The snack bar known as Patate Ben-Venue, which could liberally be translated as “Potato Welcome,” has a business card headlined “Frites Maison.” And pommes frites, aka French fries, sure are the specialty of the house. Ben Venue has been getting its potatoes from the same family potato farm for over a quarter of a century.
When I stepped up to the counter to complement chef on her French fries, she proudly explained what she called the “three stages of the pomme frite: not cooked, half cooked, ready to eat.” It is double frying that gives pommes frites at so many of Quebec’s premier snack bars their chewy skin and creamy center. With nothing but a sprinkle of salt, they are fried potatoes at full glory.
The same spuds are the foundation for Ben-Venue’s poutine. Their crisp edges suffer from the blanket of gravy, but the flavor combo can’t be beat. While the curds in this poutine are not necessarily squeaky-fresh, heat from the potatoes and gravy does turn them semi-molten, adding dairy tang that complements potatoes so well.
The Ben-Venue cook boasted that her cheeseburger (billed on the menu as “notre fameux cheeseburger) is made with pure Velveeta, a thick slab of which is melted into a sliced bun that is griddle cooked on both sides until wickedly crisp. Only then is the grilled meat inserted, along with works that include mustard, onion, pickle, and slaw (but no ketchup). Likewise, when you order a Ben Venue hot dog roti, it comes on a gorgeous grilled bun, the buttery luxe of which sings mischievous harmony with the blubbery little wiener inside.