L'Artiste Affamé is a small, unassuming coffee shop with big dreams. In order to spot this St-Denis, soon-to-become staple you’ll have to look for its roommate's sign: a big red arrow. This community hangout spot shares its space with the Little Lost Sock, a quirky laundromat whose speciality are vending machine socks.
Walking in, you are charmed by the homey quality that exudes from the place - I imagine you would get a similar feeling at Central Perk. That feeling is sparked by the massive blue L-couch at the front of l’Artiste Affamé. Then you’re greeted by Jesse, barista and owner par excellence. This guy is the definition of a beaut (inside and out), so is Andy, our owner’s café partner in crime. He loves his coffee and it’s contagious! To Jesse, you are not only a customer but a member of the community and he makes sure you are treated like family. It feels like Jesse is sharing his personal coffee collection with you. As such, you are not offered the same old coffee rampant in most other places; nope! Instead you get a curated list of beans depending on what you prefer: v60, drip, french press, or espresso. This VIC (Very Important Coffee) list features roasters such as Path, Cut, Transcend, The Barn and Matchstick.
L'Artiste Affamé is authentic, and authentic it shall stay! The bar is made of old rustic and very thick slabs of wood on which sits a cream coloured espresso machine that ties in perfectly with the overall look of the place. Just past the barista station, the bar continues on to where you are welcome to grab a seat and start conversing with Jesse, Andy and Co.! Grab a dose of caffeine, join the Artiste Affamé community and get a taste of the local artistic and cultural happenings. And if you're not interested in socializing you are welcome to either jump onto the couch or sit at one of the coffee tables. Yes, yes! You guessed right: the tables are made of coffee beans. And don’t even get me started on the cosiness of the place; its low ceilings, stone walls and minimal lighting are the ideal setting to kick back and relax.
By now, you might be wondering why this place is called l’Artiste Affamé. Is it because Jesse is a starving artist? Indeed! But not in the literal sense, as he explained to me. Jesse is an artist hungry for experiences - life, culinary, coffee, artistic and many more. He’s a man on a mission: a mission to take you to coffee shop nirvana, a mission to serve the best coffee and food in town. His motto: "It's gotta be right!"
As the list of roasters he sources from attests, he goes above and beyond to offer the best there is. I had the chance to try out two types of beans when I visited. First up: the Kochera from Ethiopia roasted by Path and served as an espresso. It’s a well-balanced coffee with a full body and hints of citrus. I also had a Muruta Burundi roasted by Barn Roasters, also in espresso form. It had a scent reminiscent of hops and an earthy taste with hints of dark berries. I can’t wait to go back for more!
While l’Artiste Affamé didn't initially serve food, they are developing a menu that is worthy of Montreal's gastronomic reputation. The high praise is not an overstatement. Just listening to Jesse tell me about the grilled cheese made my mouth water. Thankfully, my beard hid it well. Sandwiched between two slices of pullman from Guillaume is aged white cheddar with homemade bourbon bacon jam topped off with maple syrup from Rouyn-Noranda. Is your mouth watering yet? Not only is this divine gooey concoction the epitome of yumminess, it's also served with pickled goodies and dill beans 100% picked and pickled by Andy himself.
The fine folks at L’Artiste know their craft and are willing to experiment. Thanks to awesome alchemist friends, l’Artiste Affamé serves up a wicked sea salt mocha. You read that right: a sea salt mocha. Sounds crazy but it really is fantastic. You can taste the salt down to the froth! Jesse tried to explain it to me but my half-witted self gave up and simply concluded that it was magic. And the experimentation doesn't end with the drinks. The grilled cheese is just a sneak peek into Jesse and Andy's cooking minds.
L’Artiste Affamé is the perfect community hangout spot with its cosiness, outstanding coffee and steadily expanding menu. It's destined for greatness. Period. Now, go forth and try l’Artiste. Guarantee or your money back (not really)!