Quebec City charms visitors with its historic monuments, manicured parks, museums, and interesting neighborhoods to wander. But no trip would be complete without exploring the culinary delights of this historic city. Not surprisingly Quebec offers a taste of Canada with a decidedly French accent.
Croissants at Paillard
Once the capital of "Nouvelle France," Quebec City offers some pretty wonderful boulangeries. Locals love Paillard in upper town, and for good reason. It’s bright and airy and the scent of fresh baked bread envelops you from your first step inside. The crisp croissants here are some of the best in the city.
Insider Tip: Only available midday, the crobeign is a croissant and beignet cross, inspired by the famous cronut in NYC. Layers of flaky dough are sprinkled with maple sugar and filled with gooey pastry cream. Take that, cronut.
Local Eats at Old Port Market
The Old Port Market is in lower town. Open everyday, the stalls will give you a good idea of the bounty of the region as well as what is in season, with many purveyors bringing produce in from Ile de Orleans, across the St Lawrence river about 3 miles from downtown. It’s a good spot for finding a snack or edible souvenir; in addition to beautifully displayed fresh fruit and vegetables you’ll find tons of maple products from syrup to candy.
Insider Tip: The cheese shop near the entrance offers lots of locally made and truly outstanding French-style cheeses.
French Fare at Panache
Also in lower town is Panache, one of the top restaurants in Quebec, tucked away inside the hotel Auberge Saint-Antoine. The hotel itself is worth a visit, decorated like a museum with artifacts like keys and pottery found during the reconstruction of what was once the warehouse district. The dining room is cozy yet chic and the contemporary French cuisine creatively utilizes the best of seasonal and local ingredients.
Insider Tip: Before you go, be warned that Panache is a great place for a splurge. The service and presentation are top notch as are the rich indulgences like creamy foie gras and expertly prepared veal sweetbreads.
Eclectic Shared Plates at SSS
Rue Saint Paul is chockablock with antique shops and romantic cafes perfect for taking a break. For a meal, try Simple Snack Sympathique, known as SSS, an offshoot of the more refined Toast! a few blocks away. Filled with locals, the main dining room has a funky interior with exposed stone walls illuminated by a crystal chandelier. The evening menu features shareable options like duck wings with ginger and garlic or beef tartar with chorizo and parmesan.
Insider Tip: The affordable lunch menu is available only on weekdays and includes soup or an appetizer with each entree. Try the homemade "boudin" blood pudding served with parsnip puree and an apple arugula salad.
People Watching at Cafe Krieghoff
The sidewalk seating at popular French bistro Cafe Krieghoff provides the perfect perch for people watching on hip Avenue Cartier. It’s a leisurely spot and breakfasts of eggs, crepes, French toast, or waffles all come with an espresso. For lunch you’ll find casual fare—salads, sandwiches, and burgers.
Insider Tip: Kriefghoff is renowned for its coffee, a blend of African and Central American beans. Buy a bag to take home.
Must-Try Poutine at Chez Ashton
If you really want to eat like a local, head to Chez Ashton for a late night snack. While it has all the atmosphere of a fast food chain, the poutine here is the real deal. They hand cut French fries daily using potatoes that come from the nearby Ile d’Orleans.
Insider Tip: The classic poutine is topped with cheese curds and gravy, though you can customize your order with sausages, beef, and onions or peas.
Maple Everything at Cabane a sucre l’En-Tailleur
When winter begins to thaw, the Quebecois head en masse to sugar shacks for eating, drinking, singing, and dancing. The piece de resistance is maple taffy, made from pouring maple syrup onto snow. While traditionally open in spring, some sugar shacks like Cabane a sucre l’En-Tailleur on Ile d’Orleans, are now open all year round for groups.
Insider Tip: Your hotel concierge can help to arrange a sugar shack visit if you are on your own.
Amy Sherman is a San Francisco–based food and travel writer and cookbook author. She has written for KQED, Frommer’s and Epicurious and is a contributor to 7×7, Cheers and Gastronomica magazines. Follow her @cookingwithamy
Photo credits: Courtesy of Amy Sherman