Before refrigeration an ice house was where people used to go to purchase ice for their iceboxes. Once refrigeration was invented ice houses in the southern United States diversified to become early forms of the modern convenience store, selling groceries and cold beer. Today the term icehouse in Texas and the surrounding areas basically means a bar or a place to go for a drink and maybe a bite to eat.
Texas native and owner of another Montreal restaurant - Kitchenette, Nick Hodge has brought a little taste of the Texas ice house concept to Montreal and appropriately named it Icehouse. The restaurant is a small space with a lot to offer on Roy between St Denis and St Laurent. The walls, floors, tables, stools and chairs are all wood. Casually dressed staff, mounted long-horns, a texas flag painted on the back door and even a hilarious mounted jackalope help to drive home the casual nature of this spot. We especially liked the ornate iron gate that surrounded the terrasse area accessible through a giant garage door store-front.
We visited on a Saturday night, and when we arrived the place was packed to the limit with a young, lively crowd inside and out on the terrasse, which seems to more than double the seating capacity. A happy, friendly waiter greeted us at the door and offered us a drink while we waited for a couple of seats to be available. He recommends we try the bourbon spiked lemonade, as we looked around it seemed to be what nearly every person in the place was drinking so we figured it was the way to go. They tasted great and went down easy on a hot and humid Montreal night, lets just say they wouldn't be the last round we ordered.
After a very short wait seats opened up at the counter against the wall with all the convenient brown paper towel dispensers on it. We have a quick look at the blackboard menu over the bar/kitchen and the choices we would make were immediately evident to us. First up was the popcorn shrimp. Bite sized, seasoned, battered fried shrimp came served in a little cardboard carnival style fried food container with a couple of wedges of lime and no cutlery. That's right this is a hands-on type of joint and you won't find any forks and knives around, so take as many napkins as you need and wash your hands when your done, have a drink and quit being so up-tight. The shrimp were soft and the batter was crisp, they tasted fantastic and went great with our drinks; a definite can't miss.
Popcorn Shrimp - 9$
Next we had an order of the crab and cheese stuffed jalapeno poppers and some pulled pork tacos. At Icehouse, the sports-bar staple jalapeno popper is offered with or without crab. What usually comes in a frozen party-mix along with pigs in a blanket and chicken wings is instead made with whole fresh jalapeno peppers hollowed out and stuffed with a generous amount of crab meat and cheese. They were very lightly battered, fried and dressed with a tangy, cooling home made ranch sauce. The pulled pork tacos were served in flour tortillas, dressed with the house special Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce and garnished with cilantro and some really original and terrific tasting goodies: spiced pecans which tasted predominantly of dried ginger, crispy chicharrónes, and pickled watermelon rind.
Crab Jalapeno Poppers - 10$
Pulled Pork Tacos, Pickled Watermelon, Spiced Pecans, Cilantro, Chicharrónes, DP BBQ Sauce - 8$
Next up, it's sandwich time! We ordered the brisket sandwich and the fried oyster po'boy. They both came served on picnic-checkered wax paper on a good-old red cafeteria tray and garnished with pickled jalapenos. First thing you need to know is that these sandwiches are really big and really messy; but who cares? They're delicious, you probably already have greasy dirty fingers from earlier in your meal, and most likely you've been overindulging in wondeful bourbon lemonade, you've already gone too far to turn back now. The bread for both sandwiches is the same, pretty much your standard hamburger roll, the oysters in the po'boy were crisp and briny, they almost make you want to pick them out of the sandwich they're so good; if fried oysters on their own were a menu option they would be hard to beat. But we were more than happy with them in the sandwich topped with copious amounts of a heavily dressed shredded lettuce. The brisket was cut very thick, glazed and covered with a sweet BBQ sauce and topped with a little bit of coleslaw and some sliced pickles. The brisket itself was a little bit chewy, it could have only gotten better with a little more cooking time but it certainly wasn't under done and the sandwich was still a winner, we also loved the pickles in there. Consensus: we'd definitely order it again.
(L) Brisket Sandwich - 9$ (R) Oyster Po'Boy - 14$
We had been looking forward to trying the deep fried peach pie for dessert that we had heard a lot about but sadly our waiter told us that the menu item had been discontinued. He offered us the only dessert choice that remains on the menu: a "tollhouse" cookie with chocolate chips and pieces of pretzel. The cookies didn't really work for us, the texture of the cookie was dense and they tasted a little floury, the little pretzel chunks also took on a weird texture having been baked. After such a tasty and fun meal it's hard to get upset over a couple of cookies, especially at 3$ for two of them. We would've appreciated another dessert option though. No big deal.
"Tollhouse" Cookies - 3$
Icehouse was really a lot of fun, the atmosphere is super laid back, the food is great and so are the drinks. Prices are extremely reasonable and the staff is really friendly. They run the place in a little unorthodox manner given the whole no china no cutlery thing. Your waiter might outright tell you he's a little busy so if you need anything you're always welcome to come to the bar to look for him, but we never had to. Waiters were very on top of things, always asking us if we needed anything. They don't take reservations but the line went pretty quick and bourbon lemonade makes the time pass easy. It's a great spot for hanging out for a casual bite to eat and some really great drinks on a terrasse or for watching the hockey game. Thats right Habs fans, tacos and hockey, sounds good doesn't it?
51 Avenue Roy E, near St Laurent