February 20, 2014
We leisurely left Buffalo late Thursday morning with the thought that we’d stop somewhere around Syracuse for lunch. Using my phone to search Urbanspoon and Yelp, the best sounding place I could find was The Brick House Café in Brewerton, NY. Upon pulling into the parking lot, we noticed that restaurant was now going by a different name – Barado’s Café. With the other nearby options being Subway and McDonalds, we quickly decided that the unknown was better than either of those.
Barado’s turned out to be quite a delight. The welcoming service and delicious turkey and provolone panini I scarfed down made it the perfect lunch spot for our day of travel. Since this was the official start of my vacation, I decided to go whole-hog and ordered a lunch dessert as well – homemade carrot cake. It was big enough for two, but that didn’t stop me from eating it all myself. After I was sufficiently stuffed with All-American goodness, we jumped back in the car, re-started our Audible audiobook* and continued north to the 15th largest city in North America**.
Thanks to heavy rush-hour traffic, we ended up not making it to our destination in the heart of Old Montreal until nearly 7:00pm. As my wife checked us in to our hotel (confusedly named LHotel), I wandered around the lobby admiring the plentiful artwork. The place is owned by Guess jeans founder Georges Marciano, and he has stuffed it full of works from modern luminaries such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Stella. Though pop art isn’t really my favorite, it was hard not to marvel at the omnipresent paintings and statues. I felt like I was trapped inside a 1986 Duran Duran video.
It was much too dark to go sightseeing in Old Montreal so we again turned to the internets for a dining selection. My wife picked out Méchant Boeuf based on decent star rating from Google Maps, and we headed out into the cold Canadian air in search of poutine. As soon as we entered the uber-trendy restaurant, I realized that we’d regret the fact that we hadn’t done our due diligence. If only we would have checked out the Yelp reviews, we would have seen the below line from Stephane V.:
“The bar is red and glows while a resident DJ spins ambient techno.”
Don’t get me wrong, the décor was really cool – especially the waterfall-wall feature. It just wasn’t the kind of place that you visit to wind down after a long day of driving. The tables were cramped, the music was loud, and everyone was dressed up in European chic. I now felt like I was trapped inside a 2013 Avicii video.
The cuisine was also a bit of a disappointment. I ordered the house burger and we split an order of the poutine. Despite mouthwatering descriptions for both (AAA beef with perfectly crisped bacon and artisanal blue cheese / poutine Charlevoix with braised pork), the food was pretty underwhelming. Thankfully we had many more days of vacation for me to continue my quest to find Montreal’s best poutine!
* We listened to “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple. Its nontraditional narrative structure wasn’t grabbing me much at first. I actually dozed off through a couple of the early chapters (while my wife was driving of course). However, once I got used to the epistolary storytelling I enjoyed it thoroughly – especially the rants about all the ne’er-do-wells in Seattle. That place is Bumtown, USA.
** Pittsburgh is 34th, sandwiched in-between Hogsmeade and Cabot Cove.