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A eulogy for Bar-B Barn, you will be missed

    Bar-B Barn, a revered institution, stands at the precipice of closure, signifying the end of a remarkable era. With a storied history spanning decades, this cherished eatery is poised to conclude its journey, indefinitely closing its doors. Since its establishment in 1967, when it first greeted patrons on Guy Street in downtown Montreal, Bar-B Barn has been synonymous with delectable ribs and tender chicken, enchanting generations of diners. As the imminent closure looms, echoing the initial shutdown on Guy Street in 2020, Bar-B Barn will bid farewell to its second location on the West Island, bringing an end to its operations. The second establishment in Dollard-des-Ormeaux will soon shutter its doors, serving its last plate of ribs on March 17th, 2024.

    A few days ago, my father passed away, thrusting me into the sorrowful duty of sifting through old family photographs. Amidst the bittersweet journey down memory lane, I found solace in the warmth of cherished moments, yet couldn’t shake the feeling that a part of myself faded alongside those memories. While rummaging through my dad’s residence, I stumbled upon a dwelling that seemed frozen in time, forgotten, and abandoned for years on end.

    Now, news of the closure of the last Bar-B Barn location in Dollard-des-Ormeaux adds another layer of melancholy. A piece of my soul seems tethered to those succulent ribs, each tender bites a flavorful reminder of carefree times and hearty laughter. With its doors soon to close, it feels as though a tangible connection to my past has slipped away, leaving behind an ache for the tastes and aromas that once provided comfort in moments of both joy and sorrow.

    When I entered the doors of the legendary Bar-B Barn back in the 1980s it was like stepping into a realm of unparalleled charm and history. Who can forget the nostalgic sight of the interior, adorned with its signature yellow and brown hues, or the simplicity of the table paper menus? The walls were adorned with portraits of Montreal’s most esteemed figures, each a testament to the illustrious guests who had graced the establishment with their presence. From iconic hockey heroes like Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, and Guy Lapointe of the Canadiens to baseball legends Rusty Staub, Steve Rogers, and Gary Carter representing the Expos, the atmosphere was electrifying with the energy of the city’s sporting prowess.

    Those nights were etched into memory, now fading like distant echoes as the inevitable march of time takes its toll. Bar-B Barn, once a beacon of Montreal’s vibrant past, now faces a fate mirroring the fate of those legends, fading into obscurity as we all seem to linger in the nostalgia of days gone by.

    Many years later I met the enigmatic founder, Manny Barnoff, which was a privilege I was offered a glimpse into the heart and soul of this man. In vain I tried to convince Manny to consider adding my egg rolls to the menu, which was no small feat, requiring a delicate balance of persuasion and negotiation. Despite presenting a compelling offer and undercutting his current supplier, Manny’s unwavering loyalty to the family-owned bakery prevailed. His iconic radio ads, with the catchy phrase “Tell them Manny sent you,” became a hallmark of the Bar-B Barn experience, serving as a secret code for those initiated into its unique charm. His Bar-B Barn money was as legendary as Canadian Tire money.

    However, since Manny departed in 2020, Bar-B Barn has fallen prey to the relentless grip of a global pandemic that ravaged the food industry. The once-thriving downtown location was the first casualty, succumbing to the economic hardships imposed by the crisis. Even the West Island branch, valiantly struggling to uphold its former glory, faced an uphill battle against dwindling patronage and mounting competition. Despite attempts to recapture the magic of yesteryears with vignette videos and tributes to Manny’s legacy, the restaurant felt more like a mausoleum, preserving memories of a bygone era.

    The restaurant walls are adorned with weathered pine furniture and yellowed newspaper clippings, each piece whispering tales from distant decades. What was once a quaint homage to the past now felt weary and unwelcoming. Every corner echoes with the remnants of a bygone era, where the peeling brown paint, a testament to neglect and abandonment now overshadows the once-vibrant hues of nostalgia. It’s as if this place, once teeming with life and laughter, has been left to languish in the shadows of forgotten dreams and solitary meals. The photograph of Gary Carter hanging on the wall at the golf course has weathered the relentless onslaught of sun and time, gradually fading into obscurity before our very eyes.

    As you take in the atmosphere, the air carries a peculiar scent, a blend of musty memories and faded aspirations. The sight prompts a wistful smile, tinged with a hint of irony at the passage of time. Even the taste of the food seems to reflect the faded glory of this establishment, leaving a lingering sense of dissatisfaction that contrasts sharply with the hefty bill presented at the end of the meal, a stark reminder that the price of nostalgia is far from amusing. As the winds of change sweep through the culinary landscape, Bar-B Barn found itself swept away in the tide, lost amidst a sea of newer, trendier establishments. The charm that once defined this beloved eatery faded into oblivion, a bittersweet reminder of the impermanence of all things.

    Farewell to Bar-B Barn, a cherished fragment of Montreal’s essence, slipped away with each passing day, leaving a void in the tapestry of the city’s cultural heritage. Your absence leaves a palpable void, a poignant absence that reverberates profoundly within the souls of those who held dear the singular atmosphere you so effortlessly cultivated.

    Mike Cohen returns to an old favorite for chicken and ribs: The Bar B Barn

    By Tony Medeiros

    Tony Medeiros

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