NDG | Best Spots to Drink Coffee and Get S**T DONE!
Updated: Apr 12
NDG is blessed with a distinct lack of large corporate chain shops and while you can still find a Starbucks or Second Cup if you wish, you’re more likely to stumble upon locally owned gems where the atmosphere and coffee are far superior. I occasionally long for my days as an optimistic and deeply disorganized University student but never more so than during the cold months, when I pop into my favourite coffee shop and wish that I could spend hours there, researching and writing, and meeting fellow students. I always had my regular café near Concordia (downtown) and my neighbourhood but from time to time I would find myself in an unfamiliar part of town searching endlessly for a place to settle in to for a few hours. Inevitably I would end up wandering for too long (pre smartphone era) and would either find a true little gem to add to my roster of great study spaces or I would find a real dud and get next to nothing done.
A great study spot needs to have a certain buzz and cozy ambience that allows you to be super productive, at ease and lacks too many distractions. I’m the type that can’t study in a library-too awkwardly quiet or at home-too many projects on the go, too many distractions. I get hyper productive when there’s just the perfect amount of background noise and cozy décor to make me feel like I’m swathed in a fleecy throw blanket. Like Goldilocks looking for the right chair and porridge, a café must be just right, comfortable seating, an understanding and friendly staff, strong delicious coffee, and a decent selection of food. There is nothing I hate more in a café than metal chairs on tile… it’s the epitome of NOT COZY, fluorescent lights are abhorrent, and music that is too loud-causing people to become too loud is another café faux pas.
In a great effort to give you the best possible study/work spot recommendations I personally tested out each café and rated them from 1-5 coffee cups on ambience, coffee taste and selection, and café snacks selection. To offer a benchmark of quality, I will rate Starbucks and then you can see how I feel each café compares:
Usually too busy, never enough seating, often very messy and dirty. Coffee taste is just ok, milky cappuccinos, and their snacks are too sugary but they have a respectable variety of snacks beyond just pastries.
The Standard Westmount: 5135 Sherbrooke
While the name says it’s in Westmount, I was informed that it is technically in NDG. I always assumed NDG ends at Decarie Blvd but apparently it ends at Claremont. They do not have a lot of seating but I loved the dark and metallic décor. The first time I went, in the summer I had an iced coffee and it was awful. I love strong coffee and almost never add sugar, I don’t think my mother has ever put sugar in her coffee but we both had to add some, and then some more, to make this coffee drinkable. Since then I have strictly ordered cappuccinos and have been very pleased with the quality-not too bitter and a nice frothy foam. As for food, they appear to have a small selection of basic snacks. The Standard has become my go to spot when I need to take a trip to Bureau En Gros.
Shaikha Café: 5526 Sherbrooke
Perhaps it’s my timing but every time I go it’s crowded and there is almost nowhere to sit and while that can indicate top notch service and quality of coffee and food, my assumption is that it’s popularity is based on word of mouth and foot traffic-location. Their coffee is good and comforting but lacks that kick that I need to feel fulfilled, but they do appear to have a nice selection of food and your average café price.
Kokkino: 5673 Sherbrooke
I’ve been known to set myself up here several times a week, their chairs are comfortable, I personally prefer the long church pew bench, there is a pleasing amount of wood and greenery, the lighting is perfect for reading but not intrusive, décor is simple, laid back but classic, and they respect your time. Coffee is tasty and strong, they have a small selection of simple sandwiches, salads, and other pastries, but the thing that you must try is their pie…oh my…yes get a slice of pie!
Mate Latte: 5837 Sherbrooke
What more could you possibly want in a café than a place serving your regular café fare in addition to Bulgogi Wraps and sizzling hot bowls of Bibimbap. I prefer sitting outside in their little garden terrace but inside is cozy, just a little crowded for me. The last time I went, I tried to get some work done but the table was wobbly and I upended my cappuccino all over the table and narrowly missed my laptop and phone. I was not offered a new cappuccino and had to pay for 2, when I explained that the table was not stable, she gave me back 2$. The food is not so cheap here but it is excellent, making this my once in awhile spot. Their cappuccinos always satisfy my needs but are not the most notable on this list.
