The lower Main is now home to Le Bowhead, Montreal’s first all totally vegan pub.
Co-owner Sahar Cohen says that while the new spot, on located on St-Laurent near des Pins, aims to focus on the overall food experience, rather than making a pronounced stand on the health benefits or ethics of veganism.
“There isn’t a vegan space where everyone can be loud, watch a game, and eat good pub food,” he says. “I want the omnivores and the carnivores to come and enjoy their meal, too.”
Le Bowhead takes over the location of Big in Japan’s shut-down restaurant (the bar by the same name remains open further up the street).
Look closely and you’ll see no mention of the word ‘vegan’ anywhere. Rather, only a small note of ‘100% plant-based’ at the foot of the menu. Rather, it will lean right into pub offerings: burgers, popcorn chicken, Frito pie, chili dogs, and a variation of poutine called ANML fries are all on the menu. It’s far from stereotypical tofu-driven vegan food — Cohen’s team are even planning to add deep-fried macaroni and “cheese” onion rings in coming days.
Cohen is one of four co-owners, the others being Alexis Chalifoux (Le Richmond, Globe), chef Diem Tong, and Paul Sen. Not all of the key players are vegan, which Cohen says is a strength rather than a conflict of interest. This way, they still have a few taste buds in the meaty realm as a reference point to hone Le Bowhead’s menu moving forward.
“I was craving the comfort food I used to have when I was younger,” says Cohen, who has been vegan for five years. “We’re more about ethics than health. This is a place to get a little fat.”
That ethical approach even comes through in the pub’s name: the bowhead is a whale found in northern waters that was once endangered due to overhunting, but has recovered thanks to conservation efforts. So while it doesn’t scream veganism, it does connect with it in a discreet way, Cohen notes.
Of course, Le Bowhead is a pub, so drinks will feature as much as food — beers on tap are mostly from Unibroue (such as the Blanche de Chambly and Autre Chose IPA), as are a few cocktails, like a paloma, gimlet, and sidecar. Equally pubby is the interior design — with plenty of woody tones, it’s sleekly classic.
With TVs on site, Le Bowhead should be a pub for the people, screening important matches and other events — such as the Toronto Raptors’ NBA win last week.
Le Bowhead is currently open to the public and will hold its grand opening on June 20th.
STATUS — Le Bowhead is open at 3723 St-Laurent from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday to Sunday.