Few things bring back memories of the 1970s for me like an orange julep. Going out for an orange julep was among our rituals when we traveled to Florida from Ottawa to visit my grandparents back in the day. We generally went down to Florida to escape Ottawa’s long, bleak winters for a spell, and orange juleps were one of the tastes I associated with the warmth, the sun, and the ocean. Orange juleps are also among the flavors that seemed to have gone into hiding or even disappeared completely from the map soon after the arrival of the 1980s, along with things like Ovaltine and Carvel ice cream.Few things are as integral a part of summer in Montreal than Gibeau Orange Julep. An iconic part of the Montreal cityscape since the 1940s, the massive orange globe that houses Gibeau Orange Julep was built by Hermas Gibeau and was intended to house him and his family above his already successful roadside drive-in. Then as now, the orange julep was both tasty and good for you, chock full of vitamin C, supposedly fat-free, and loaded with enough carbohydrates to make all those Atkins types run screaming. These days one gets the impression that the top 80% of the structure is a massive holding tank for the frothy orange beverage that shoots down from the ceiling of the restaurant through clear tubes, into a dispenser, and then into your cup. There’s something almost vintage sci-fi about the whole set up. In any case, that big ole orange has a way of lifting one’s spirits when temperatures are chillier—and its surreal dimensions also liven up the otherwise god-awful Décarie expressway—but during the summertime it becomes a full-fledged hang-out, a 24-hour social scene that draws Montrealers from all walks of life to grab a hot dog, fries, and a frosty orange julep, beat the heat, and occupy a location that’s become a postmodern wasteland.
Wednesday nights, in a nod to the car culture that gave birth to the Gibeau Orange Julep, local hot-rodders descend upon the premises to show off their wheels. Go ahead: adjust your pompadour, throw on your bobby-sox and make the scene.
Gibeau Orange Julep, 7700 Décarie, 738-7486