Fringe Food

Conferences, Concerts and Croque-Croissants

  • Photo Elsa Jabre

It’s amazing where the 80 can land you. That’s the 80 du Parc bus, one of the most enduring routes on our fair island, chugging hundreds of times daily up and down the eight kilometre stretch linking downtown’s Place-des-Arts with the Métropolitain highway.

Though there are precisely two billion cafés along this route (according to my official survey), many of which might well make for pleasant stop-offs, I’d like to share one particular gem that you may pass over regularly in your fervour to reach the end of the line.

What’s more, it’s not out to grab your cash, and makes use of its fresh menu as a way to link artists, scholars and community activists.

Nestled unassumingly amidst low-rise office buildings and brutalist government facilities just south of Jean-Talon is the wide, bright Artère, a newly-minted co-op proposing a gastronomic and cultural space to the über-diverse and rapidly-changing Villeray-Parc-Extension.

My first glimpse of the place came from behind a lineup of office workers grabbing coffees-to-go. Intrigued, I had followed them in. A display case of succulent pastries and a large espresso peeked out from behind the lineup, while staff behind the counter raced around to keep up with the flow of takeout orders.

But, I soon learned, this traditional café mis-en-scène concealed the diverse and accessible array of cultural offerings that form the very heart of Artère.

Upon sitting down to sample some grub, I happily noted the chalkboard menu-du-jour: a hearty carte of soups, sandwiches, and quiche concocted daily. Always a good sign. Next to grab my eye was a handsome upright piano on a small platform, bathed in mid-afternoon light, and to its right, a long stage equipped with massive speakers.

“We strive to be a cultural space,” said Étienne of Artère, which opened its doors—rather quietly—just four months ago. “We’re continually working on new projects, on connecting to the community in all sorts of ways.”

My croque-croissant sandwich having arrived, I lost track of my surroundings for a few moments. The sandwich went down in about five bites, each of which exceedingly fresh and inviting, and, in the words of my lunch companion, “I could have eaten three more of them.” I suspected the pastry was made in-house, the veggies were at their peak, and the ham thick and flavourful. The side beet-salad, tossed with a thin slices of onion, paired perfectly with the richness of the croissant sandwich.

After savouring my simple dish (and appreciating it all the more at its $4.00 pricetag), I once again opened up to my surroundings. An array of plants spilled out of pots in every window, as did books off of shelves in all directions. The corner lot and plethora of windows coupled with the simple wood tables and humble staff to create a fresh and welcoming feeling that I had rarely experienced at a traditional resto. I felt like I could hang out there all day, sans pressure.

I caught up with Étienne, one of the founding members of the Co-op.

“We strive to be a cultural space,” he says of Artère, which opened its doors—rather quietly—just four months ago. “We’re continually working on new projects, on connecting to the community in all sorts of ways.”

He proudly points out the multifaceted ways in which the space has already been utilized. “Though our stage is still being built, we’ve had concerts, community meetings, and even conferences.” He informs me that, for example, Concordia’s University of the Streets Café has already held two events at Artère.

Striving to be a cultural platform for the community, Artère bypasses the traditional model of many cafés, where artists hang works on the walls in exchange for a possible sale. According to Étienne, artists can become ‘Artist Members’ of the Coop, granting them access to the entire space for shows, screenings or other public events.

Finding a café that remains open to its community members, that listens to and works with artists, is rare. But finding one as beautiful and well-kept as Artère is even more precious—thus proving, especially to the downtown-centric amongst us, how rewarding a simple bus ride can be.

Café Cooperative L’Artère is at 7000 ave du Parc. For events, or to get involved, check out artere.coop.

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