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Mar 20, 2013 07:37 AM

FIRST time visiting Quebec City over the Easter weekend. Please complete this sentence for me: " You would be remiss in visiting QC and not having tasted......"

Greetings, Canadian 'Hounds!

My husband, nine year old son, and I will be heading from NYC to your lovely city from Holy Thursday through Easter Monday. We will be staying at the Fairmont and are extremely excited about a long weekend of exploring the city and eating at what, after a bit of research on these very boards, seem to be some excellent bistros, bakeries, and restaurants.

We are thinking of renting a car for one day and checking out a Sugar Shack (even if the food is not spectacular, we think it would be an interesting experience). My son is on a mission to find the best poutine
(he loved it in Montreal a few years ago!) and deli meats.

We are interested most in experiences that are uniquely Quebecois or Canadian. Something we don't encounter in NYC where we eat ethnic foods- everything from Uzbekistani to Vietnamese- all the time. We are not particularly interested in very formal places, although at least one of our meals will probably be at a "fine" dining establishment. We would much prefer warm, cozy bistros.

I am told that most people will be happy to speak English with us. I speak fluent in Italian and Spanish, and even know a bit of Mandarin and Korean, but my French is awful. REALLY awful. I am hoping this will not be a problem. We are polite and friendly and hope this will earn us hospitality points ;)

We are mostly interested in lunches, dinners, and snacks as we were able to get the Fairmont's buffet breakfast worked into our room rate.

Merci in advance,

Places that are on on radar after a bit of research are:

Sugar Shack:

APDC or sucrerie Gallant, in Rigaud

Le Cafe de Clocher Penche

Bistro du Cap

Le Billig for crepes

Le Concorde on the top floor of the Lowes Hotel, just outside of the old city for cockails


Boulangerie Paillard

Au Palet d'Or for pastries

Ashton for Poutine

panache or le patriacrhe ....too formal? Favor seems to be with Patriarche

Le Pain Beni

Aux Anciens Canadiens Tourist Trap?

L'Affaire Est Ketchup

Cafe Le Hobbit.

Cafe Le St Malo (cassoulet)

Lapin Saute

Fabrique du smoked meat in Levis

chocolate dipped ice cream at Les Chocolats Favoris

cookies at Choco Erico

old port market

JA Moisan and Farmers' Market

Cochon Dingue for duck poutine

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  1. Hi Lisa,
    It sounds like you've done your homework! I'm not as familiar with QC as Montreal, but I'll try to give my opinions..

    First, as you've probably deduced, Quebec city is not quite as bilingual as Montreal. In tourist areas this will probably not be an issue, but as you move further from the old town English becomes less and less common. If you begin your conversation with french pleasantries ("Bonjour! Ca va?"), most will probably deduce that French is not your language and switch over.

    As for sugar shacks, this seems like a good idea though they will be particularly busy over that weekend. You'll have to make sure to reserve. However, you'll not get a spot at APDC which booked up within a matter of hours, if not minutes, back on December 1st. Its a long way to travel from QC anyways, so maybe best that you get to stay closer to the capital.

    I would definitely support your decisions to try Clocher Penche, L'Echaude, and le Pain Beni. The latter to me always feels a bit odd: the decor feels like mid-90s modern (perhaps a bit like many Parisien bistros, actually), though the food is quite good. L'Echaude to me feels much warmer, though it is a bigger, bustling room. It is my personal favourite in QC. Bistro du Cap is next door and might be a good alternative, though I've honestly only had drinks there. Le Hobbit is good for lunch, in my experience, though I know it has mixed reviews here.

    As for Panache, I found the food to be exceptional, though perhaps not the best value. It was one of the pricier dinners I've ever had in this country, but nothing about the dishes really stands out in my memory. The room is beautiful, and feels much more traditional than the other competitors in this class like Toast or St. Amour. I haven't been to Patriarche, but I think the decision really comes down to whether you're willing to splurge for either. If so, Panache is a good place to do it.

    Le Billig feels like it should be a tourist trap, and this is certainly their main clientele, but I've actually enjoyed their crepes on several occasions. I don't have much experience with the other crepe options, but this one is decent and centrally-located. This is also the case for Cochon Dingue: definitely tourist-oriented, but that poutine is a good one. The thing about poutine is that its available everywhere and everyone has an opinion on which is best, but really its a dish that should be eaten and appreciated for its convenience, not to showcase the chef's culinary prowess. For this reason Ashton's is a great option: they aren't trying to make poutine something extravagant.

