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Ever since Italians migrated to Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood after World War II, the area has had a strong café culture. Chez Boris and its all-organic, Russian-inspired food and drinks offer a new take on the neighborhood’s émigré pedigree. Chalk drawings of famous revolutionaries share space with Perestroika by Mikhail Gorbachev, and black and white snapshots of Saint Petersburg hang on the wall.
This isn’t a place to take sides on where Russia’s been or where it’s going. It’s a place to enjoy the specialty: Boris’s savoury, made-to-order donuts, inspired by his Russian bubby. A loving grandson’s tribute to his grandma never tasted this good.
The Beignewich: $5.50
Beignet is French for donut, and a “beignewich” is Montreal patois for a donut sandwich. Two freshly deep-fried donuts substitute for bread and encompass a variety of deliciously sloppy fillings.
Egg, bacon, and cheddar
A split donut easily soaks the grease from grated cheddar, crispy bacon bits, and freshly fried egg. Because almost everything about this beignewich has been fried separately before assembly, be prepared to feel incapacitated for the 20 minutes after eating.
Guacamole, peppers, and cheese
If the thought of a healthy donut sandwich incites cognitive dissonance, the first bite of this beignewich will put your mind at ease. Who knew that crispy donut cracklings could bring out the taste of an avocado, one of the healthiest fats? I am more convinced of the donut’s healing properties with every bite. It’s also the only vegetarian option.
Pork flank with hoisin sauce
Salty, slow-cooked pork in a sweet hoisin sauce. The sloppy filling fits perfectly between two crispy donuts. The influence is either Chinese or backwoods smokehouse — knowing Boris, it’s probably both.
Salmon, sour cream, and cucumber
Tangy sour cream, chilled cucumber, salty salmon, hot, sweet donut. Some might think Boris’s take on Montreal’s famous lox bagel is blasphemous, but that’s only because it tastes better than the original. The organic salmon is smoked locally, sliced generously, and available for purchase on its own.
Quebec’s choice hangover food and best-known export (besides Celine Dion) is poutine: french fries covered in cheese curds and slathered in hot gravy. At Boris, the donut fritters replace the fries, but everything else remains the same. Your doctor will be grateful this offering is only available during Montreal’s annual Poutine Week.
Single donuts: 1 for $.80, 6 for $4.20, and 12 for $7.50
A smear of pure, organic cocoa complements this donut, and will not “cling” to the surface in the familiar, mass-produced-chocolate-donut way. This hot, fresh donut is missing the critical mixture of processed sugars and preservatives that normally yield an extravagant chocolate topping. Boris proves that chocolate can serve as a subtle condiment.
That’s it, that’s all you get, and that’s all you need. A dusting of pure sweetness brings out the donut’s savoury qualities. This classic is best paired with a cup of coffee.
Cinnamon and sugar
Spicy and sweet and probably my favourite — I’ve ordered six of these at a time. Boris chooses high-quality ingredients, meaning that the cinnamon he sources has a vibrant, sharp quality. Imagine your bubby serving these to you on a cold, winter day in Montreal.