Hidden beneath the sprawling Le Cartier Tower among the hustle and bustle of downtown Montreal sits Opiano, a relaxed cafeteria-style Korean market offering a variety of dishes, from ramyun to bibimbap. Located just a five-minute walk away from campus at 1115 Sherbrooke St. W, this––literally––underground spot is a quintessential lunch destination for many McGill students.
Upon entering Opiano at lunch hour, one is instantly greeted by the warm, savoury aroma of Korean cuisine and the chatter of McGill students, office employees, and families. Visitors can be seen enjoying both vegetarian and meat-based options or picking up food to go in this cozy, laid-back environment.
Especially in the winter months, Opiano provides students bowls of comfort and warmth with a variety of stews, including their soft tofu soup (sundubu jjigae), and slow-cooked spicy pork bone soup (bbyeo haejangguk). Those who might be looking just for a quick snack can enjoy refreshing bites of kimbap and, if feeling more indulgent, can dig into a plate of flavourful stir-fried rice cakes.
Samuel Nyandwi, U3 Science, discovered Opiano in his first year at McGill. He has since introduced friends to the restaurant, all of whom are now regulars. The spot holds many memories for him.
“Opiano gives me nostalgia since it was the first restaurant I went to in Montreal,” Nyandwi told The McGill Tribune. “[The atmosphere] is very welcoming, there are always people there eating out with friends.”
Nyandwi recommends the spicy fried chicken stir-fry plate and the pork kassu.
“[They’re] honestly a 10 out of 10,” Nyandwi said of the dishes. “The presentation is fantastic, portions are big, and prices are affordable. You really get your money’s worth.”
It’s no surprise that Opiano has become a go-to spot for McGill students. The restaurant’s large yet relatively inexpensive portions are a much-needed comfort for busy students who might not always have the time to cook.
Ari Cho, U1 Management, shares Nyandwi’s fondness for the restaurant. After hearing about Opiano from other McGill students, Cho decided to give it a try. She now frequents Opiano two to three times a week with her friends, thanks to its high quality and proximity to campus.
“The [bone] soup and kassu are both huge portions and really good. [They] taste fresh and [the kassu] is crispy,” Cho said.
Although frequented by regulars, the spot continues to draw newcomers at McGill. Upon visiting Opiano for the first time recently, Sophie Cohen, U0 Music, felt comforted by the restaurant’s laid-back, casual atmosphere, noting how its bright red and black wooden chairs, beige benches, and numerous plants behind the counter create a homey and youthful feel.
While Opiano may not provide a fine-dining experience, it offers a space for students to chat freely with friends and escape from McGill’s dining halls.
“The ambience is very lowkey,” Cohen said. “It really caters to the students and downtown office workers […] which I think it does successfully.”
Amelia Waters, U1 Arts, recently discovered Opiano and has since introduced her friends to the restaurant. The passion and dedication the staff have for their small business is evident to any frequent customer.
“[One of Opiano’s biggest draws is] how friendly the staff are,” Waters said.
Opiano remains a beloved venue where students can reliably find comfort and friends.