    Le Concorde, to me, feels like a hotel bar. Its fine, but the same as every other hotel bar (albeit with a view). Don't make a special trip.

    Smoked meat in general is a tradition that hasn't travelled well outside of Montreal (or even within Montreal). Perhaps this is why it is called Montreal smoked meat. I found nothing interesting about Fabrique, and their rendition did not really impress me. It is tempting to try all the unique Quebecois dishes, but this might be best saved for a trip to Schwartz's on a future vacation.

    Finally, you should definitely not miss the markets. These are some of the best I've been to.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Fintastic

      Thank you all so much. We looked over a bunch of menus and apart from our cabane du sucre meal, the bistros that look most appealing are Toast, L' Affaire est Ketchup, and Le Pain Beni. Also some jaunts for Poutine, crepes at Billig, the markets, chocolates and nougat and chocolate dipped ice cream. Patriarche and Panache will have to wait for another time. Their menus looked lovely though. Easter Sunday we will do the Grand Buffet at the Fairmont. They tend to do a nice job. Something tells me I will not be short on good meals. Looking forward to exploring your beautiful city! Merci beaucoup.

      1. re: Fintastic

        I am here and loving it! Real quick: all of the local foodies with whom I have spoken (young and old and quite a few) GUSH about a few places: Continental is their clear favorite for traditional French brasserie food. Many dishes prepared table side. Also Conti Cafe for upscale Italian, Toast's more casual sister, SSS, Bistro B, and Bistro Boreale. Cafe Le Hobbit is everyone's pick for breakfast/brunch. So far we have loved Pain beni best. toast was perfect in every way, for sure, but just didn't resonate with us. Not sure why. More when I return. Wifi is tough here ;)

        1. re: ZenFoodist

          Bistro B and Bistro Boreale were recommended by almost all the locals we spoke to as well. Bistro B was on the Rue Cartier and the blackboard specials looked great. We had just enjoyed the Fairmont's awesome Easter Sunday Grande Brunch and were stuffed. Alas..

          St. Amour, Toast, L' Affaire est Ketchup and Continental were heralded as Quebec's finest by all the foodies we consulted. Zero divergence. As well as the houskeeper, the concierge, and the large multi generational family from Quebec that sat next to us at the Easter Brunch. Continental in particular. People GUSHED about it. The Parisian who was visiting and our floor-mate said it was as good if not better than any of the meals he had enjoyed in his beloved Paris. All the food is cooked table side a flambe and meals take about 3 hours. That last part killed it for us because we had so many things we were trying to squeeze in.

          Thought Les Cosmos SUCKED. Ugh. Reminded me of a chichi Cheesecake Factory. On the lovely Grande Allee though and perfect for an afterdinner stroll. We headed there after a long day of dogsledding, the cabane du sucre, Montmorency Falls and the Basilica Saint Anne de Beaupre. We were exhausted and needed a place to go for salads and pizza etc. The Thai salad was UGH. Fishy canned crab, boiled frozen shrimp, icy cold rice noodles that were too hard, and an overly oily dressing. Very uninspired. The place was jumping with all the Beautiful People and we welcomed the free wifi ;)

          Favorite poutine was indeed at Ashton's. Dark rich gravy. The market in the Vieux Port was my favorite part of the trip apart from wandering the cobblestoned streets and dogsledding.

          The Blouin Cabane du Sucre experience was a lot of fun. Hardly a tourist in sight. Hundreds of erable enthusiastic Canadians enjoying multi course basic almost commissary-style food ( ham, sausages, potatoes, pea soup) anointed with maple syrup whilst singing folk songs in French with an accordion playing master of ceremonies type. Definitely memorable. We did this after an awesome experience dog sledding at Mi-Loup.

          In short, we had no extraordinary meals and this had much to do with us: tartare, foie gras, and sweetbreads were the most loved and recommended dishes at almost every establishment and we are not fans of any of these things. I also found vegetable and fresh salads to be sorely lacking.

