West of the Jacques-Cartier River, through farmland and forest, past horse paddocks and snowmobile trails, Rang de L’Enfant Jesus (Route 358) leads to the rugged town of Pont-Rouge, and the appropriately scruffy Casse-Croûte du Vieux Moulin. Exterior walls are plastered with ads for a local depilatory studio, a house painter, a bicycle repair shop, etc.; one half of the building is a bar latier offering the sundaes, blizzards, banana splits, jumbo slushes, peanut busters, and a sandwich Oreo maison.
The setting may be rag-tag, but Vieux-Moulin’s guedille is elegant. The guedille, a staple of Quebec’s eat-in-the-rough canteens, is a grill-toasted hot dog bun, usually filled with chicken, eggs, or seafood, or, as here in the guedille chou, made without meat: mayo, mustard, and a heap of brilliant, tangy cole slaw, garnished with a half-dozen crunchy sticks of pommes frites. Lacking meat, it is a light, salad-like dish for fast food lovers.
As is true of every Casse-Croûte (snack bar) in Quebec, Vieux Moulin makes a big deal of poutine. And it is a big deal, some of the best poutine anywhere, available festooned with smoked meat, barbecue, steak, or sausage. It is distinguished by an abundance of moist, squeaky-fresh, big-flavored curds for which the gravy is a mere halo. Below the cheese are French fries that retain some crisp edges but mostly have been transformed by their blanket of cheese and gravy into a soft, starchy pallet.