For the Best Breakfast, Just Cross the Street

Photo courtesy of Dan Schechner

Good morning! Running late to that 8:30 class in Leacock, again, I see. Yet, you wait in that winding line for your crappy coffee anyway and order that floppy breakfast sandwich with the spinach leaf that droops out with a cynical, “Hello. I am here to ruin your digestion and bank account for the rest of the term.”

Rewind. You’re still running late. But today is different. You leap across the street from the McLennan Library and glide down the Scotiabank escalator into the arms of steaming sweet potato waffle bowls; glossy poached eggs; worthy revivals of avocado toast; and good, good coffee. And when you dash to class, the loonies in your pocket don’t clink any less heartily.

While Montreal’s café map overflows, most students’ wallets do not.

Photo courtesy of Dan Schechner

Déjeunette is this affordable all-day breakfast spot, aptly deemed “an oasis” by Frank Spano, Director of Operations. Although an underground food court may seem an unlikely spot to find fresh, locally-sourced, photogenic food, Déjeunette’s dishes pair well with its spacious environment (WiFi included). Living, sleeping, studying, and eating in the McGill Bubble can be demotivating, at best. While Montreal’s café map overflows, most students’ wallets do not. Caravanning up to an Instagrammed study spot in Little Italy for an espresso and cannoli can amount to tithing if not practiced in moderation. Yet temperance often materializes in missed meals between classes, or meals gone wrong, like stale Timbits and ‘specials of the day’ (last week’s leftovers). Déjeunette is the weekday warrior that has finally satiated downtown Montreal’s growl for budget-friendly, high-quality, I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-artery-clogging, brain food.

When dreaming up Déjeunette, Sandy Retter, of parent company Monit (owner of Comptoir du Chef) remembered her own daughter’s university years. “Her time was so precious,” Retter recalled. “We’re aware that students don’t have the same schedule as a working person. You have an early class, you have a late class, you have an exam schedule, you have a paper due —but breakfast is something that feels good at any time of the day, and we’re located right across from McGill.”

In addition to their convenient location on 1000 Sherbrooke W., Déjeunette consistently serves freshly prepared meals and snacks at fast food-level speed. The meaning of fast food, however, was rewritten when Monit renovated the space. Déjeunette has, essentially, turned the slow-food movement fast. Alongside Sous-Chef Viet, Head Chef Patrick Hebert uses only fresh ingredients that are sourced locally as often as possible. Montreal-born Hebert has been cooking since age 14, when he spent the summer operating a Lac Brome cantine with his mom. After attending culinary school, he was hired at the refined Atwater Club and earned his Red Seal, Canada’s launch pad to a successful cooking career. Since then, Roland has held titles at revered restaurants across Montreal and Quebec: chef at Globe and Table 51, sous-chef at SSS, head chef at Greasy Spoon, and founding partner at Nini Meatball House. Now, his culinary angle slants homeward towards what he calls “honest food,” an homage to his casse-croûte roots, where food was made in disregard to trends, and extraordinary because of it.

Ordering is like attempting to compile playlist from a Greatest Hits album. The best way to go about it is to leave the album as it is, and loop it for a lifetime. In restaurant talk, this means dine repeatedly and frequently.

Photo courtesy of Dan Schechner

Adorning Déjeunette’s countertop are empanadas, scones, cakes, pastries, yogurts, and St. Viateur bagels. The menu itself has an impressive scope. Clear categories break it down into avocado toasts, sandwiches, bowls, smoothies, and customizable acai bowls. Many extensive menus like to lead their readers down mazes of ‘no’ after ‘no’ items, the only way out being to settle with a familiar-enough dish or to order the most expensive dish. The only dilemma on Déjeunette’s menu is that of deciding what not to feast on. Ordering is like attempting to compile playlist from a Greatest Hits album. The best way to go about it is to leave the album as it is, and loop it for a lifetime. In restaurant talk, this means dine repeatedly and frequently.

For the sleep-deprived/night owls, there are breakfast sandwiches to “get your sea legs back.” $5 gets you the ‘Hangover’: fried egg, sausage, cheddar, and caramelized onions lounging on brioche bathed in sriracha mayo. For the commuting crowd, there is ‘The Wake Up Call’:$6 revives you with espresso, banana, dark chocolate, chia seeds, maple syrup, and greek yogurt. $1.75 gets you blissful Café Union coffee. For the hangry study group, there is the ‘Florentine’: $9.50 gets you spinach, mushroom, kale, those perfectly poached eggs again, and hollandaise, all snuggled up to a sweet potato waffle. Plus toast. I would willingly devote a whole day to peer-reviewing, and devouring, the entire menu, but you should really just read it in person —you know, as a break from less tantalizing peer-reviewed papers. Chef Hebert would approve, who wanted to propel the menu away from the cunning of other brunch spots.

“You come out of those breakfast places and you’re poor and hungry. It’s completely the opposite of what we wanted to do here,” Hebert said. “You’re bringing that little moment of happiness to somebody’s life in a day. That’s pretty amazing.”

Photo courtesy of Dan Schechner

The entire staff at Déjeunette has a grip on the hellishness of university life, and they’re hoping to reward students with a respite. Hebert likens eating to a “30-minute vacation,” one that must not be wasted dolling out time and cash for food that neither fills nor fuels. That’s why, at Déjeunette, measly avocado toast that is literally just that — avocado and toast — is banished. For the same price or cheaper, depending on the place of comparison, your ciabatta can be topped with parmesan, egg, asparagus, and bacon.

“When you’re tired, when you’re studying, when you’re overwhelmed, your brain has to be alert,” Retter said. “This [food] really wakes you up. You feel fresh, you’re open, and you can absorb what you’re studying much more easily. If you have a typical wrap, you’re eating mostly bread. There’s nothing in there that’s gonna make you ready for studying. All that was taken into consideration.”

McGill students are already buzzing about the brightest new breakfast spot. U3 student Hannah Weir finally traded in her usual jaded lunch for toast draped with prosciutto, honeydew slices, and balsamic. She highly recommends that other students do the same, for the sake of deliciousness and convenience.

“What I liked best about Déjeunette was that they served tasty café style food, but in a food court setting,” Weir acclaimed. “I was able to pay for it up front, eat at my own speed, and leave as soon as I needed to.”

While perfect for a speedy repast, Déjeunette also boasts multiple tables crisply arranged under prime lighting for studying or finally catching up with friends, an event that is too often put off thanks to mismatched schedules, living situations, and budgets. Service is attentive, yet neighborly (Say ‘Salut’ to Coraline for me.). A catering menu with more refined, yet not more expensive, bites is even available, with options like breakfast sushi rolls stuffed with ricotta, peaches, and basil. Déjeunette takes good care of its community. So, you can zip in and out in minutes, or lounge from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“Breakfast is everyone’s favorite meal of the day. And now you can have it all day,” Retter affirms.

“Twice a day,” Chef tosses in.

Would thrice a day be pushing it? Definitely not at Déjeunette.


This article has been published as part of a sponsorship by Déjeunette.

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