Brace for the fall of food halls — the first of three such marketplaces planned for the city has opened to the public in the Quartier des Spectacles.
Le Central is the name, and when it’s fully open, it will bring a hefty 25 new restaurants and bars to the Place-des-Arts adjacent area. The hall’s official opening isn’t until next week (October 17), but the majority of its vendors are up and running (see the full list below).
It’ll be the biggest of three food halls in the works for Montreal (Time Out Market and Le Cathcart are the other two, both of which will be around Ste-Catherine and McGill College downtown).
Despite the large volume of restaurants, it’s rather well laid-out — it takes up most of the ground level of the Carré St-Laurent office building, with entrances from Sainte-Catherine at Clark, and on St-Laurent just south of Ste-Catherine. While the food hall concept might sound like “food court but with better options”, Le Central doesn’t take that food court approach of one big room encircled with restaurants.
Instead, a number of the restaurants have their own space. Some, like tapas spot Pintxo have seating at their stand; most will make use of communal seating, but they’re spread throughout the 22,000 square foot complex in a way that doesn’t seem to jam the restaurant up against each other.
The placement of the restaurants is also pretty sensible — small, grab-and-go type stands like coffee shop the Standard and doughnut-maker Trou de Beigne are right near the Clark entrance, meaning those looking for something quick won’t need to venture deep into the food hall. Then, more formal spots like Pintxo and pizzeria Heirloom have more secluded corner locations. Similarly, craft beer bar West Shefford has its own sunken mezzanine, allowing a more separate zone for, say, a 5 à 7 visit. (West Shefford is the only straight-up bar on site, but many of the stands sell alcohol.)
The space itself is spartan yet smooth — there’s lots of exposed concrete, and it’s light on decoration. That might be a smart choice, since most of the stands have their own branding, with varied neon signs and logos; elaborate decoration for the rest of the space could be overkill (although there are a few walls covered in artful posters for shows and events at nearby Place-des-Arts). This might change — not every restaurant is open yet, and a few vendors are still under construction, mostly at the back of the hall. That minor construction isn’t disruptive, though — around lunch hour on Tuesday, it was barely noticeable.
Le Central seats around 900 people, spread throughout the complex — much of that is at long, wooden communal tables, as well as a few stand-alone tables with chairs or banquettes; a number of the stands have bar seating, too.
Lastly, what about prices? With 25 restaurants, this inevitably varies, but they’re overall pretty reasonable. The new-wave trendy food hall could easily be the kind of medium that allows for price gouging, but on first look, nobody is going wild on that front. Tacos from Bonita’s are the same price as at La Capital nearby (which is owned by the same people) — $3.50, which isn’t bad in a town that’s hardly known for dollar tacos. Then, a sandwich with fries from Emilia will set you back $13 before taxes. In short: it’s not dirt cheap, but certainly affordable, especially for the office lunch crowds in the area who are likely to return.
STATUS — Le Central is partially open at 30 Ste-Catherine W from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Note that individual vendors may follow a different schedule — for example, not all are open for breakfast.
- Former Plateau Spanish restaurant Pintxo
- Hearty burger and poutine joint Le Gras Dur (known for the Schnitzel, Burger and Bacon trucks around town
- Creative new ice creamery Bagado (flavours include red pepper-raspberry and apricot-carrot)
- Taco stand Bonita’s, from the same owners as La Capital in Chinatown
- Dessert stand with a particular interest in churros, Mignon
- Villeray-based Portuguese grill and sandwich spot Emilia
- Chinese-leaning fried chicken stand Ho Lee Chix, from the owner of Village Vietnamese restaurant Le Red Tiger
- Also from Le Red Tiger’s owner, Laotian restaurant Thip Thip
- From Sherbrooke, Quebec, charcuterie experts La République Démocratique du Jambon
- Tartare bar Mignonette
- Bishop Street ramen resto Misoya
- Little Italy doughnut shop Trou de Beigne
- Chez Milo et Fine, a former Breton-style crepe shop in Petite-Patrie that has been revived for Le Central
- Moroccan restaurant Bab Kesh, with specialties like couscous and pastilla
- Craft brewery West Shefford
- A new outpost for Westmount and Mile End coffee shop the Standard
- Quebec City-based poke bowl and sushi chain Buddha-Station
Still in the works
- Hochelaga-based Neapolitan pizzeria Heirloom
- Serving poke and other Hawaiian snacks, a new location for Village restaurant Kamehameha
- Roman-style pizza restaurant Morso
- Modern takes on classic deep-fried chickpea patties from Falafel Avenue
- Maritime-focused food truck Camion Gaspésie
- Petite-Patrie south Indian snack bar Le Super Qualité
- St-Jérôme cheesemongers Yannick Fromagerie
- Italian stand Ragu