Montreal’s last old-school diners

We profile three of this city’s longstanding diners, relics of another time. Photos by Owain Harris.

Greenspot diner, Montreal
Greenspot. Photos by Owain Harris

Delis, cafés and casse-croûtes old and new exist across Montreal, supplying an ever-present demand for coffee, cheap (and not so cheap) breakfast and all manner of greasy fastfood, from burgers to gyros to poutines.

Comfort food has become a high-priced commodity in foodie circles, the retro diner aesthetic has been cheapened by the likes of Nickels, and the city’s coolest old-school diner (that art-deco wonder on St-Denis at Gilford) was long ago transformed by a local pizza chain.

There are only a handful of vintage, American-esque diners left in this town. Here are three that we’re fond of:

A jukebox at Moe's
A jukebox at Moe’s

Moe’s is a lot of things, but more than anything, it’s open all the time. And that’s pretty much the best thing about it. Yes, it’s got all the old-timey charm you could want—booths with non-functional jukeboxes and the like. But while its menu is extensive, nothing on it really stands out. Still, it’s a good option when there are no other options — and that’s reason enough to stop by at 4 a.m.

Milkshakes and Cokes in tall glasses, hearty meals for every kind of grease connoisseur and a late-night closing time on weekends have made Greenspot a St-Henri staple for decades. The mini jukeboxes at each table don’t work, of course, but they help cement the authenticity of this truly vintage diner. Even after a recent redesign, Greenspot retained its retro style and substance.

Nouveau Système
Nouveau Système

In one of the great tragedies of our time, Nouveau Système recently replaced their kitschy hand-painted sign, but the inside is still pretty much as it was when it opened in 1962 — striped walls, a jukebox in every booth, spinning stools along the counter and sparkly vinyl everywhere. Like any good diner, it’s a vacuum of nutrients, but everything on the sandwich and brunch menus clocks in at under $5, and IMHO their poutine is the best in the city. ■

See more photos below:

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