I consider myself somewhat of a bean aficionado. My pantry is always stocked with an ample supply of baked beans in molasses, maple syrup, and traditional style fèves au lard (literally translated to beans in fat). You could almost say I’ve bean around the block. Last bad bean pun, I swear. I recently discovered, however, a more authentic Québécois alternative to satisfy my cravings. La Binerie, located at the corner of Mont-Royal and St-Denis, is the Plateau’s answer to a student’s need for all-day breakfast and it’s served up with trademark French-Canadian flair. So on Sunday evening, armed with a handful of toonies, I embarked on my quest for a second breakfast at this historic restaurant.
Although the restaurant has changed hands over the years, little else about this Plateau landmark has altered since its establishment in 1938. The menu and decor of the restaurant are evocative of a different era when working class families populated the neighbourhood and the pace of life was slower. “It’s the original decor,” explained Jocelyne Brunet in French, who currently owns La Binerie with her husband Philippe Brunet. Except for paint touch-ups and new countertops, the Binerie looks much like it did 72 years ago. The diner plays a prominent role in Yves Beauchemin’s novel Le Matou which was adapted for film in 1985. The story is about a young man, Florent, who dreams of owning his own restaurant, La Binerie Mont Royal. The movie was filmed on location at the restaurant.
Along with the Le Matou poster that adorns the wall, Jocelyne told the stories behind other black and white photos and yellowed newspaper clippings hung throughout the restaurant. Pointing out a family portrait, Jocelyne explained that the original owner established La Binerie in 1938 and passed away recently, in 2005. La Binerie was the setting for a fictional love story in Le Matou, but a true love story also took place when the owner’s daughter fell in love with one of the waiters working at the restaurant.
Jocelyne said that in the 1940s and 1950s, La Binerie was a popular hangout for men only. The clientele, if not the restaurant, has changed with the times and today La Binerie is becoming more popular with young Montrealers seeking a cozy spot for comfort food on a budget. The restaurant packs up on weekends and its all day breakfast is the star attraction. About 150 breakfasts are served up each Saturday and Sunday.
“It is traditional Québécois cuisine,” Jocelyne said. “Everything is made by hand, nothing is frozen.” Tourtières, shepherd’s pie, and traditional-style meatloaf are some of the popular items on the menu, but the main attraction is of course the restaurant’s namesake, beans. “We make a lot of fèves aux lard,” said Jocelyne, “it is the house specialty. We were known from our fèves au lard right from the start. We make 34 tons of fèves au lard each year.” I ordered a heaping plate of bacon, ham, creton, beans, one egg, toast and coffee for only $6.90. As it was after 11 a.m. an extra dollar was tacked on to the breakfast menu price, but even at $7.90 before tax I definitely got my money’s worth.
I brought along my friend whose family hails from the Quebec town of Rouyn-Noranda for her expertise on local fare. We both agreed that this spot is definitely a valuable, and affordable, find. The flavours were all on point and the maple syrup was deceptively delicious, even though Jocelyne admitted it was of the table more than maple variety.
If, like me, you relish smothering your entire breakfast in maple syrup and sigh with dismay when you’ve run out of bacon, then this is the place for you. The beans were veritably swimming in the fat that gives them their name, the toast was generously buttered and the cretons…well I’ve never really wanted to know what’s in cretons to make them so delectable. My breakfast came in at just under $10 tax and tip included, and I walked out satisfied. I even left behind a lonely strip of bacon lingering on my plate.
La Binerie is located at 367 Mont-Royal E. Find out more about its history at labineriemontroyal.com