“Come for the beer, stay because you’re getting beat up”
When passing through Crescent St. in the heart of downtown Montreal, one gets the sense that they are taking a journey through time… to 1930s Dublin. The air is rank with the smell of regurgitated poutine, beer, and innocence. The rich, inspired Victorian architecture is complimented by a classy neon sign aesthetic that just screams, “Open”. It’s the nightlife destination described by Wikipedia as “running perpendicular to Saint Catherine Street”. The clientele is rowdy at best, and lynching you at worst; but night after night, season after season, Crescent draws a crowd. Whether or not that crowd becomes a mob, however, will depend on the performance of whatever Montreal sports team is playing that night.
Local specialties include knife wounds, the bastardization of Irish culture, bars named after white Anglo Saxon guys populated almost exclusively by white Anglo Saxon guys, bad lighting, prostitutes, girls easily mistaken for prostitutes due to bad lighting, and swearing. But really, the best time to go to Crescent is in the summertime, in the midst of street festival season. It makes for a nice break from the more crowded and stonery Tam Tams, and isn’t as much of a hassle to get to.
With NASCAR coming to town every August, and the off-track party for it taking place on Crescent, the tourist scene buzzes with scores of wholesome, hard-drinking country folk who are apparently still entertained watching buzz cut Alabamians turn left for four hours. In June, however, the Formula One Grand Prix sets up a massive festival in the same vein, only executed much better. You can gamble, pose with the promo girls, drink in the streets, rock/rap out with your cock/flap out to some decent concerts, and when it’s all over, walk away with a small fortune in promotional giveaways from the sponsors.
If you’re looking for non-seasonal incentive to come down, Crescent is actually a good place to find cheap domestic beer. With careful barhopping between spots like Brutopia, Dundee’s and Winston Churchill (known locally as Winnie’s), one can cover a lot of bases in indie beer baseball. Local microbrewery McAuslan makes a Cream Ale to die, kill, or maim for; and their subsidiary brand, St-Ambroise, puts out a seasonal pumpkin beer from October to November that is very tasty. I don’t have a joke for that, I just enjoy the beer.
But hey, if bars aren’t really your scene, clubs like Karina’s and Electric Avenue would be glad to overcharge you for drinks, take your coat, and make your ears bleed while you try to get laid. Seriously though, don’t go clubbing on Crescent. You would think having a bar and dance club in the same building would be convenient, but really it’s an attempt at mixing two kinds of party crowd that just don’t get along, and that’s what most businesses on the block are trying to do. Best stick to St Lau.
And for all you non-drinking types who somehow have fun sober, Crescent is home to a great Lebanese place named Boustan. Just watch out for the indigenous bearded hobos camping their terrace in the summer. Across the block from them there’s California Pizza but in all honesty, their only saving grace is being open way past last call. If you’re a coffee/espresso fetishist, check out Nespresso Bar on the north side near Stogies. Seriously it’s the Apple Store of caffeine. Half the people who go there don’t even buy anything, they just stand around looking at the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of flavours for a substance most people just drink to curb a hangover.
Now, we would caution against going out to Crescent at/for any time/reason other than those listed in the preceding, but if some of you still insist on going, here’s a handy guide for those brave enough to venture on:
Don’t bring any of the following on your trip to Crescent, because one or more of them will not be coming back with you:
- Wallet containing anything more than $50
- Full set of teeth
- Fancy hat, Cane, monocle, or any other signs of wealth/eccentricity
- T-shirt that reads, “I’m with the Narc ”
- Faith in humanity
- Clean criminal record
- A smile
If you do need to go to Crescent for some reason (watch a hockey game, have a drink while contemplating/regretting life choices, avenge your father’s murder) DO bring as many of the following as possible:
- Irish accent
- Plausible alibi
- Large friends
- Can-do attitude
- Can-run away attitude
- Eye patch(es)
- Working knowledge of Montreal municipal law (if not, bribe money)
Other than that, just keep your head on a swivel. Like a cat with its tail tied to a ceiling fan. And hey, if you’re feeling anxious out there, you can always relax with a drink and get your nails done in luxury at the Rouge Bar à Ongles on the north side.
You too, ladies!
Dylan Maloney is a freelance comedy writer living in Montreal who measures his worth as a human being based on the number of likes he gets.