If you don’t remember Miss Montreal and The Brown Derby restaurants you are either too young or not from these parts. Little did I think I would be reminded of these venerable, though extinct, eateries when I walked into Aux Vivres (http://www.auxvivres.com/en/home/), which bills itself as Montreal’s First Vegan Restaurant.
Aux Vivres is situated on The Main just a bit north of avenue Mont-Royal and, of course, I visualized eating at what vegetarian restaurants once were: a small, dark cozy place with a hippyish waitress in sandals and a long floral dress and smelling of patchouli oil (right, I know that that image really dates me but…).
What I didn’t expect was a large, noisy and very full restaurant. The tables are tightly packed together; the lighting is fairly bright and the clientele is, in fact, quite young. There were not too many 50-somethings the night I ate there, not too many 40-somethings either, now that I think of it.
Now I’m a conservative eater. Where I do feel a bit more adventurous is trying new restaurants. But, sadly, once I’m there I tend to look for foods that I’m familiar with. At Aux Vivres, I’m pretty sure that I could order anything on the menu and not be too disappointed.
What I did find funny was the music selection (the speakers were just behind my head). Pure late 60’s, early 70’s, a musical period which I adore (lots of Creedence Clearwater, Led Zeppelin). Unfortunately, the songs chosen were a little too conventional. Great period, timid music selection (like my meal selections at most restaurants). I found the musical choice funny because the restaurant’s clientele is so young. But I suppose that it’s not too surprising considering Aux Vivres talks to an earlier era, of large restaurants like the two mentioned above. In the 1960’s, I remember going to Miss Montreal often and The Brown Derby in the 1970’s. They were vibrant and busy. Remember Piazza Tomasso? Corner of Decarie and de la Savane. Thursday nights, Magic Tom used to show up and pull eggs out of your ear. Speaking of which, can anyone find a spaghetti sauce today that is a delicious as theirs was?
Surprisingly, having tried that evening’s special, I was a little disappointed. It was tough to cut through my Oriental ‘burger’ and my wife found her vegan burger just so-so. The tomato soup was splendid, however.
Strangely, the tables are quite tiny. Four people at one of these ‘large’ tables would be quite squished. They only really comfortably fit two. I suppose that the owners envisioned a busy eatery, and they were right. No line ups, can fit a ton of people, but watch out for your elbows.
The service was out-of-this-world. The owners obviously know how impatient Montrealers are. We weren’t over-served; just enough to never have to wait long for anything.
As I say, the restaurant was full, and noisy. The music was a tad too loud; lucky for me I knew and related to it. Otherwise…
I would recommend this restaurant but it’s good to know in advance what to expect. It won’t be a quiet evening out; on the contrary. It’s a good place to people-watch because it’s where the ‘beautiful people’ go. It’s got an interesting and ambitious menu. And, for people of a ‘certain age’ it just might bring you back to the ‘golden age’ of Montreal where large restaurants like Ruby Foos and Miss Montreal flourished, a time when Montreal seemed a happy and innocent place to live — which of course is how we look at our youth, even if it wasn’t so.