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An insider's guide to Montreal's nightlife

by Pat Hickey
Pat Hickey, a columnist at the Montreal Gazette for the past decade, knows all the hot spots in the city -- and which ones the All-Star players might hit up this weekend. He share's his insider tips with in this offering.

Montreal is known almost as much for its food and nightlife as it is for its hockey.

In the golden age of the Canadiens, the dominant cuisine was French; but today you can find a variety of restaurants which reflect the cosmopolitan nature of the city.

For All-Star Game visitors, there is no shortage of establishments dispensing food and drink within walking distance of the Bell Centre.
Da Vinci started life in the shadow of the old Montreal Forum as King of the Pizza. It followed the Canadiens to new digs on Bishop Street and remains the pasta joint of choice for hockey players and visitors seeking authentic Italian food.

Also on Bishop is Les Mas des Oliviers, which serves up classic French cooking. Drop in at lunch and you're likely to see former Canadiens general manager Serge Savard.

Le Bonne Notte is an Italian restaurant which folks go to see and be seen. The St. Laurent Boulevard eatery heats up as the night progresses.

If you have a hankering for beef, Le Queue de Cheval on René Levesque Boulevard is a New York-style steak house with prices to match. You can also find prime beef and an Old World atmosphere at Gibby's in the D'Youville Stables in Old Montreal.

Moishes on St. Laurent Boulevard provides pickles, coleslaw and rye bread as a warmup for mouth-watering steaks, while the newest branch of The Keg chain in Place Ville Marie, across from the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, serves steak and seafood in modern surroundings. Go a few steps east of the Queen E and you'll find Vargas, which offers something completely different -- steak and sushi.

Smoked meat -- think pastrami with an edge -- is a Montreal specialty and the best sandwiches can be found at Schwartz's Delicatessen on St. Laurent.

Another local specialty is poutine, which is French fries, topped with curd cheese and gravy. You can find it at snack bars, called casse croutes, but you can also find an upscale version made with foie gras at Au Pied Cochon. Go a little north on St. Laurent and you'll find Champ's, one of the city's oldest and most popular sports bars.

Looking for weekend brunch? Try the rooftop restaurant at the Hotel Bonaventure -- and don't forget your swimsuit. After brunch, you can work off some of the calories with a dip in the hotel's heated outdoor pool.

The closest pregame watering spot is actually located in the Bell Centre. It's La Cage aux Sports, which serves up chicken and ribs to be washed down with pints of Molson draft beer.

There are dozens of restaurants and bars within walking distance of the Bell Centre.

At Hurley's Irish Pub, on Crescent Street, you can rub elbows, literally, with hockey media from across North America; Ye Old Orchard on de la Montagne offers solid pub fare and curries; Winnie's is the grand dame of Crescent Street nightlife, and the postgame clientele at Ziggy's Pub often includes former Canadiens player and current broadcaster Murray Wilson.

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