The Budget Friendly Under-Belly: Chalet Bar-B-Q

Chalet Bar-B-Q where taste and authenticity meet.

Chalet Bar-B-Q’s Sherbrooke Street main entrance Photo Aaron Bauman

As you get off the 24 bus and watch as it drives away, you stand in front of what can only be described as a monument of sacrilege to the journey you're about to start; KFC. Their claim to fame is that their food is “finger-licking good,” but a small walk down the street will deliver you to the truth — Chalet Bar-B-Q.

Long before the Swiss had a monopoly on BBQ chicken in Canada, Montrealers had Chalet Bar-B-Q. Highlighted by the beacon of light that is their ten-foot neon sign, you become drawn in like a moth to the flame. More specifically, the 475 degree C charcoal flame cooking your new favourite chicken dinner.

Opened in 1944, the sights you see outside of the Chalet are not what they once were. “When we first opened, the chickens were plucked from the farms that used to surround this area” our server Yousseff tells me. Now a landscape of asphalt and concrete, the chickens are brought in from an undisclosed location, wherever they come from, I’m glad they end up here.

The wood panels, stained by years of cigarette smoke and chicken grease, cocoon you into your red leather booth. Laid before you is a paper menu, a set of cutlery used only by rookies, and wet wipes that you’ll soon run out of.

The secret to 79 years of business? According to GM Danny Colantonio it’s consistency, “it hasn’t changed”. The beer is cold, the chicken is succulent and the ambience is reminiscent of the first hour after church. Looking up, shrouded by dusty silk plants you’ll see the families flooded into multiple booths, filled with aunties and grandmas who know that the secret to happiness is in an extra order of their special sauce. 

To start, you’ll order the beer. Not by the glass, but by the pitcher. For $25.95 the 60oz. of mystery beer will be your jumping-off point into the evening, and also the biggest number you will see on your bill; an obvious choice to accompany you on the journey you are about to embark on.

A quick glance at the menu provides you with an array of chicken dishes which would make any sane person drool: Wings, legs, breasts, half-chickens and sandwiches. 

Obviously, the go-to is the half-chicken meal. At $22.65, the chicken and sides are more than enough for two; coleslaw or chicken soup, fresh-cut fries or baked potato, sauce and a toasted roll served with their signature sauce.

Cooled down by your first beer, the warm chicken noodle soup comes as fast as it goes. As you wait for the rest of your meal, depending on your tolerance, you may lose yourself in the landscapes of the rusticly framed photographs decorating your booth wall, akin only to those that litter your dentist's office which hasn’t been updated since 1984.

A cherry wrapped table for two Aaron Bauman

Before you start your second beer, the fries make their way from plate to hand to sauce, in one fluid stroke; Crisp, greasy, perfect. Under the nest of fries is the star of the show, swaddled in crisp dark skin, the pound of chicken stares back at you waiting for the intimate moments soon to come. But wait, the second beer isn’t finished, you’ll never forget your first love so make sure to do your due diligence and find the bottom of that glass before you move on.

As you lose yourself in layers of grease you’ll start to taste the love that goes into these rotisseried delicacies. With a pinch of salt inserted into the cavity, the five or six chickens embellished on a spit drip for a steamy two hours into each other in a symbiotic tango of flavor.

As the succulent flavors flood your mind, you will be put into a state that walks the line between comatose and completion. Despite the emotions you may be feeling at this point, finish off that pitcher for your third and final drink. It’s time for apple pie. 

Served with a smile and no obvious rush to get us out, it seems the staff at Chalet Bar-B-Q find their pleasure not in chicken pedaling but in the lethargy of customers post-meal. Whether it's in the keeled-over customers fighting the urge to nap or in their reflections shining back at them from the grease-covered plates the service comes with a smile that always grins back.  

The bill, before your generous tip, comes to a well-spent—and arguably reasonable in this economy—$61.91. If this seems a price too high to pay for the happiness of two people on a Tuesday night, stop by a little earlier. Every Monday to Friday, their lunch special of a chicken leg dinner or hot chicken sandwich will set you back a mere $11.45. If you’d rather enjoy grabbing the meat by the bone, or the breast dinner for $13.45 with all the regular fixings is enjoyably cost-effective as well.

Now it’s closing time. You may not have noticed it when you walked in, and despite the hustle and bustle of late-night patrons, you realize you arrived with only 30 minutes left till close. Time well spent. Take the pie to go and enjoy it on the overpass of Decarie and Sherbrooke. Watch the cars drive by, knowing that all the souls passing underneath your feet spent their last half-hour in traffic while yours was spent in heaven

So if you’re in the mood for greasy plates and bloated bellies, scared of change or simply miss your grandparents, do yourself a favour and stop by Chalet Bar-B-Q, open 11am-9pm 7 days a week.