Croissant Monkland: 6050 Monkland
Croissant Monkland is a great place to stop if your main goal is food oriented as they have the best selection of food and snacks at excellent prices. I had a cappuccino which I don’t remember much about which usually means it wasn’t bad but not particularly great. Unfortunately, Croissant Monkland has all the ambience of a truck stop Tim Hortons, the metal chair on tile combination does not inspire creativity, productivity, or relaxation of any kind.
Cuisine Locale Café: 6781 Upper Lachine
I have not managed to try this place yet, despite it being 2 blocks away from my house.
Café 92: 6703 Sherbrooke
I hear great things but I have not had any reason to be in that area.
From Villa Maria
Melk: 5612 Monkland
Melk always smells like a warm delicious hug from Grandma and I can’t help but order a scone every time I go. Their coffee is tops so I feel compelled to stop in when I find myself in the area. I don’t love the work vibe here though because the space is just too crowded and awkward as if you’re always in someone’s way.
If you’re in desperate need of a sugar rush, then try to grab a seat at Momo Dessert Café. They only have a few tables but your fur friend is welcome to join you for a sweet little study session at this cute Korean style café. I wasn’t overly impressed with the cappuccino, it was slightly better than your basic Starbucks cappuccino but that being said, it would not deter me from working there with a few little macaroons beside me.
Café de Mercanti: 6128 Monkland
I love the overall décor of the place, and I happen to visit Café de Mercanti on a rainy day so I definitely felt inspired to set up shop for a few hours. Although, the music playing at the time (EDM Jazz…is that a genre) gave me caffeine jitters without having had any caffeine. A more laid back type of music would have made all the difference here. Coffee wise, I had a cappuccino (it’s my coffee drink), and I was not super impressed with the quality of the coffee, it reminded me of a Café Depot cappuccino, too much milk flavour, not enough coffee. I tried a caramel chocolate chip cookie and was both pleased and slightly disappointed, while it was tasty and not so overly sweet, it was a bit hard and too biscuity…if you know what I mean. I REALLY wanted to like this place so that I could enjoy their outdoor seating this summer but sadly I am not inspired to return.
Elementaire Café: 6565 Somerled
I was only a walk in, take out customer, but my cappuccino was exactly what I needed to get through the rest of my day and the double chocolate cookie was a little chocolatey cloud of joy in my mouth. Their menu appeared to have a pleasant selection of sandwiches, salads and parfaits. The thing I loved about Elementaire was that Bob Dylan was playing softly throughout and the atmosphere was absolutely perfect with their dark, industrial colour scheme, natural lighting and cushioned bench seating. I look forward to going back for a few hours of hard, yet enjoyable work or to read a book on a rainy, lazy afternoon.
Le Café Bomnal: 6543a Somerled
Yes, Yes, a Thousand Times Yes! This little Korean Café has a menu straight from my dreams. They serve a delicious variety of Bingsu (Shaved Ice) as well as Vietnamese Coffee; it hurt me a little when I passed by it to test out Café Elementaire. The main issue with this spot is that it’s really not meant for a long term study session, there are few seats but I get the impression that they want you to enjoy your order and then move on. This café makes me wish I lived near Somerled because I’d get a Vietnamese coffee on my way to class or work! Side note: The Churro spot next door is another major YES PLEASE!
The following are cafes in Cote Des Neiges area that I have not had time to check out since I am never in that area but if you have something to say about these spots or places to add then let me know, I love to explore and discover!
Café Etudiant Acquis De Droite: 3101 Ch. De La Tour
Café Triangle: 5000 Rue Buchan
Caravane Café: 3506 Ave Lacombe