First Taste: McKiernan Luncheonette Bar a Vins


Chef Fred Morin’s new luncheonette, McKiernan, is on the same block as his two other restaurants, the massively popular Joe Beef and Liverpool House. Like them, McKiernan is decked out with knickknacks. But while Edward Burtynsky prints and bison heads fill the other restaurants, McKiernan recalls a general store. Outside, the covered patio feels like a rock n’ roll clubhouse.

Already constantly jammed, the restaurant is styled as a luncheonette during the day and a wine bar with small dishes at night. It has odd opening hours—most lunches, some evenings, Saturday brunch—in the tradition of classic Montreal joints.

Morin, who laments the “rootlessness” of certain nouveau restaurants, has an innate understanding of Quebec’s bipolar food culture. So, like Joe Beef and Liverpool House before it, McKiernan deftly straddles the tension between high and low. Yes, you can get insane bottles of wine, parfait de foie gras, amazingly fresh salads made with produce from the restaurant’s own garden, and a seafood brunch called the Smorgasborg—toast with crawfish, shrimp from the Gaspé peninsula, smoked herring, and house-cured gravlax, all with a generous dollop of cream and caviar. But the Frenglish menu also proudly features humble dairy byproducts like crottes de fromage (slang for curd cheese but roughly translatable as “cheese droppings”), and on the patio, chicken tikka sandwiches are served on checkered wax paper with baggies of Dutch Crunch mesquite barbecue chips; lunch specials include tins of smoked scallops; and Dr. Pepper is the recommended pairing for several dishes. As one employee put it: “We really try to emphasize the white-trash vibe here.”

McKiernan Luncheonette Bar à Vins 2485 Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal (514-759-6677)

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