The 23rd post on Ici et here is by Alex Winnicki. Southwest Montreal is changing. Rapidly. Nowhere is this more evidenced than in the area’s food landscape. We’re thrilled that a guy who has been at ringside in the SW for 28 years is posting about this topic. Hope you enjoy!
About the author:
Alex is a long time St-Henri resident. If he is not pushing fruit or chatting at the Atwater Market, chances are he is eating or cooking somewhere. His other interests include music and gardening, He will soon be operating a Singaporean hawker-style, street food stand, under the banner of the Satay Brothers, at the Atwater Market with his brother Mat.
Let me first say that like all of the bloggers thus far on Ici et here, I love this little big city. As my contribution to the Ici et here posts, I wanted to talk about my neighbourhood.
Being a proud St-Henri resident for the last 28 years, I have witnessed many things. Change, though, has been the dominant theme.
A little about the hood
Nestled in the heart of the Southwest, St-Henri hood stops at Atwater on the east and at St-Rémi on the west. For years, it was a rough and tough working class area. This was partly due to the presence of the railway and the Lachine canal. These features meant perfectly positioned to become one of Canada’s most important industrial cradles.
Growing up in the neighborhood, one thing I remember was the impressive number of ‘dépanneurs’, taverns and fast food joints. Things have most definitely changed in the area. Industries have moved, the Lachine Canal is now home to leisure boats, not barges and the bike path is busier than ever. I still wonder where that family of turtles by the Canal went? And the heron? I dunno. Verdun?
The first thing to change in the hood was the people. Growing up, my ma was one of few asians in St-Henri. People were French Canadian, at least in majority. Now St-Henri is as diverse as the varieties of fruit I sell at the Atwater Market.
Next to change was housing, and in a big way. Mega projects along the Canal have revitalized the area. Condo projects and renovations on older houses are everywhere in St-Henri, and have brought fresh faces to the hood. I love the mix of new with the old!
And the food!
Contrary to popular belief it wasn’t McDonald’s taking over Applebaum’s (sigh) that started the inflow of new food in the hood. It was the presence of new residents wanting options that did it! Gentrification isn’t all bad
Old fast food spots are being taken over. To those insiders who know, don’t get worried, André from A.A. will live to 120 and he isn’t going anywhere, bless his poutine italienne and gentle soul!
We now have access to Indian, Caribbean, Portuguese, French, and more. Nice cafés like Café Mariani and the more recent Café St-henri are popping up. Pataterie Normand was taken over by Dragon Kitchen and subsequently became Tuck Shop. The original Restaurant Greene, an institution in Montreal, has become Kam Wing. again no worries, you can still hit that G spot right across the street if you like a real dark gravy.
I am happy to say that though things have changed, on the whole, it’s been for the better.
And what about the Atwater market?
I love that market. I have been working there on and off since the tender age of 12. It, too, has changed dramatically The market that used to sell apples, potatoes, carrots, turnips, onions and a few other items now offers so much more: a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, some of the best butchers in the city, a huge selection of olive oils and sauces, macarons, speciality preserves, roasted nuts and a myriad of other delights.
More change is coming too. The market is expanding on the north side with 14 new seasonal stalls. Wild mushrooms, fresh fish, rotisserie chicken, crepes and more. My brother, Moose, and I are opening a Singaporean Street food stall as part of this expansion. Called, The Satay Brothers, we will be servin authentic South East Asian delicacies and will also be your go to spot for fresh asian veggies and exotic fruits.
It fills me with pride to think that my bro and I, two neighborhood kids, will be bringing our mother’s native culture and cuisine to market that we love. Being a part of this dynamic area of town is just straight up amazing.