Gibeau Orange Julep, Montreal’s Nostalgic Fast-Food Restaurant

The famous orange julep on the backdrop of the sphere-shaped restaurant

photography by: Omri Westmark

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The outskirts of downtown Montreal are everything you’d expect a North-American city to be – expansive retail stores, car-infested highways and not many pedestrians in plain sight. However, what might seem at first like an urban wasteland boasts a roadside attraction that makes it far less humdrum. Conspicuous by its spherical shape and tangerine hue, Gibeau Orange Julep is now one of Montreal’s most iconic dining establishments, renowned for its peculiar, yet scrumptious orange beverage.

From afar, the orange-colored orb along the A. Décarie Highway can look as though it is an ill-designed planetarium. Looks can be deceiving, though, as this incongruous edifice is among Montreal’s most emblematic fast-food eateries, and where ravenous Montrealers quench their thirst and hunger with various Quebecoise eats, including an unusual drink which gained this place its citywide recognition.


Well before this eatery became the icon it is today, it had a rather modest start in the early 1930’s as a nondescript storefront in Belmont Park, an erstwhile amusement park that once operated on Sherbrooke Street East. After a few years, the owner and founder, Hermas Gibeau, opted to transform his eponymous business “Gibeau Orange Julep” into a notable landmark, and oh boy, he did.


In 1945, Gibeau built what looks like an oversized orange along Décarie Blvd. in Montreal’s suburb of Mount Royal, paying homage to his citrusy refreshment. Made primarily of concrete, the 2-story spherical structure housed his restaurant and allegedly, also a living space where he planned to move in with his family (but for some reason, never did). Soon thereafter, Gibeau’s whimsical edifice was replicated in other locations across the city, becoming a local fast-food chain.


As the nearby road was expanded into a full-fledged expressway in 1966, the eatery was subsequently demolished and rebuilt a short distance shy of its former location, where it still stands to date.


Modeled after the original design by architect Olius P. Bois, it was fashioned from a fiberglass shell placed atop a wooden skeleton. Interestingly, the current building is nearly twice the size of its predecessor, featuring a 3-story height and a 12-meter diameter, thus proclaiming the title of the largest orange sphere in the world.


While Gibeau’s quirky luncheonette is no longer part of a regional chain, it nevertheless still attracts scores of visitors who come here especially for its famed quencher – an orange juice mixed with powdered milk, pectin and vanilla extract to form a creamy version of the ubiquitous drink we are all familiar with. Other victuals include cheeseburgers, BLT sandwich, poutine, chicken nuggets and other hearty treats to indulge your palate with.


A smattering of picnic tables around the eatery offers an excellent vantage point of the sphere, which is beautifully lit during nighttime.