A Food-Lover’s Guide to Quebec City

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Le Buffet de l’Antiquaire)

With a European small-town feel and menus peppered with French-Canadian classics like meat pie and poutine in their finest forms, Quebec City is a bit like Provence on a derailed diet. Spending a weekend here will fill you up on great food, litter your Instagram with enviable photos, and leave your hands just a little bit sticky with maple syrup.

A Food-Lover’s Guide to Quebec City

Discover the simplicity of perfect poutine.

Poutine occupies an outsized reputation in the Canadian food world, having recently spread all over the U.S., but often overlooked in the southward migration is the simplicity of the dish — it’s a late-night post-drinking gorge, not a burger side dish.

At Chez Ashton, they show how it’s done — no frills, fast-food style. If your trip coincides with a cold snap, all the better. In winter, their poutine goes on sale: one percent off for every degree below zero (Celsius) outside.

Get a taste of Quebec’s history with meat pie.

Quebec City’s history centers on the battle between the French and the British for the fort which sits on the narrow part of the St. Lawrence River. But French-Canadian food freely lifts traditions from both cultures, including when it comes to meat pies (flavor from the French, heft from the British).

At Le Buffet de l’Antiquaire, the many-page menu has multiple types of meat pie, from the brunch option (with two eggs, beans, bacon, sausage, and ham) to the house-special cipaille, which packs in beef, veal, pork, and potatoes.

Go outside your comfort zone with an experimental dinner that’s 100% worth it.

Smelling of fresh-cut wood and oozing a coziness that seems almost out of place given its clean, modern look, Légende is the urban outpost of storied rural La Tanière. It takes the ingredients of Quebec’s northern reaches and introduces them to the techniques and tools of modern gastronomy.

Your ravioli might come with stuffed with crickets, your asparagus topped with duck jerky, and your frozen parfait made of mushrooms. And you’ll love it. But you’ll have to suspend your incredulity as you read the menu and just trust the chef.

Eat authentic Native American food.

Most U.S. Native American hotels are anchored by casinos. In Canada, First Nations hotels like Wendake, 20 minutes from Quebec City, are for more culturally driven — and that includes the food.

Check out the museum, hit the spa, and learn to bake bannock — a simple bread — at the “myths and legends” program in the longhouse before settling into a multi-course meal inspired by traditional First Nations cuisine, including seal cutlet and Labrador tea, at La Traite.

Attend a dinner that’s part cocktail party, part French feast.

Both Patente et Machin and its older sibling, L’Affaire Est Ketchup, evoke as much excellent cocktail party as they do respected restaurant (only you’ll want to reserve at least a month ahead for this shindig). Once you’re in, though, you’re privy to a short, sharp list of wines and a chalkboard menu only in French — thankfully the endlessly patient server is happy to translate.

The food marries the fun of the atmosphere into the flavor focus of the wine list, resulting in dishes like duck and foie gras rilletes, and baby-goat belly over roasted cauliflower purée.

Bonus: This petite island is worth the detour.

Just 15 minutes from the main part of town, the small island of Ile d’Orleans serves as a breadbasket for the region, growing and producing award-winning foods and drinks (like a more condensed, northerly version of the Hudson Valley). Sure, it’s a little hokey sometimes — like anywhere beautiful and delicious, the producers have learned how to lure in the tourist dollars — but it’s also full of culinary delights.

Maple syrup has a short production season, but you can still stop by a sugar shack here, taste maple treats, and learn about how it’s made (and get a traditional sugar shack lunch, complete with meat pie and pork rinds). Sip through samples that demonstrate the difference between late harvest wine and ice wine, taste fresh foie gras, and watch a demonstration of how the oldest cheese in the New World is made. There’s no need for a schedule or a map — it’s just a matter of stopping when you see a sign on the side of the road advertising what you’re looking to try — the whole island isn’t that big, and you’ll easily cover it in a day or less.

Have you been to Quebec City? What are your must-eats?