Even with going on a food tour, I still had ample opportunity to try a variety of dining spots while I was in Quebec City back in December. For most visitors to Quebec City, its Old Town is the primary base of exploration, although the nitty-gritty neighborhood of Saint-Roch is certainly getting a lot of culinary buzz as of late. Old Town is divided into a Lower and Upper Town and I ended up dining more in Lower Town whereas my food tour was solely concentrated in Upper Town.
Le Lapin Sauté (The Leaping Rabbit)-Lower Town
52 Rue du Petit-Champlain
This is perhaps the most beautifully decorated restaurant I’ve seen on the outside. It’s located right on the extremely popular and crowded Rue du Petit Champlain and from the outside you would never guess it was as tiny as it actually is (there are perhaps a total of 12 tables).
I had made a reservation in advance but for whatever reason, when I gave both my name and D’s, the wait staff made no recognition of my reservation. So between not speaking French/not knowing the French alphabet (we both have odd sounding last names) it felt as if we were just given a table. And sadly, I don’t feel the service was that great, even though at other tables that didn’t seem the case. I found it ironic that in such a tourist-heavy district, most of the diners were French speakers and I’m assuming natives of the city. It wasn’t bad service, just unnecessary pauses between courses, etc).
Thankfully, the food was wonderful. In case you’re not a French speaker, lapin means rabbit so le lapin sauté means the leaping rabbit. So naturalmente, rabbit is the focal point of the menu (for the record, this was the first time I had tried it).
To start we shared the homemade maple-wood smoked duck breast ($8).
For my entree, I ordered the Rabbit, Potato, and Vegetable Puff Pastry Pie with Fruit Chutney ($23). D selected the Braised Rabbit Cassoulet and Duck Sausage ($27). I enjoyed mine although I found rabbit didn’t have too distinct a taste so I guess that’s neither good nor bad. D liked his but he found the cassoulet a bit dry; I’m more accustomed to the meats found in it simmering in a pool of sauce.
My favorite part of the meal was probably dessert. I wasn’t sure what it would taste like but I chose the Salted Honey Pie ($7) and mon dieu, it was fabulous. Also, a testament that I am addicted to sweet and salty anythings.
The ambiance was great and the food very good. It was just a mild shame that the beginning of the meal was less than perfect, which cast a slight pall on the dinner. I’d recommend being able to show confirmation of your reservation. Oh, and get the rabbit poutine because it looked AMAZING.
Aux Anciens Canadiens-Upper Town
34 Rue Saint Louis
So some may dub this restaurant the ultimate tourist eatery, but you know what? This was a truly perfect meal. The building dates from the 1670s and is the oldest in Quebec City, so right off the bat you’re dining in a truly incredible historical setting. And the restaurant itself has been home here since the 1960s so that’s also quite impressive.
There is seating both upstairs and down, and I’m happy to say we were not only seated upstairs but also in a small alcove where there were only three other tables. It was intimate and homey and the perfect setting for our final night in this charming city. And our waiter was also fabulous, the true epitome of first-class customer service.
I had read in my guidebook about this rather famous Quebec (the province) cocktail, the Caribou so I decided to order it. Here it was dubbed the “Caribou Maison” and consisted of Canadian sherry, vodka, and citron zest ($9.95). D ordered the Red Amber Boreale beer ($4.95).
For appetizers, I decided to go with the poutine ($12.95). Although this was my third poutine by then (I had one each of the days we were there), I didn’t regret ordering it. Especially since the cheese curds squeaked. (Remember in a previous post I wrote how I learned that if the cheese curds squeak when eating them, you know they’re fresh.)
D went with a tried and true (and over-ordered) favorite of his, Onion Soup au Gratin ($13.95) and he of course enjoyed it.
At a place like this, I knew the portions would be rather massive so I opted having an appetizer as my main course. I went with the Quebec Meat Pie with Homemade Fruit Preserves ($11.95). It was delicious and the perfect size portion.
D did not go the appetizer route and selected the Bison cooked with a Creamy Blueberry Wine Sauce, Bourguignon style ($33). He was a little apprehensive about the blueberry sauce (he was worried it might overpower the taste) but he found it to be rather complementary.
Maple desserts are their speciality (there are four to choose from in addition to three non-maple ones) so of course we wanted to partake from the maple section. We ordered the Maple Syrup Pie with Unsweetened Whipped Cream ($12.95). While I didn’t like it as much as my salted honey pie from two nights prior, it was still quite tasty.
Our meal at Aux Anciens Canadiens was outstanding and while it was definitely on the pricier side, it was still perfect.
Buffet de l’Antiquaire-Lower Town
95 Rue Saint-Paul
Our hotel included a complimentary continental breakfast each morning so we only went out for breakfast one of the days. My guidebook had dubbed Buffet de l’Antiquaire as a “no frills diner” and noted it as being a beloved favorite of tourists and locals alike. Well, when we went, I’d say there were definitely more locals than tourists there (the Lower Town was quite dead and devoid of tourists I felt, at least in the cold winter months).
The portions were massive (this is an understatement) and very reasonably priced too. I unfortunately didn’t have my camera or phone with me. I ordered a crepes dish (fyi, breakfast is served all day) and D got a breakfast poutine. Before you think, how does that work?, a poutine can be made and prepared any way and can be called such as long as it has potatoes.
There’s nothing overly special about this place but you will be guaranteed heaping amounts of good food at extremely low prices.
Pub des Borgia-Lower Town
12 Rue du Petit-Champlain
On our first day of wandering around we ended up here for a much needed snack and warmth. (I felt the coldest on our first day there; I think my body was still in shock from the brutally cold temperatures but then I got used to them.) The moment you stepped inside the Pub Borgia, the smell of onion soup hit you, in a good way.
Apparently there’s a patio (in warmer weather) but the interior of the restaurant felt like a cellar from another time, as in the 18th century. We split a bowl of the onion soup while I got a glass of the hot wine (in Quebec City remember these words, vin chaud). I’m not a wine drinker but when you’re in Quebec City and freezing, hot wine seemed the way to go. D ordered an alcoholic coffee drink that was maple-themed.
This was the perfect spot to get warm and refuel our stomachs. The only negative was that our coats reeked of onion soup for the rest of the trip. No joke.
Confiserie Madame GiGi-Lower Town
84 Rue du Petit Champlain
We had walked by this bakery/cafe with the tempting sweets perched in the window on our first day there so on our final day, while doing some last minute shopping along the Rue du Petit Champlain, we stopped in for a snack and some hot chocolate. Well, let’s just say while the hot chocolate was good, everything else was a big disappointment.
We ordered gingerbread cookies that never came. And then the macarons, which looked so good, well, upon biting into them, literally crumbled to pieces. That’s how stale they were. The place was being run by teenagers while we were there, if that’s any indication on the quality of things…
Cafe La Maison Smith-Lower Town
23 Rue Notre Dame
We stopped here for hot caffeinated beverages on our way back to our hotel after our food tour. The worker who waited on us was friendly and sweet (she spoke perfect English after I gave the anglais “plea”) and our drinks were terrific. D ordered a maple latte and I a chai latte. And unlike at Confiserie Madame GiGi, the maple macarons we got were sublime and most importantly, FRESH! And yes, we totally maple splurged on just about everything…
Even though it’s a small city, I still only scratched the surface in terms of trying out Quebec City’s food scene but hopefully this provides you with a good start.
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