A fixture on Route 138 since 1966, Chez Micheline is an exemplary Quebecoise casse-croûte (snack bar). There is no indoor dining. Customers place orders at the window and carry their own meals back to the car or to one of the picnic tables out back. The counter itself is intriguing – littered with coins so servers can quickly push the right amount of change out along with the food.
I was wowed by a house specialty billed as nouilles Chinoises, a dish reminiscent of the vaguely Asian ya-ka-mein served in New Orleans and in low-end Chinese restaurants in the mid-Atlantic states: boiled then wok-finished elbow macaroni glazed with sweet soy gravy, laced with caramelized onions and shreds of pork under a mantle of chopped scallions. I don’t know if it will cure hangovers as ya-ka-mein is supposed to do, but it is a hugely hearty and delicious under-$10 meal. Burgers are a big deal at most casse-croûtes, the top of the line at Chez Micheline being one known as the “Inter Burger,” a cheeseburger dressed with sautéed onions, ketchup, mayonnaise, and trio of onion rings hot from the fry kettle.
During a road trip devoted to finding good casse-croûtes throughout Quebec, I was delighted to discover that nearly all of them serve their version of “le hot dog Michigan,” the chili dog that first took shape in Plattsburgh, New York, in the 1940s. Most of the Canadian Michigans I encountered were topped with something that was more Bolognese sauce than chili, and they were served in crisp-grilled, split-top buns rather than the softies more typical of New York’s North Country. Chez Micheline’s Michigan is unique because it also includes a handful of cheese curds (fromage en grains).
The curds Chez Micheline uses are resilient and squeaky-fresh. Bed them atop superior French fries, at once crisp-edged and creamy-centered, and you understand that the much-maligned north-of-the-border dish, poutine, really can be good. Topping variations here beyond traditional gravy include chicken and peas (galvaude) and red tomato sauce (Italienne). Each is available in three sizes: regular, large, and familiale.