Every week, Montreal seems one step closer to peak natural wine bar saturation. Hochelaga-Maisonneuve hasn’t seen the same boom in wine bar openings that other neighbourhoods have, but starting June 30, one-month-old specialty coffee shop Supernat will officially double as one of its first, staying open later on Thursdays and Fridays for low-key, wine-fuelled evenings.
Partners, long-time friends from CEGEP, and novices in the hospitality industry, Paul Tran and Olivier Trudeau, opened Supernat on May 25 with the intention of slowly inching toward a hybrid café-meets-wine-bar model. Two weeks after Supernat’s debut, they started testing the Hochelaga waters with a happy hour offering. Now, they’re ready to become an end-of-week hangout spot for lovers of natural, low-intervention wines — served on tap.
Wine taprooms haven’t entirely caught on in Montreal as they have around the U.S., but the serving method, which nixes the bottle, the label, and most of the cardboard packaging, is known to create less waste. Keeping wine in stainless steel barrels helps avoid oxidization and overheating, meaning less of it is likely to go down the drain.
“We wanted to be as eco-conscious as possible,” Trudeau, who lives in the neighbourhood, says. “But at the same time, we also wanted to get that same accessible feeling of a beer garden or a microbrewery. A place where you can just come and sit down with your dog, your kid, the stroller, and relax with a pint.”
Though beer and cider (from Hochelaga neighbour Avant-Garde and Fleuri in the Eastern Townships, respectively) are available, it’s mainly draft wines — selected by sommelier Sydney Auger — that are spewing from Supernat’s 12 taps, located behind a central island counter. (Supernat is a counter-service-only spot.) For now, the wines are mainly European, but the plan is to incorporate more local options as kegs become available from more producers in Quebec.
Mixologist Maximiliano Vallée Valletta devised the cocktails for Supernat, compiling a list that includes a Japanese highball with rum, lemongrass, and calamansi syrup; an espresso coconut martini; and a Negroni topped with beer foam.
A coffee shop by day, Supernat is well-versed in the espresso standards, plus a pour-over option, all made with grains from favourite local roaster Zab. They’ve also got lattes made with matcha and the lesser-known hojicha, a roasted Japanese green tea powder, which they hope to sell in small canisters someday. For daytime snacks, Supernat’s offerings are limited to a tamago sando (a Japanese egg sandwich) featuring kimchi from Hochelaga Korean food seller Cham! k.cuisine, cookies from Trudeau’s girlfriend, and Vietnamese puff pastries (pâté chaud) from Tran’s mom.
Come evening, patrons can fill up on several other Asian-influenced sandwiches — the results of a collaboration with chef Mathieu Bourdages (formerly Kitchen Galerie). There’s a barbecue pork bánh mì, a salmon sashimi sandwich with wasabi mayo, and three grilled cheese options — one with pulled pecking duck, another with ajitsuke tofu, and the last with goat cheese, Asian pear, sesame seeds, and a honey sambal oelek coulis. They’re all made on Hokkaido milk bread, with prices ranging from $9 to $13.
Located a couple of blocks south of Hochelaga’s primary commercial strip, Promenade Ontario, Supernat occupies a Ste-Catherine Street East space across from Théâtre Denise-Pelletier and beside Parc Morgan — and has a 20-seat terrasse that looks out to both.
Inside, Montreal design and architecture firm MRDK — whose work can be seen at vinvinvin, Tiramisu, and Pizzeria Vesta, among others — has made over the former Chez Bouffe space. They’ve retained some of its brick walls (and a fun, dangling orange light fixture matching Supernat’s branding) while adding lots of light, wooden furniture and wall panels, some minimalist Japanese design touches, and a nice mix of retro-looking furniture pieces.
It’s all come together now, three years after Tran, who works in the medical field, first decided to open a café-wine bar. He’d taken a barista course at Stumptown Coffee in Portland, Oregon, where his teacher also introduced him to the city’s lively wine scene. Back in Montreal, Trudeau was quick to get on board.
Now that Supernat is up and running, the pair say they plan to host a series of educational events with local roasters and winemakers. Their goal is to bring a farm-to-table restaurant approach to their beverage-focused business while highlighting the commonalities between coffee and wine.
“When our sommelier took the barista class, and our barista took the sommelier class, they were both like, ‘There are cherry flavours. There’s fermentation. There’s a lot of overlap,” Tran says. Trudeau chimes in: “It’s all agriculture, and it’s all about taking that matière première [a raw material] and turning it into a good, natural liquid.”
Supernat is open at 4316 Ste-Catherine Est, from Wednesday to Sunday at 9 a.m. On Wednesdays and Sundays, it closes at 4 p.m.; on Thursdays and Fridays, at 10:30 p.m.; and on Saturdays at 7 p.m.