Gibeau Orange Julep
The Gibeau Orange Julep restaurant (also known colloquially as OJ or The Big Orange) is a roadside attraction and fast food restaurant in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The building is in the shape of an orange, three stories high, with a diameter of forty feet.
|Gibeau Orange Julep|
Gibeau Orange Julep storefront
Location on map of Montreal
|Food type||Restaurant specializing in "Orange Julep"|
|Street address||7700 Décarie Boulevard|
|Postal/ZIP Code||H4P 2H4|
The restaurant was started by Hermas Gibeau in 1932 to serve his trademark drink the Gibeau Orange Julep, reportedly based on a Gibeau family recipe. Before founding the first location, Gibeau sold his drinks at Belmont Park, a popular amusement park at the time. The original storefront he opened, located on rue Sherbrooke Est, was not shaped like an orange. The cult following that developed revolved around his second location, the Big Orange, located on Decarie Blvd.
For a time, the Julep was noted for rollerskating waitresses, who brought food orders out to cars, but customers today order and receive their food at the counter. Food can then be taken away or eaten at one of a number of picnic tables. The restaurant opens at 8 am and operates until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 2 am the rest of the week.
An August 9th, 2019 article by the Montreal Gazette cited an earlier (August 9th, 1977) article on the restaurant “At Gibeau’s Julep, the 1950s never really left. It’s a scene that has outlasted LSD, the Vietnam war and thus far pollution,” Juan Rodriguez reported, in an Aug. 9, 1977 feature on the Décarie Blvd. landmark.” Rodriguez, the original author, emphasized the importance of the restaurant as a social hub, separate from it’s food or drink. ““It is the ultimate hang out, the local epitome of the modern American pastime of the automotive pick-up, the great asphalt drama,” Rodriguez wrote.”
In 1945, Gibeau built an orange concrete sphere two stories high to house his restaurant. It is believed Gibeau intended to live there with his wife and children. The Big Orange, the last standing operating Orange Julep, was once one of several Gibeau Orange Julep restaurants in the Montreal area and beyond, many shaped like a giant orange.
A 1969 Montreal Gazette article by Peter Lanken reported “The original Orange Julep was conceived, in 1945… It was on Decarie Boulevard, it was round, it was concrete, it was orange. It had a small square window on the second floor, which made it look like something out of a children’s book...” Though Lanken refers to The Big Orange as the original restaurant, it was in fact the second location, though the first orange-shaped one. The restaurant and its orange sphere were rebuilt, from a design by architect Olius P. Bois, to be larger and further back from the roadway when it was widened to become the Décarie Expressway in 1966. Its shell consists of fiberglass segments that were ordered from a local pool manufacturer, covering a laminated wood shell frame. The whole building is illuminated from the outside in the evenings.
Drink and Other Products
The famous drink, the Gibeau Orange Julep, was first marketed in 1932. In addition to the storefront, The Orange Julep juice is also retailed, and there are recipes available online. Propos Montreal claims to have found the patent for the recipe. However, it was patented by the current owner in 1993. As outlined in the patent, No. 2083584, filed in English by Gibeau, the recipe explains that the fruit juice is deacidified by the mixture of skimmed milk powder and pectin before adding the juice concentrate and the natural vanilla flavor. This gives the drink a typical, sweet mouthfeel without the acidity of traditional juice.
Orange Juleps go for $2.70-$6.90 within the normal cup size range, or by the jug for $11.20. The drink is sold alongside fast-food items like hot dogs (by Nathan’s Famous), burgers, fries, and poutine.
Orange Julep offers spaghetti and meat sauce for $6.65. George St-Pierre, a Canadian mixed martial artist, spoke of it in a 2014 documentary about his life, claiming it as one of the city's best kept secrets: “I think it’s important to remember where you come from. As for the Orange Julep…I’ve been going there for like fifteen years (...) I like the spaghetti there, I love it!”.
Today, the Orange Julep hosts classic car and motorbike enthusiasts on Wednesday nights, between May and October - if the weather permits, as early as April and as late as November - between 19:00 and 22:00. Often this event is on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well.
In The Media
The restaurant appears, along with other Montreal landmarks, in the music video for the Men Without Hats song "Where Do the Boys Go?". The Orange Julep has a presence on many social media platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. On Instagram, they do not have a personal page, but they have a very heavily influenced hashtag presence as well as location tags. The restaurant's Twitter is not as active as their location tags on Instagram but has been used in the past to do updates on the restaurant as well as engaging with other popular Montreal twitter accounts, such as MTL Blog. The Facebook page has been more active in the past, sharing photos and reviews of the restaurant.
The Orange Julep is one of the original landmarks in Montreal, making it one of the many sought at tourist locations on the island. The restaurant has been mentioned on Tripadvisor, Trip Savvy, Daily Hive, Propos Montreal, MTL Blog, and the Montreal Gazette.
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- Remiorz, Ryan (14 June 2016). "A Montreal tradition: Classic car shows at iconic Gibeau Orange Julep restaurant". National Post. The Canadian Press. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
- Men Without Hats - Where Do The Boys Go (Official Music Video), retrieved 2019-11-20
- "Orange Julep (@OrangeJulepMTL) | Twitter". twitter.com. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
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