It’s become a bit of a cliché that Prince-Arthur Street has seen better days. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, the pedestrian stretch between St-Laurent and Carré St-Louis was known for its expansive terrasses and affordable bring-your-own-wine Greek restaurants offering heaping plates of brochettes. Though the shifting economy, the parking situation and changing food fashions in Montreal have taken their toll on the street, long-standing, large-format depanneur Marché Brito is a vestige of the glory days.
This depanneur (fka Marché Xtra, at 67 Prince-Arthur E.) has been an integral part of the Prince-Arthur scene through thick and thin. Most notably, its power-wall of wine has been and continues to be indispensable for those last-minute BYOW rendez-vous. Say what you will about the quality of depanneur wines. We’ve all shown up empty-handed to the restaurant or house party, and Brito’s selection goes way beyond the few dusty bottles of Nicolas Laloux and Wallaroo Trail (shudder) at most corner deps. The beer selection also beats the basics with two walls of fridges and a shelf of artisanal products.
What’s more, the establishment offers a surprisingly decent selection of groceries, including fresh fruits and vegetables and a solid selection of coffee. There is a deli counter at the back with sandwiches, a tureen of hot soup and big bowls of homemade potato and pasta salad. By the cash you’ll find warm samosas and Jamaican patties. All of this makes for a great snack on the way to Sherbrooke metro; it could also provide for a cheap “picnic” if you’re into hobo-chic drinking in Carré St-Louis.
All in all, Marché Brito is a reminder of true urban resilience. While the surrounding restaurants literally burned to the ground and the city tore up the street repeatedly in vain attempts to bring new business, Brito survived by offering a solid selection of on-the-go essentials worth dodging scaffolding and forklifts.
Prince Arthur seems to have settled into a more peaceful phase these days, with a handful of new, more neighbourhood-oriented restaurants, fresh paving stones, some rather expensive-looking public art and a shiny row of condos. Whether this will suffice for it to reclaim its status as a city-wide destination is doubtful, but one thing’s for sure: Marché Brito isn’t going anywhere. ■
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Cult MTL. To read the latest issue, click here.
For more Montreal depanneur profiles, see previous editions of Inspectah Dep here.
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