I don't know much about what the general public thinks, but for me, pastries and sweets can either be a dream or a total nightmare. As someone whose palate is more conditioned for foods on the saltier side, it doesn't take much for me to become overwhelmed by sugary confections that are doused with gloppy frosting and artificial sweetener. So when people were buzzing over Chez Boris, a Russian donut shop located in the Mile-End, I thought that it would be same-old, same-old; with Montréal's signature tendency to overprice items as usual. I couldn't have been more wrong.
The shop, which is located on Avenue du Parc, carried a whimsical, almost childlike vibe that evokes a sense of nostalgia. Bursting with color, it doubles as a play area and a quiet study space for broke, stressed university students who need a cheap alternative when cafeteria food just won't cut it. Fortunately, Chez Boris delivers in terms of quality and affordability on many different levels.
For our drinks, we ended up ordering a Soviet coffee ($3.25) and a latte ($4), in addition to a savory donut breakfast sandwich ($6.50) plus a combo of six donuts ($4.50) for our foodstuffs. The quality of the finished products definitely made the cheap prices even more incredible. You normally wouldn't expect the Soviet coffee, which is made with drip coffee, sugar, and condensed milk, to come close to a cup that you would get at a more specialized coffee shop, but just the right amount of sweetness was added to work wonders. Also, the breakfast sandwich and donuts are all made fresh to order right in front of your eyes and come hot out of the fryer. Trust me, they were still somewhat warm even after we spent twenty minutes (and a few spilled drinks later) trying to take decent photographs of everything.
The donuts are smaller, lighter, and less sweet than your typical American counterparts, but this means that you can eat more of them in one sitting! They come in three basic flavors - sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate - and they are each constructed in a way so that the toppings don't overpower the natural taste of the dough itself. I could feel them melt on the tip of my tongue, leaving me feeling light and satisfied rather than weighed down and tired like stereotypical donuts do.
Even the breakfast sandwich (which consisted of bacon, fried eggs, cheddar cheese, and alfalfa sprouts in between unsweetened donuts) was not as greasy or messy as I thought it would be - everything remained relatively intact while I ate it. Basically, it's a portable version of one's typical Western-style breakfast but with somewhat less guilt attached.
Overall, Chez Boris is perfect for students who are on a budget or anyone who wants to get a quick bite of something different. In addition, if you download the Yelp app, check in, and show it to the cashier, they will give you two free donuts with the purchase of any beverage. That's right - it's actually possible to get a good snack in Montréal for under $5. But don't let the adventure stop at their donuts - be sure to check out their pierogis, borscht, and the newest menu addition (did someone say Icelandic hot dogs?). Because let's face it - sometimes the easiest way to start trying new things is to have passionate people bring them to the table for you, and Chez Boris does exactly that in a wholesome, genuine way that will warm your soul.