It’s a burger. Well, if that’s what you are really there for, which is to eat lunch, then sure. Can it be more than this? Absolutely. First of all, you really go for the drink not just for the burgers. But chowing down on some fast food by a three story orange ball, now that’s novel. And this is how I decided to spend my 40th birthday and kick start my foodie bucket list. I took my parents because I figured it was just the three of us on that historic day 40 years ago, so why not celebrate this landmark day at a landmark Montreal eatery together?
I grew up no less than 2 km from the Orange Julep and remembered thinking whenever I passed by how cool it would be to go tobogganing off the top of that orange dome! I also recall nagging my parents, “Why don’t we go to the Big Orange” and what they told me was basically the answer I got today after ordering lunch. It’s a burger! And not to disparage the hearty burger, staple of fast food dining. They are fine if you want a quick meal, but my parents were never the camping type and the restaurant is basically a counter and picnic tables to the backdrop off a 3 story high, 40 food wide, fiberglass citrus fruit. And there are a lot of seagulls so if you have a fear of close flying fowl, you won’t dig the ambience. I can also picture a hot August day when wasps are hovering around your party and you hold your meal in one hand and shoo with the other.
Manager Monique Demers’ family has owned this business since its inception in 1932, when this was a drive-in eatery where servers would greet you at your car. A precursor to take-away, only, you just stayed in your car and ate. Demers wore Majorette boots as part of her uniform back in her day as a waitress, followed by the efficient trend of roller skates. Today, she gets mostly regulars who work in the nearby industrial park, though on week-ends people from Ontario come for day trips to sip the sweet and creamy orange drink. Wednesday nights is vintage car night which bring out the car enthusiasts who pop the hood of their automobile for spectators to fawn over.
The menu has grown over the years, Demers explained. It used to be simply hotdogs and hamburgers. I ordered the veggie burger mainly as a test to see if they actually served them (I am not strictly vegetarian) and my parents had hamburgers while we both had onion rings and Orange Juleps, natch. But the menu is varied. Aside from the Quebec mainstays of poutine, pogos, smoked meat, Italian sausage and a variety of burgers with cheese and bacon, the fare also includes spaghetti, chef’s salad, salmon burgers, and filet de sole. The PA system blasts retro music from the 1950s and 1960s. Conveniently located off the Decarie Expressway and as far as the history of fast food dining goes, it was the development of the highways that led to the proliferation of fast food dining across North America.
One more thing. I can blame my parents for not taking me to the Gibeau Orange for the first 20 years of my life, but what about the last twenty? Well, for $9.35 (before tax) I had my all-dressed veggie burger (slices of tomato, pickle, onions and lettuce with a dollop of mustard and relish), onion rings and orange drink. Those other times when I was in the area, dining out but not outside, I was probably at Pushap 300 meters down the road at 5195 Paré. For $8.50, one can enjoy an authentic Indian Thali which is a full meal consisting of chickpeas or lentils, basmati rice, the vegetable of the day, (which invariably is some fine aromatic curry in a divine sauce) with a choice of fried or baked bread, and depending on who is serving you, a complementary homemade sweet of dilbahar, borfi or gulab jamun. And they bring it to your table. Inside.
The Orange Julep is about the landmark experience. Apparently the local pool where my kids swim, sometimes go to the Orange Julep for post-swim meet celebrations. I can’t let my kids have a Montreal childhood without this encounter. They shouldn’t have to wait forty years.
The Orange Julep is located at 7700 Decarie. Open Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. – midnight