When I think of our trip to Québec, it's pretty easy to classify Montréal as the foodie city and Québec City as the spot for sightseeing and pretending you're in Europe. But truthfully, that does the QC dining scene a huge disservice. While QC didn't have an equivalent for a Joe Beef, nearly every meal (and snack...many snacks) we had there was top notch. Plus, every restaurant was cuter and more charming than the one before it. And after all, QC was the birthplace of our definitive restaurant rating system.
A quick side note -- Jen and I spent the better part of one of our QC days outside the Old Québec in the neighborhood of St-Roch. I'm not including it in this post because, well, we spent hours there on a food tour. And because we did a food tour there, frankly it deserves its own post. So stay tuned for that.
And now without further adieu, let the drooling begin.
I don't know if "charcuterie culture" is a thing, but if it isn't, I'm coining it, and I'm telling you right now that QC has the best charcuterie culture in all the land. Hungry, but not quite ready for dinner when we arrived in QC after a long train ride from Montréal, we decided to act like ballers and go to happy hour in the Château Frontenac. 1608 Wine and Cheese Bar is, after all, a hotel bar, but the view was unbeatable and our meat, cheese, and fruit board was phenomenal. The amount of cheese we consumed was nothing short of gluttonous, and the cocktails were on point. Also I had to take a picture of the menu featuring a $200 cocktail. Absurd.
RATED FOUR OUT OF FIVE MAN BUNS: Maaaaybe a little overpriced, but no surprise given the location, the view, and the quality. Definitely worth the splurge.
To be 100 percent honest, I don't remember how we picked L'Échaudé for our first dinner in QC, but I'm glad we did. I try to stay slightly out of my comfort zone when traveling if the menu presents the option, so I had a great beef tartare with homemade fries, and Jen had a seafood bouillabaisse. I was full, but when Jen heard that sugar pie was on the menu, she said she had read somewhere that it was a Québec specialty and we should get it. It was unsurprisingly delicious, prompting Jen to say "I love how this province's traditional foods are basically fat and sugar." Word.
RATED THREE OUT OF FIVE MAN BUNS: Two-bun deduction for the little tiff I almost got into with our server. We were eating outside, and a small fly had plummeted to its death in my glass of water, so I asked for another one. The server said "Well you are eating outside." I blurted out, "I know, but it's just water." It wasn't like I was asking for a whole new glass of wine. It was weird. Like he thought I was blaming him for putting the fly there or something. Still, the food and the atmosphere was great, and the hostess brought us wine while we sat outside and waited for our table.
Weirdly enough, Le Lapin Sauté, or the Sauteed Rabbit, was one of Lonely Planet's top recommendations for brunch. Never one to question an LP suggestion, we happily hit it up. Good call, LP. The patio is quite possibly the most beautiful place where I've ever eaten a meal, and I (a hardcore LaCroix addict) was perhaps disproportionately excited about the homemade fruit soda (I got the peach, Jen had the pear). Again committed to trying things I ordinarily might not try, I figured why not give rabbit a go considering I'm at a place with "rabbit" in the name? So I had an eggs Benedict with rabbit (in case you're wondering, to me, it tastes like duck). Jen had french toast grilled cheese...I MEAN...
RATED FIVE OUT OF FIVE MAN BUNS: Truly delicious and creative brunch menu, awesome service, unbeatable ambiance. AND, look at that baguette that came with my Benedict! Damn, I could go for some peach soda RN.
Honestly, I was a bit disappointed that Chic Shack wasn't more like its nearly homophonic New York counterpart Shake Shack. It was "Le Burger Week" in QC, and my burger was serviceable, but mostly I was disappointed in the giant poutine bowl Jen and I split. Chic Shack was talked up for having some of the best poutine in the city, and yes, they had many varieties. In addition to the essential gravy and cheese curds, our poutine had mushrooms and onions. The real disappointment though was that the potatoes were basically roasted potatoes -- not french fries.
RATED TWO OUT OF FIVE MAN BUNS: POUTINE, GUYS. Why fuck up something that's already perfect?
Back on the charcuterie culture grind, one night we planned to go on a QC ghost tour. It started during dinnertime and would end too late for a full dinner in the city that starts to close up shop around 10 p.m., so we hit up a new place called BEClub. I hate to say this because it's a new place, and I know they were trying, but it just wasn't good. Not enough cheese on that board, too much meat (especially considering Jen wouldn't eat most of it), and those cheese puffs you see were frozen in the middle.
RATED ONE OUT OF FIVE MAN BUNS: Ehh, just not very good. I did try elk jerky though. (I didn't like it, but hey, at least it was something new.)
I was inexplicably desperate for ice cream after the ghost tour, but most ice cream shops were closed by the time we were finished. Luckily, Jen and I came upon a crepe place that was still open. Casse-Crêpe Breton mostly does crepes, both sweet and savory, and our raspberry and chocolate crepe was pretty much perfect. Plus, I got my ice cream on the side.
RATED THREE OUT OF FIVE MAN BUNS: Deductions for having a wait despite many open tables, and for accidentally serving a strawberry crepe rather than raspberry to us when Jen is allergic to strawberries.
Another hotel bar, Jen and I selected Bar Artefact because it was on our way to see an amazing live free outdoor Cirque du Soleil-type show. I don't know that we really had any particular expectations for it, but it turned out to be one of my favorite places. It was swanky, but the staff was super nice, we got free spiced popcorn, and my shmancy grilled cheese was delish. Somehow though, I managed to get drunk on one cocktail (the Kir Panache made with Chambord, maple syrup, and sparkling wine -- how?!) and blatantly laugh uncontrollably at a couple caressing each other's faces.
RATED FIVE OUT OF FIVE MAN BUNS: When I dropped my fork on the ground, they brought me another on an ACTUAL silver platter. Jen goes, "In New York, they would just throw it at you."
The birthplace of the man bun rating system, La Bûche, like every other place in QC, had a picture-perfect patio complete with picnic tables for dining and was seemingly staffed entirely by people Anthony Bourdain would hate -- hipsters with neck beards, man buns, and plaid shirts. No really, literally every dude who worked there looked like this. But I wouldn't hold it against them because the traditional Québecois food was amazing (I had a tortiere, which is like a Québec version of a pot pie). Plus, they give you many free snacks to start, above and beyond every other restaurant's bread bowl (not hating on bread bowls though, keep 'em coming). At La Bûche, we were treated to pork rinds in maple sauce, pickles, pickled beets, AND of course, bread. Not to mention, our sangria came in what looked like a mug that could hold a gallon of liquid.
RATED FIVE OUT OF FIVE MAN BUNS: How could the conception place of the man bun rating system score any less than five? Plus, the menu has activities like "Draw the lumberjack's face," and to be honest, I ate like a lumberjack there.
Ah, sweet Québec.