Quebec City, That Old Charmer

Heading west to east means that we, ever so gradually, arrive in areas with much longer colonial histories than BC; the cities look and feel much older.  Quebec City, one of the oldest European settlements in North America, celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008.  Vancouver, by comparison, is approaching its 130th year.  Living in Vancouver, I’ve become accustomed to glass and steel, and heritage homes boasting 100 years.  Upon arriving in Quebec City, we were met with weathered stone and vaulted architecture.

It’s a city typically known as a place to get a dose of old world charm, with a dining scene known more traditional dishes: rich tourtiere, Parisian style escargot, seared foie gras, and expensive cuts of fine meat, just to name a few.  

We visited Le Chic Shack, which, unlike many places in the Old City, has a distinctly new feeling.  It’s loud, trendy, and fun, with bright colours and young management and staff.  It’s not a messy burger joint, but rather a stylish place with dishes thoughtfully arranged from concept through to presentation.

In Montreal, we learned about and enjoyed traditional poutine; at Le Chic Shack, we found a perfect example of one of the many ways poutine has evolved.  Theirs is made with ‘smashed’ potatoes—Yukon Golds that are parboiled, smashed, and deep-fried. The result is crispy potatoes that can hold their own under a substantial amount of toppings that include red-ale braised beef, pickled onions, fresh herbs, and wild mushroom ragout.

They make their own sodas, milkshakes, burgers, and one of our favourites – house-made potato chips drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkled with black pepper. 

Everything we tried was impressively flavourful, and I’m sure I will crave their burgers and poutines in the coming months.  

Le Chic Shack was the brainchild of the owners of Panache, an upscale traditional Quebec restaurant.  Panache is housed in Auberge Saint-Antoine, a hotel that is home to three historical buildings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. 

During the 1830’s construction of the warehouse that now holds Panache, a large-scale archeological dig revealed a number of artifacts dating back as far as the 1600’s. 

The hotel now also serves as a museum, exhibiting over 400 years of Quebec history.  While Le Chic Shack is a new, its roots are deep in the history and tradition of Quebec City.

Walking the streets, we discovered an experiential museum of chocolate -- yes please! -- and J. A. Moisan, the oldest grocery store in North America.  

Founded in 1871, this store is an iconic fixture of the St. Jean Baptiste neighbourhood.  With an impressive deli and shelves and shelves of thoughtfully sourced items, J. A. Moisan will make you never want to shop at one of those ‘new’ grocery stores ever again.  I shall forever be jealous of those who are able to access it daily.

Traditional and trendy, there is certainly a lot happening in Quebec City.  It’s beautiful city to visit, and we’ll be sharing more about it soon…