Influenced by France, but shaped by the difficult conditions its early settlers endured, Quebec’s traditional cuisine can be made in large batches to feed many mouths cheaply and to sustain families through winter. Rich, tasty dishes are created from humble ingredients such as root vegetables and inexpensive cuts of meat. Classic savory dishes include tourtières (meat pies), stews with meatballs or cubed meat, and bouilli (a variation on French pot-au-feu baked beans). Many traditional Québécois dishes come from the classic cabane à sucre (sugar shack) menu: pea soup, baked beans, baked ham, cretons (pork spread), and, of course, an array of sweet, maple-based desserts, such as sugar pie. Today, many families enjoy making these humble classics at Christmas or Easter, with every cook giving an individual twist to the recipes. If you are interested in tasting our traditional dishes but can’t get yourself invited to a family gathering, here are five restaurants that serve excellent traditional Québécois cuisine.
Le Buffet de L’Antiquaire
Though it’s set in a popular tourist zone, this 30-year-old diner still attracts a loyal local clientele, which flocks to savor the reassuringly traditional staples of Québécois cuisine. The extensive and affordable breakfast menu is served all day, while stews, meat pies, and other humble dishes served for lunch and dinner taste just like the food our grandmothers lovingly made for us. The efficient service staff takes and serves orders in record time.
Le Relais des Pins
One of the rare sugar shacks operating year round, Le Relais des Pins serves an excellent, all-you-can-eat menu featuring all the classics—including maple ham, salted pork rinds, homemade preserves, and maple taffy served atop a spread of snow. Groups as well as individuals are welcome in the large dining room, and musicians are often on site to play traditional folk music during the meal. Visitors can also tour the premises to learn more about the making of maple syrup.
Aux Anciens Canadiens
This quaint restaurant is found in the province’s oldest house, built in 1675 and located in the heart of the Old City. Although the restaurant caters largely to tourists, it is not a tourist trap; rather, it’s a well-managed institution that serves top-quality traditional dishes as well as more modern creations. All are made with such terroir-sourced ingredients as game, cheeses, and maple syrup.
Sitting right at the entrance of picturesque Île d’Orléans, Les Ancêtres is a restaurant and inn housed in a 300-year-old family home. The menu proudly features the island’s excellent produce in a refined array of traditional and terroir-sourced dishes. The homely dining room has gorgeous stone walls and wooden beams, and the popular terrace offers a memorable view over the St. Lawrence River and the Montmorency Falls.
Visitors looking for a distinctively Canadian culinary experience should make their way to La Traite, a modern restaurant located in Hôtel-Musée des Premières Nations. Inspired by First Nations cuisine, the restaurant’s menu is created from ingredients that have been hunted, fished, or gathered, with seasonings harvested from Québec’s boreal forest. Multi-course menus can be paired with carefully selected wines to create a truly fine dining experience.