Eating our way through Quebec City -July 2011
We just got back from our 6 day visit to Quebec City...our first, but definitely not our last. The city and the music festival were amazing, but the food alone was worth the trip. Also, in reference to other questions we've seen posted on this board: We speak no French (though I always think that a S.V.P. or merci goes a long way), and it was not a problem at all. Most of the people we encountered were bilingual and very kind about our inability to speak the language. I didn't perceive any problems with service that seemed to be language related, and it certainly should not deter anyone from making a visit. Also, we had our 11 year old son with us. Granted, he is used to going to high end restaurants, and his behavior is very good in those situations, but again we didn't have any service problems related to having him with us. (Though I also think the city is very romantic, and I would love to return for a grown up trip too!)
Day 1: We arrived in time for dinner, but I hadn't made reservations in case our flights were delayed. Lucked out and got a table at Cafe Le Hobbit. The atmosphere and service were great. The food wasn't fancy, but very good. We particularly enjoyed the duck confit panini. Gelato at the place next door was excellent.
Day 2: We had breakfast at Casse Crepes (tried to go to Le Billig, but it wasn't open). Crepes were good, though I wouldn't say great. I wouldn't feel like I had to go back there again. We had lunch at Lapin Saute, which was GREAT. Highly recommend the rabbit pie. Portions are large though...we easily could have shared. That night we went to Panache for dinner. Great atmosphere and service and the food was outstanding. I would have loved to have tried the signature menu, but we were (unfortunately) still a little full from lunch. Nevertheless, the food was amazing and would highly recommend.
Day 3: We got croissants at Palliards. I recognize that this is a little bit of a touristy place, but still much better than anything I can get at home. For lunch we got carry out from Restaurant Leban right near St Jean gate. Not the best arabic ever, but still very good, very reasonably priced, and we wanted to get something we could eat while sitting on the city walls listening to music. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here, but a good option under the circumstances. Dinner was at L'echaude. We sat outside on the terrace. I would say both the food and the service were good, but not great.
Day 4: For breakfast we had bread, pates, and strawberries that we had picked up at the farmers market. Yummy. It's worth a trip to the market just to see what they have. Prices were very reasonable. We then biked up to Montmorency Falls, so ate lunch at the Manor there. Given its location, I expected the food to be horrible and touristy, but the sandwich I got (pork bbq marinated in maple syrup) was quite tasty. Pleasant surprise. For dinner, we went to Patriarche. This was, hands down, the best meal of the trip. Everything is served in trios (which I was afraid might feel gimmicky but wasn't at all), so after ordering appetizer, main course, and dessert I had tried nine dishes there. I got the foie gras first course, the wild game main course, and strawberry dessert trio. Every one of them was spot on and complemented the others. Service here was outstanding...very friendly without being intrusive. It's pricy, but worth every penny.
Day 5: Again had breakfast items that we had picked up at the market, then caught an early ferry over to Levis to go biking. We ate lunch in Levis at the Fabrique du smoked meat. I had the lunch special of poutine with smoked meat. Very filling and tasty after a morning of bike riding and hiking up the hill to get to the town. And we HAD to try the chocolate dipped ice cream at Les Chocolats Favoris (very good, and mercifully available in small sizes). I don't think I would make the trip to Levis just for the food alone, but the ferry ride and views are spectacular. It's good to know there are decent dining options while you are there. Dinner was at Le Saint Amour. I was fully expecting to love this restaurant, so maybe it suffered from my expectations, but I was disappointed. The atmosphere wasn't as nice as either Patriarche or Panache, and the service wasn't great either. (Things like having to ask multiple times for my son's drink, not bringing soup spoons with the soup). Not rude, but not very attentive either. The food was a little spotty. My husband and son both got the lamb crusted with pistachios and hazelnuts with a rosemary/honey sauce which was cooked perfectly and very delicious. I got scallops which were just ok. Not bad, but I've had better for half the price. Again, maybe my expectations had been too high, but it felt to me like a restaurant past its prime.
