If you are new to the so-called trendy or starving artist feel shared by many Mile End neighbourhood holes in the wall, Le Cagibi may seem as sketchy as the agency its name suggests. Nestled in what may appear to be one of the city's most ramshackle buildings, it's easy to dismiss this run-down and rickety place upon first glance. Push past the undeniable dirty feeling, the mismatched dumpster dive decor and worthless trashy figurines, however, and you may enjoy one of the best local food and entertainment experiences in town.
Once inside, it soon becomes apparent that the illusion of cleanliness is not a top priority for this establishment. Had I not been summoned here to support a friend's DJ performance, I surely would have turned right back and left after spotting lip smears atop freshly poured glasses of water. Instead, I reluctantly followed the music into the back room and eventually managed to choose the least grungy upholstered seat left. I sat there for an hour or so, repeatedly peering up at the antique ceiling panels that I anticipated would loosen at any moment to collapse down on my head the moment I allowed myself to be distracted by the show. But this did not happen. As the set drew to an end, I feared my pockets would be the new home of a handful of bedbugs or other random creepy-crawlers. I'm pleased to inform you that this did not take place either. In fact, I've yet to hear of any danger or infestation occurring at this venue other than that of musicians, artists and students gathering to enjoy good music.
The unfortunate disregard for tasteful decor is actually part of Le Cagibi's unassuming charm. Even now that I am familiar with the place and enjoy its food quite regularly, I'll admit to secretly plotting the disappearance of several of the offensively hideous and useless knickknacks that have lined the built-in bookshelves for years. Oh, how I have fantasized about bumping one into my napkin to later dispose of, or accidentally knocking one off its ridiculous threshold to the ground to meet the bottom of my shoe. This would surely be some sort of good Samaritan gesture on my part, but alas, I managed to suppress these urges over the years. I learned to accept theses eyesores for what they are: the small cost of getting to sit in my special '70s chair while devouring some of the most delectable homemade baked goods.
As it turns out, affordable and addictively delicious food is this place's secret to staying in business. This dive makes everything from breakfast to devilishly tasty desserts, and also honourably caters to the fair-trade and organic food enthusiasts. This "oasis for ardent vegetarians," as *Tourism Montreal put it, offers endless choices for vegans and vegetarians that are scrumptious enough to convert even the most serious meat-eaters. They even have a selection of alcoholic beverages, all of which must be accompanied by some semblance of food due to licensing limitations. You may need a few minutes to decide whether you're craving one of their original and wholesome chilies, smoothies or sandwiches. These can all be nibbled on while listening to local talent perform in the next room or abusing their complimentary Wi-Fi between sips of tea.
Though it is not uncommon to spot yesterday's food on today's fork, and it's painfully clear that the unappealing and crusty decor are here to stay, Le Cagibi has a lot to offer. Should you some day stumble across this shabby venue, by all means, take a chance. Swallow your pride and ignore your discomfort just long enough to step inside, sit upon the flea market furniture, and let this place win over your taste buds with its undeniable charm.
café ● bouffe ● musique ● art
5490 St. Laurent Boulevard