Montrealers are already well-acquainted with the roasts of Vancouver coffee doyen 49th Parallel — they’ve been served at spots like Café Myriad, Caffé in Gamba, and Canard Café (formerly Hoche Café) for years. But now, third-wave coffee devotees will be able to sip on them at a café bearing the 49th Parallel name.
49th Parallel is opening its first brick-and-mortar coffee shop outside of Vancouver by the end of next month, in Old Montreal, in the space that once housed 40-year-old no-frills diner Plaza McGill, at the intersection of McGill and Notre-Dame. (In January 2021, an Eater tipster spotted 49th Parallel’s signature aqua blue signage in the vacant storefront.)
“Plaza McGill was and always will be an institution in Montreal,” Sara Bilodeau, the director of Cafés in Quebec tells Eater. “When I started my career in hospitality, I used to eat there almost every day because I worked across the street. So now it’s kind of like I’ve gone 360 and am back to where I started, and it’s definitely an honour and a privilege to be able to bring that space a new life and a new vocation.”
The 2,000-square-foot café is poised to accommodate up to 80 people, in a setting that preserves original features like exposed brick walls and over-one-hundred-year-old masonry. Bilodeau also promises a lounge area where patrons can cozy up near a fireplace.
Aside from the coffee and chalet vibes, 49th Parallel will be serving Lucky’s Doughnuts, its in-house brand of sweets. A glazing station set up in one of the building’s Notre-Dame Street-facing windows will allow passersby to stop and watch as rings of fried dough get topped, in some cases creating Quebec-specific flavours like pouding chômeur and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean blueberry.
Also unique to this 49th Parallel location is a new menu item: Quebec beverage of choice, the allongé (a long shot of espresso). They’ve also released a new limited-edition Vieux Montréal blend, with notes of grape, red apple, and pastry, to mark the occasion. Sasa Stojanovic, the company’s director of Coffee, based out of its Burnaby production facility, says the beans, sourced from a farm in Pensilvania, Colombia, are roasted similarly to the popular Longitude 123°W blend (available elsewhere in town) for a smooth, mellow taste.
The Vancouver coffee roaster was founded by brothers Vince and Michael Piccolo in 2004, with the goal of adopting a “direct trade” ethos that sees 49th Parallel employees visiting growers around the world, as opposed to working with importers. Once the beans make it to a 49th Parallel facility, Stojanovic describes a meticulous, technologically driven system that uses probes, sensors, and software to control the roasting process.
Given Montreal’s thriving coffee culture and familiarity with the 49th Parallel brand, Bilodeau says the company felt it was an “obvious choice” for its first away-from-home outpost. “On our e-commerce platform, Quebec represents our biggest market outside of BC,” she adds.
Worth noting, 49th Parallel has also received financial backing from Montreal private investment firm Claridge, which represents the interests of the Stephen Bronfman family. In 2019, when the roaster announced the strategic partnership, it said the tie-up would allow it to broaden its portfolio and expand its footprint.
“We feel that we can easily make a second home here,” Bilodeau says. “The idea for the time being is to open the Old Montreal location and then we’ll see where it takes us, but there’s most likely another 49th Parallel location in our near future.”
49th Parallel Café is opening at 488 McGill Street in late July.