          Le Pain Beni was our fave meal. By far. Toast left me starving and annoyed. Aux Anciens Canadians ( I know, I know...tourist trap, but we had just landed and were desperate and basically walked into it after being told that Pain Beni was closed) was Meh although my son loved his escargots and meat pie. Le Cochon Dingue's poutine was not as good as Ashton's and the moules Provencal were flavorless. The sauce tasted raw. Le Hobbit and Le Billig would have been wonderful spots for bfast is we hadn't had our buffet included each day at the Fairmont. The markets and Epicerie J A Poisnan were fantastic. The macarons and sandwiches at Paillard were of the highest quality. Most things on the Ile D' Orleans were closed but we bought some fabulous cassis wine and some apple cidre at the local places there. I can imagine what a special place this is in the summer.

          In all we loved the gorgeous city of Quebec. Just spectacular. Everyone was warm and accommodating and the architecture was stunning. I look forward to an encore in the not too distant future!

        2. re: Fintastic

          Hi. Im planning a trip to Montreal and Quebec for the first time. I have read some of your recommendations. I'd like to contact you regarding more information about attractions and places to visit in Montreal and Quebec. Do you have any email? Facebook?


          Kathy Rossy

          Puerto Rico

          1. re: kathyrossy

   If you are on Facebook, I can send you the album of our long weekend there. The pictures will speak a thousand words.

            1. re: ZenFoodist

              Hi.. Yes I'm on facebook

              Kathy Rossy...


              1. re: kathyrossy

                There are dozens of Kathy Rossys but just one of me. Find me :)

        3. There is a really good 'terroir' (local food) restaurant on Ile d'Orleans which isn't a long tdrive from Quebec City. Not sure if it is open during the winter, though. I will check and get back to the list with info. There are other great restaurants on Orleans if it isn't open.

          1 Reply
          1. re: williej

            Thank you both so much. You are both the reason why Chowhound remains one of my favorite websites ever!

            Diane, the excellent concierge at the Fairmont, heartily recommended the Ill D'Orleans and when I researched it a bit, I realized it would probably become my favorite part if the trip: the Gourmet Route. Oh My! I can not wait to check it out. She will recommend some sugar shacks there as well. I am thinking it is in all its glory in Spring and Summer, however I will take what I can get :)

            Which markets are your favorites?

          2. APDC or sucrerie Gallant, in Rigaud are way too far from Quebec city (just noticed now you found others in your other thread).

            Billing isn't a tourist trap. And if it is, it's also a locals' trap, because of all the creperies in Quebec it's the one locals tend to go to.

            I enjoyed my experience at Patriache, although it is somewhat formal.

            Aux Anciens canadiens is a bit of a tourist trap, but you should try at lunch time. They have a special menu with typical Quebecois food we only normally eat around Christmas/New Year's.

            Chocolate dipped ice cream at Les Chocolats Favoris is good, but I don't think it will be available this time of the year.

            L'affaire est Ketchup is my favorite restaurant so, yeah. The owners also have a more "casual" (although I can't say A est K is formal) a street further : Patente et machins. I also enjoy La gueule de bois, also in lower town.

            If you enjoy wine, le Moine échansson on St-Jean street is pretty good (restaurant and wine bar).

            I'm pretty sure every waiter will happily talk to you in english, and if you start with the few words of French you know, you'll even get bonus points.

            For poutine, there's a restaurant called "Poutinerie" a bit far from old town, but has a really large selection of poutines.

            I agree with "Fintastic", I would skip la Fabrique du smoked meet, unless you really want to visit Levis and have a lunch there. I wasn't impress. If you really want smoked meat, there's always Brynd close to the market.

            1. Thank you for the feedback :) I will let you know how it goes. Will def skip the deli meats.

              1. Been dining in Quebec for over thirty years. I think L'echaude is very over rated and kind of touristy. Same for Lapin Sauté. One place that never disappoints and gets raves from everyone we send there is Mistral on Rue St. Paul, great bistro fare, very reasonable, quiet friendly atmosphere. The best meal I had last year was at the restaurant in the Priori Hotel ( it may be L'affaire Est Ketchup). Because it it maple syrup season I would make an effort to visit a shack shack on Il d'Orlean and see the ice at Montmorency Falls.
                I know you will have a great time

                1 Reply
                1. re: Barry1271

                  The restaurant at the Priori Hotel is Toast!.