Tucked in between Prince-Arthur and Pins on Saint-Laurent Boulevard lies a little piece of heaven called Chez Mein, better known in the neighbourhood as 2chow. While their menu offers a wide array of items from spring rolls, to fried shrimp, to dumplings, the restaurant is most famous for their delicious $2 chow mein noodles.
Serving stir-fried noodles with either hot peanut butter or teriyaki sauce on a styrofoam plate, Chez Mein manages to make this simple snack feel like a fancy meal. While Chez Mein is open every day from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., the bulk of their customers visit the restaurant on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights after a night of partying on Saint-Laurent.
“Come and eat some delicious fried noodles!” Chez Mein’s first Facebook post read in 2011. “Only two bucks to satisfy your drunk desire!*”
Back in 2011, a small sushi shop, Resto Asahi, was Chez Mein’s main competitor for the title of ‘cheapest late-night meal’, when they were two doors north of them. However, following Resto Asahi’s closure, Chez Mein eventually took over their Saint-Laurent location, and they have been there ever since.
A small, undecorated restaurant filled with only a few tables and chairs, Chez Mein has proven that fancier is not always better. With a little cooking area by the entrance, Chez Mein offers window service when the weather is nice. Its cheap prices and an atmosphere resembling street food vendors in Asia, has made Chez Mein a simple yet iconic location for both McGill students and students in the greater Montreal area.
For many McGill students, Chez Mein’s cheap chow mein has shaped their university experience.
“Some of my purest moments of joy have happened at Chez Mein,” Lily McRae, U2 Arts, said. “It’s what taught me what “no frills” means in a Yelp review. It’s also where I learned that peanut sauce is literally just peanut butter, opening me to new types of cooking.”
Moriah Diamond, U3 Arts, finds that the restaurant’s friendly staff, including the owner Mr. Mike Cohen, is key to Chez Mein’s charm.
“I love 2chow,” Diamond said. “Last week, I gave [Mr. Cohen] 10 dollars because he always gives me an extra large order of noodles with four spring rolls for two dollars. He’s the best.”
One of the most exciting, and potentially nerve-wracking, parts of the Chez Mein experience is that you never know who you will run into. Briaela Shimansky, U2 Arts, described how Chez Mein has often served as a strange yet familiar meeting spot for the student community.
“Once I was craving noodles, so I drove all the way from the West Island to Chez Mein at midnight,” Shimansky said. “I was sober, alone, and wearing pyjamas. I ended up running into a bunch of people from high school, a girl that was mean to me, my ex, and a guy [whom] I recently ghosted. It was still worth it.”
Not only does Chez Mein hold a place in the hearts of McGill students, it has been a staple for many people around the island. The restaurant’s status as a long-standing and beloved place in the community for years is highlighted in an 11-minute video made by former Concordia student Sarah Barrable-Tishauer entitled “$2CHOWMEIN”. The video depicts the ins and outs of running this popular late-night restaurant on Saint-Laurent. More importantly, the documentary explores the legendary story behind the restaurant’s famous peanut butter sauce, thanks to an interview with the owner himself.
“We used to make peanut butter dumplings,” Cohen said. “[It] was a mistake. We put the peanut butter sauce on the dumpling, and then we put some on the noodles. And it just so happened that they liked it.”
Whether you’re into peanut butter or teriyaki, Chez Mein has a little something for everyone. If you’re nice, the staff might even throw in an extra spring roll in your order for you.
*Translated from Chinese