger than an average living room. Unlike most restaurants, the kitchen is open-faced and entirely visible to clientele. This provides an intimate dining experience–you can not only see the chef prepare your food, but even have a chat with them while it’s happening. Inspired by the timeless art of street food, Le Mile-Ex combines efficient cooking with artisanal presentation, all while maintaining a dining experience akin to your best friend cooking a meal for you on a Sunday afternoon. In addition to serving their own beer and an impressive selection of fine wines, their menu includes seafood mac and cheese, mackerel grilled cheese, salmon burgers and many more expertly-prepared delicacies.