What To Eat in Quebec
A plate of French fries heaped with cheese curds and gravy can be a recipe for disaster, but if the potatoes are twice-fried crisp, the curds squeaky-fresh, and the gravy from scratch, the Quebecoise dish known as poutine can be a cheap-eats feast. It is a specialty of
casse-croûtes (snack bars) all along the roads of the province, where you’ll also find “le hot dog Michigan” topped with Bolognese sauce and a bunned sandwich known as a guedille (like a fully dressed hot dog without the meat). Foodies flock to Montreal for its version of pastrami known as smoked meat and for chewy little bagels boiled in honey water and cooked in a wood-fired oven.
One way to refer to yukky leftovers in colloquial Quebecoise is to call them poutine. At its worst, poutine can indeed be awful. But made right, it is transcendent. It must start with excellent French fries (twice fried), which are a staple at roadside snack bars throughout the province. Top the hot spuds with squeaky-fresh cheese curds, which begin to melt from the potatoes' heat, then dark, beefy gravy and you have wickedly wonderful comfort food. One story of poutine's origin is that a customer at a cheese factory in Kingsey Falls asked chef Fernand Lachance to combine the curds and spuds, at which Lachance is said to have declared the combo a mess, aka poutine.
Made from a cured and smoked brisket, the smoked meat of Quebec is a cousin of the pastrami found in U.S. delis. It is luxuriously fatty, packed with spice, and so fragile that it demands careful hand-cutting. Most places that serve it offer regular, lean, and extra fatty. Of course, it is best on good rye bread. With mustard, please.
Montrealers are mad for the bagels of the Mile End neighborhood. No one would mistake them for bagels from anywhere else, although local food maven Adam Gollner suggested they may accurately reflect the way bagels used to be made in the Ukraine. They are modest-size hoops that are boiled in water spiked with honey and then baked in a wood-fired oven that adds a smoky note to the flavor of dough that is nearly as sweet as challah bread.
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One of the top casse-croutes (snack bars) of Quebec, Patate Ben-Venue serves the best French fries along with fine cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and corn dogs.
Chez Micheline is a Quebec snack bar serving excellent poutine, les hot dogs "Michigan" and a bowl of comfort called nouilles chinoise. All tables are outdoors.
Claiming to be the place where poutine was invented, Le Roy Jucep offers a dozen different variations on the signature dish of Quebec.
This ragtag, eat-in-the-rough casse-croûte (snack bar) serves exemplary poutine and the Quebec sandwich known as guedille. French fries are superb.
Moishe's is Montreal's high-end steak house with a Jewish accent. Side a gorgeous filet mignon with latkes (potato pancakes) or twice baked Monte Carlo potato.
Stash's is a comfortable Polish bistro in Montreal with a traditional menu that ranges from beet borscht to wiener schnitzel to chocolate poppy seed cake.
Boulangerie Cheskie is in the old Jewish neighborhood of Montreal. Poppy-seed ruggelah are wonderful. The babka is huge and heavy. All take-out.
A Montreal best bet, the Wilensky Special is thin slices of beef baloney and salami on a roll, the whole package cooked in a press. To drink: genuine egg cream.
Snowdon is a full-service deli with great breakfast and some of Montreal's best smoked meat -- radiant with spice, on good rye. Have it fatty, medium, or lean.