Day 6: Breakfast at Lapin Saute. We all got the eggs fried in maple syrup. It turned out to be a huge amount of food because it was also served with a crepe, fruit, potatoes, sausage, ham, and bacon, toast with homemade jam. Very, very good, but it was a skip lunch kind of day. We did pick up a little snack later on at JA Moisan on Rue St Jean (worth a stop to see all the different pates and cheeses here) and a few sweets at Chocomusee Erico. Dinner was at Bistro du Cap, which we loved. This is a tiny little restaurant, but we were able to sit outside. I had a delicious buffalo filled ravioli with wild mushroom sauce and a delicious blueberry creme brulee.
The places I wouldn't miss:
High end: Patriarche and Panache (though if I were choosing between these two, I would pick Patriarche)
Bistros: Lapin Saute, Bistro du cap, Cafe Le Hobbit
Definitely worth visiting the farmer's market and JA Moisan.
We wanted to go to: Cafe du Clocher Penche, Les Bossus, and La Pain Beni, but ran out of time. We'll have to try those next time.
What a great, great city. We loved the history, the music, and the food. People were very friendly, and the city felt very clean and safe. I can't wait to go back!
620 Rue Saint-Joseph E, Quebec, QC G1K3B9, CA
526 Rue Saint-Jean, Quebec, QC G1R1P6, CA
73 Rue Du Sault-Au-Matelot, Quebec, QC G1K3Y9, CA
Le Saint Amour
48 Rue Sainte Ursule Vieux, Quebec, QC G1R, CA
We are midway through our stay and can report this:
Le Billig was excellent. Better than Casses Crepes, though not quite as convenient.
Bar Le Sacrilege, across from Le Billig, is really good. They've got cider on tp, so they score points in my book.
Lapin Sauté is great -- the rabbit pie kicks butt, especially on a chilly day. Their onion soup is also good -- spring for the extra few bucks and get it with local cheese on top.
Cafe Le St Malo is cozy, earthy, and fantastic. The cassoulet strikes the right balance between being hearty and overly rich. The proprietress is a sweet lady from Breton and you feel like you're in her dining room. Make a reservation -- it's tiny.
The cafe at Hotel St Antoine is really comfortable. My wife's lobster club sandwich was both decadent and comforting. Great for a light dinner, if that's what you're after.
The old port market is very good. The maple products are much cheaper here than anywhere else in the city (trust me, I looked in lots of far-flung groceries, etc.). Of particular note is the granulated maple sugar -- expensive at twenty bucks a kilo, but great. The fromagerie is outstanding for quebecois cheeses. We will be bringing home some riopelle and blue St Elizabeth.
Bugel Bagel (that's not quite the name, but it's close) makes good bagels in the Montreal style. However, they are not fire baked like St Viateur in Montreal. Kind of a hippie spot in an odd location.
Paingruel is the real deal, especially when they use old school grains. The pommes aux noix is especially good.
The cookies at Choco Erico are first rate -- chunky, chewy, rich.
I found JA Moisan to be a letdown. The cheese is so-so and few things there are unique -- you can buy them lots of places. The history of the store is cool, though.
I have presumably forgotten some places, so forgive my memory.
526 Rue Saint-Jean, Quebec, QC G1R1P6, CA
Final dinner at Cochon Dingue. Seafood pot pie was rich, decadent, and well-prepared. It's not a light Neal, but it's wonderful. The sugar pie was the highlight -- best version I ate. The duck poutine was first rate, though I found the fries to be a bit chewy. The gravy and duck, though, were awesome. My friends had the apple pie with maple cream, which was also great. This place is pretty and good with kids (we had a stroller), even though the tables are packed in there.
We enjoyed Patriarche quite a bit (July 2011) but be prepared for a 3-4 hour experience. Our server(s) just disappeared and never returned. It was astoundingly excellent food and when we were eating the service was flawless...but once we were ready to give them a bag of money they were nowhere to be seen.
My wife and I just finished three days of bistro-hunting in Quebec City. We enjoyed both Bistro du Cap and Cafe St. Malo, and strongly recommend reservations at both. But we got in to both by simply walking in at about 5 and making reservations for 6. Both we full by 6:30, so spur-of-the-moment dining probably isn't an option. But both are worth a little effort to make the reservation. FYI, the sweetbreads are better at Bistro du Cap, and if you have the small portion and no salad, you have enough enough room left for one of the desserts: we shared profiteroles and creme brulee, and found both worth denying ourselves a larger main course.