I needed to get into that detective agency. It’s now gone beyond a simple curiosity to a burning desire.
“You ladies looking for some weed?” Lightning cracks and lights up the night, the rain cliché right on cue, as if I’m in a ‘40s pulp fiction novel. The guy in the hoodie does not care how hard the rain comes down; he’s got a cotton-poly blend jacket protecting his head. He’s got drugs to sell, and possibly a sales quota to fill.
So yeah, maybe it’s also a quest to stay safe, too. I decline his offer and continue to push on random bricks but the office’s exterior isn’t budging.
“Did you try over here?” My friend Rachel pushes on three bricks in quick succession as if playing some kind of masonry matching game. It’s ludicrous.
We’ve procrastinated visiting this hidden bar three nights in a row. Our reasons included drinking too much, the need to lay around in our pajamas, and walking 8 miles across Montreal in 90° F heat for 8 hours. Tonight was our night.
This was the night we would finally saunter into that speakeasy, and watch other denizens glance past their own handlebar mustaches and e-cigarette holders to give us that nod. We’ll all sip our craft cocktails, bathed in a red light that makes us look sexy and ten years younger. It had to happen, this was our last night in Montreal. I could almost hear The Asteroids playing inside.
If we could just be smarter than these bricks.
We heard about Le 4e Mur (or, The 4th Wall in English) from our new best friend David, the manager at Verses at Hotel Nelligan. People like David are the reason I travel and what made my first night in Montreal so perfect.
David warmly welcomed Rachel and me to his restaurant and city answering every single question we had about where to go and where else to eat. He hand wrote out a list, for god’s sake. Le 4e Mur was at the top.
“It’s a speakeasy. You have to push a special brick that opens a secret door to get in.” David says in a French Canadian accent. Rachel and I are immediately excited about going. We should go tonight! Yes! Definitely! Right after we finish this cucumber cocktail and drink this bottle of Pinot Noir!
David packs us a bag that includes a chocolate caramel dessert and another half bottle of wine. It seems that tomorrow night will be our speakeasy night.
Speakeasy Quest – Day 2
Today’s absolutely the day. It’s a Saturday. It’s gonna be lit. But first: food. This day we eat across old town, going down an edible rabbit hole that we can’t seem to stop.
“My credit card is going to call me and ask ‘Rachel, why do you keep eating?’” I laugh-cry as I stuff myself with a maple-slathered Beavertail.
Blue cheese nachos, spinach dip, oysters and a burrata salad later, we sit at Kyo Bar Japonais eating shishito peppers, wondering where the day went.
“We’re so heading to Le 4e Mur tomorrow night,” I say with authority and my best French accent. We roll back to our apartment and lay around in our pajamas, rubbing our stomachs and scrolling through Facebook. We’re killing this Montreal-chic thing.
Speakeasy Quest – Day 3
Now seriously, we are without a doubt, no way in hell missing out on going to this bar tonight. I mean, it’s Sunday and the vibe is going to be so chill. I can already see myself sinking into a plush red divan, watching bartenders in white shirts with sleeve garters mix my prohibition-style drink.
Cut to: Me and Rachel, straggling down St. Laurent street. She with a stress fracture dogging her right foot, me with sweat rolling in little beads down my cleavage, settling into my already wet bra. Sexy.
It’s almost 9pm and we’ve been walking since 10am, fueled by our desire to really ‘get to know’ the city. We’ve been to Little Italy, Mont Royal, the Mile-End neighborhood, and the public art installations.
We wander through an urban street art festival. Rachel commissions a poem from a young woman on an old typewriter.
“She’s a real writer” this bro-dude swigs red wine straight from the bottle. “Do you even know what a writer is?” Please. Get out of my face with that question and your cheap bottle of Zinfandel that anyone can tell is way too peppery a choice to be drinking during a heat wave.
“Can we just pleeeeeeze get a cab?” even Rachel, who has run a marathon, is tired of getting to know the city on foot. We’re in the adult cinema part of town. I’m getting a weird pain in my hip flexors. Fine.
Once we drag ourselves up the six flights of stairs to our AirBnb, we both know there’s no going back out. We’re getting too old for this.
Speakeasy Quest – Day 4
This is stupid. It’s our last night in Montreal. If we don’t do it tonight how are we going to live with ourselves?
We’ve been so intrigued about finding our way into this hidden Montreal speakeasy. We both have a stake in it. Rachel thrives on secret doorways, this is her thing. If she could make the doorway of her apartment accessible only through a secret bookshelf, she would.
The traveler in me also needs this. I can’t miss out on experiencing a hidden bar that a local recommended – this is my entire jam. What even is my point if I don’t make it here? We visit Montreal’s underground city. We leave early so I can take a nap. This is happening.
I dig deep and find the strength to curl my hair and put on that extra coat of mascara. I can already see my mixologist slapping basil against his palm before he garnishes my drink with it. We grab a cab and ignore the rain. We’re going to be sipping drinks with bitters and a giant ice cube soon.
“What’s the street address?” Our cab drops us off and splashes into the night. Rachel looks at doorways, no addresses visible.
I find a number and call. It’s a recording. In French. Rachel continues to push on the exterior. “This one! No… This one! No…” She could do this all night. A guy looking for pot walks by. I know where he can get a deal.
I scroll through Yelp reviews. Disappointment begins to sink in like the rain flattening my hair. It’s Monday. This is not Quebec’s most frustrating IQ test. The place is just plain closed.
“Noooooooooo!” I shake my fist; I have no idea at whom. We’ve missed out. Failed. Every scenario of drinking sophistication vanishes. I look through the glass window of the “Detective Agency” door one last time. There’s a brick wall inside. We’re not even pushing on the right wall.
We stare at each other. Two idiots hitting the front of a building in the pouring rain on a Monday night.
“We’ll have something for next time.” Rachel tries to cheer me up.
She’s right. Or not.
What if I come back, push through that brick wall and it’s just a bar in the basement of a poutinerie? What if there’s no drink with smoked rosemary leaves and a float of Pinot Noir reduction? My imagination created such a lush portraiture of this speakeasy, I’m not sure I want it altered. Maybe that crap about the journey and the destination is true.
We hop into another cab. Red neon refracts through the raindrops. Hey, I look pretty sexy in this light.
It was a dark and stormy night…All speakeasy photos taken by the awesome Amy D., who heroically went on a mission after the fact to capture them. It was dark, raining and ridiculous the night I visited so I neglected to capture the moment.