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New Team Aims to Bring Back Montreal Legend Laurier BBQ, But to St-Viateur Street

Some are irked by the prospect of yet another chicken takeout counter in Mile End

Eater/Vox Media

Legendary Montreal institution Laurier BBQ will, once again, “rise from the ashes,” a newly minted Instagram account dedicated to the project says in its bio.

The revival will concentrate on the same food item that brought the original Laurier BBQ, established in 1936, its fame: rotisserie chicken. However, this time around the restaurant will be takeout- and delivery-only, based out of 231 St-Viateur West. This is the same Shiller Lavy-owned space that once housed beloved Patisserie Chez de Gaulle, and has sat empty ever since the business was forced out by a steep 55 percent rent increase in 2019, presumably until someone willing to pay a higher rent came along.

The project comes from Emmanuel Goubard, Franco Parreira, and Maxime Tremblay, the trio behind bistro 3734 in Saint-Henri and several other culinary ventures, including other poultry projects, such as pop-ups Victoria BBQ in Saint-Lambert and Westmount BBQ, which temporarily wound down operations earlier this week.

“We are working very very hard to do this the right way,” Tremblay tells Eater. “We are doing a lot of research and have the help of someone who worked at the original Laurier BBQ. We’ve been doing tests and focus groups with old-timer clients. We are treating it as something sacred.”

Tremblay explains that the type of rotisserie oven used at the original Laurier BBQ is no longer in production, so the team has had to get one built to measure in hopes of more closely approximating the taste that patrons once held dear. They’re also working on recreating the restaurant’s iconic gâteau moka (moka cake) — down to the number of seconds it needs to be microwaved before serving.

The original Laurier BBQ, located at 381 Avenue Laurier West (now a pizzeria Fiorellino outpost), was opened by the Laporte family, and feted for its rotisserie chicken, frozen fries, and selection of pies. It closed in April 2011, after 75 years, and reopened less than a year later, in February 2012 for a short stint, under the name Laurier Gordon Ramsay, referring to the hot-headed celebrity chef who consulted new owners and controversial real estate magnates Stephen Shiller and Dan Lavy on the project. That ill-fated business relationship ended in litigation, and the restaurant was then taken over by the Nakis family, also a shareholder in smoked meat empire Schwartz’s, who renamed it Laurier 1936, before shutting its doors once more.

Though this is the second time Shiller and Lavy’s names are tied to an attempt at a Laurier BBQ comeback, they are not listed as owners in this latest iteration, officially called “Laurier BBQ Express,” in Quebec’s business registry. With that said, Shiller and Lavy still listed under “Laurier BBQ” in the registry. Reached for further clarification, Tremblay tells Eater that he and his partners “bought the license from them, and they are not involved in our operation.”

“It’s such an iconic brand for Montrealers and it’s a shame it’s gotten mixed up in the past, but we really just want to bring back the tradition and the classics of Laurier BBQ,” Tremblay says. “We’ve been working on this for a long time.”

While the name recognition of Laurier BBQ is sure to win over some who’d been verklempt to see the original go almost a decade ago (and then put through the wringer with the Ramsay fiasco), the new business will need to contend with a Mile End already very well-served on the chicken front. There’s jerk-spiced at Lloydie’s, rotisserie at Serrano BBQ, Portuguese-style at Mile End Grill and Cantine Emilia, and fried bird coming in May from Verdun newcomer Jack Le Coq — all on St-Viateur alone. Then again, a gâteau moka microwave-warmed to precision won’t be on offer anywhere else.

flyer
A photo of the flyer spotted at 231 St-Viateur West on Thursday afternoon.
Stéphanie Bourbeau/Supplied

On Thursday afternoon, news of the forthcoming project inspired someone to affix an anonymous flyer at the former Patisserie Chez de Gaulle space, calling out Shiller Lavy for bringing yet one more chicken takeout counter to a neighbourhood already oversaturated with them. “Don’t you feel the anchoring force, the resilience, and our devotion toward Rotisserie Serrano? Can’t you feel our loyalty to the neighbourhood’s longtime small businesses?” the flyer reads. It goes on to provide some recommendations for the landlord, among them less chicken, pizza, and empty shopfronts; more small neighbourhood bakeries, community kitchens, and old-fashioned déps.

In a comment provided to Eater, Montreal novelist and member of community group Mile End Ensemble Sean Michaels sums it up as such: “Mile End mustn’t be reduced to a chicken takeout counter. We call on the borough to create better protections for the independence and variety of its commercial spaces — and above all, for greedy landlords to stop squeezing tenants out of the neighbourhood that’s their home.”

This isn’t the first time that Tremblay and his partners have launched a new project that was met with anti-gentrification backlash. In 2016, they recounted an incident involving 30 masked individuals entering their new-at-the-time Saint-Henri restaurant 3734 (also located in a Shiller Lavy-owned property) and looting and vandalizing the space, as well as appending signs denouncing gentrification in its windows.

Eater has reached out to both Tremblay and Shiller Lavy for comments on the flyer.

Laurier BBQ is slated to open this spring at 231 St-Viateur West.

Update: This is a developing story that has changed several times since publication to include reactions to the project and additional contextual information.

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