It would be impossible to live in Montreal and not recognize the giant orange that dominates Decarie. Within one of the city’s most unique and signature structures lies the Orange Julep. Started in 1932, and made into its current form in 1966, the O.J. remains a Montreal institution.
Hermas Gibeau founded Gibeau Orange Julep in 1932 with the desire to sell his now famous neon orange and frothy julep beverage. In 1945, the first version of the orange sphere was built, and, so the story goes, Gibeau apparently intended to live in the property with his family. Two decades later, it had to be rebuilt because of the expansion of the Décarie Expressway and became the current version of the landmark. There were originally other locations in Montreal, but the Décarie location is the one that lives on with us today.
The Orange Julep may not have retained all of the snazzy features from its 1960s life, but it has nevertheless stood the test of time remarkably. Although customers may now be accustomed to ordering at the window and eating at the picnic tables, until as recently as the 2000s, the quaint practice of waitresses on roller-skates survived. Short-skirt-clad waitresses would roller-skate their way to each customer’s car, carrying their order on a tray that would attach to their car window.
Another change, indisputably an improvement, is that the restaurant is now open year-round, so no Montrealer has to survive a brutal winter without the relief of an old-fashioned julep or a classic hot dog and fries. Although, understandably, the 24-hour service is limited to summer months.
Chief among the traditions maintained at the Orange Julep is the parading of fancy cars during the summer. A car admirer’s dream, the parking lot becomes home to classic cars, new luxury cars, and anything in between, as well as a variety of motorbikes. The experience has even been named “One of the Hottest Car Hangouts in Canada.” The summer car display wouldn’t be complete without the blasting ’50s and ’60s music, a staple of the proceeding. Few things say Montreal summer more than having a refreshing julep or soft-serve ice cream while admiring the extravagant cars with the Beach Boys playing overhead.
Montreal may be well known for its trendy food scene, but some classics never go out of style.