The Quebec City Guide
It’s tempting to think of Quebec City as a closer France (80 percent of the population considers French their primary language). But the capital of this Canadian province has a culture all its own. If you don’t believe us, we have two words for you: duck poutine.
Set on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Old Quebec feels like you’ve stepped back in time—a lot of time. The small cobblestoned alleyways and centuries-old stone churches are as charming as can be, but the city still manages to feel alive and buzzing (with modern sites, like the Rem Koolhaas–designed art museum) and utterly peaceful (with a national park full of moose and foxes). And while Quebec City really comes to life in summer, when people spill out of the cafés and bars into the streets for late-night revelry, there’s something magical about winter, too, when the ice-skating rinks open, everything is dusted with snow, and the identity of this city is entirely its own.
Restaurant La Traite5 Place de la Rencontre, Wendake | +1.418.847.0624
It’s hard to walk away from Restaurant La Traite without feeling you’ve experienced a mystical and mysterious dimension. The kitchen adopts the Huron-Wendat Nation’s ancestral mottos, turning out carefully crafted dishes deeply rooted in tradition and respect for the land. Native ingredients come into play, and there’s plenty on the menu that puts a flourish on the comfortably familiar, plus more out-there dishes, like seal loin with pistachio crumble and apple butter.
Cassis Monna & Filles1225 Chemin Royal, Saint-Pierre | +1.418.828.2525
A twenty-minute drive north from the center of Quebec City, Île d'Orléans is a small, rural island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. It’s a surprisingly easy getaway for an afternoon, and this is where you’ll find Cassis Monna & Filles, a currant farm that produces bottles of (you guessed it) cassis. But it also serves lunch, including delicious versions of duck poutine, vegetable quiches, as well as various flavors of gelato and sorbet.
Champlain1 Rue des Carrières, Old Quebec | +1.418.692.3861
The idea behind Champlain, at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, was to put forth Quebec’s finest: Regional products enhanced by local touches that showcase the province’s terroir (items on the menu are even labeled with their precise provenance). Snow crab with pickled scallions, flaxseed crackers, and nori and Highland beef with elderberry syrup and glazed carrots show off the bounty of the surrounding land and water.
Chez Boulay1110 Rue Saint-Jean, Old Quebec | +1.418.380.8166
Chez Boulay is pure Quebec—by way of Scandinavia. Traditionally Nordic ingredients—elderberry flowers, juniper berries, sea buckthorn, elk, and trout—make their way onto beautifully presented plates in the most pleasing ways. Order the smoked seafood platter; the herring fritters and the fir-tree-cured salmon come with a fiddlehead-and-garlic-flower spread. The dining room is outfitted with black banquettes and pressed-tin ceilings and always buzzes from the late-dinner crowd. But if you have a hard time getting a reservation, come early in the evening.
Chez Muffy8 Rue Saint-Antoine, Old Quebec | +1.418.692.1022
An 1822 maritime warehouse along the St. Lawrence River is the setting of Chez Muffy, which takes classic French and Quebecois cuisine and gives it its own modern twist. Vegetables are a big part of the menu—most ingredients come from the restaurant’s own farm nearby and show up in dishes like baby turnips with fried bread crumbs, white fish roe, and purple basil, or eggplant cannelloni with goat cheese ricotta and smoked tomato foam.
Le Clocher Penché203 Rue Saint-Joseph E, Saint-Roch | +1.418.640.0597
Le Clocher Penché, in downtown Quebec City, works with local farmers to create its veggie- and fish-heavy menu, and many of the dishes are almost too pretty to eat. Take the colorful vegetarian plate, which consists of delicata squash stuffed with Le d'Eschambault cheese, along with a wildflower salad and squash pickles. Or the sustainably-sourced tuna, with soy, ginger, horseradish, lightly pickled beets, cucumbers, radishes, and crispy bread. Each dish is like a work of art, but it all tastes as good as it looks.
La Serre117 Rue Dalhousie, Old Port | +1.418.692.4555 ext. 30
The A-frame structure, the wheelbarrows transformed into light fixtures, the herb planters, and tons of natural light make this casual grab-and-go restaurant in the Old Port neighborhood feel like a greenhouse. It’s fitting, as the menu focuses on healthy fruit- and veggie-based snacks (kale chips, salmon and portobello mushroom bowls, cold-pressed juices) that aren’t always so easy to find in a city that loves its meat.
Paillard1097 Rue Saint-Jean, Old Quebec | +1.418.692.1221
Paillard is the place for a quick, unfussy, utterly delicious bite. The croissants, sandwiches, wraps, and coffee are always freshly made; standouts include the mushroom soup and the daily quiche selection. Bonus: There’s often a live accordion player on-site so you might want to make your quick meal last longer than you planned.
Légende255 Rue Saint-Paul, Old Port | +1.418.614.2555
One of Quebec City’s more formal restaurants, Légende is worth the splurge for the chef’s six-course tasting menu. While you’re at it, spring for the wine pairing, which is beautifully curated by the sommelier and makes the whole affair next-level. Dishes are constantly changing depending on what’s freshest and in season but may include smoked Arctic char, lobster ravioli, and seared venison. The eclectic décor includes abstract paintings from local artists hanging along the exposed-brick walls.
Nina Pizza410 Rue Saint-Anselme, Saint-Roch | +1.581.742.2012
The pies at Nina are as Neapolitan as you’ll get outside of Naples. Even the wood-fired oven was imported from Italy, and the restaurant’s two owners are certified by the APN (Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, whose certification is bestowed on pizza makers who follow a strict set of guidelines). There are eighteen varieties, but our favorite is the margherita, simply but perfectly made with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil.
Bistro Le Sam1 Rue des Carrières, Old Quebec | +1.418.692.3861
Within the historic hotel Château Frontenac, Le Sam is named for Samuel de Champlain, who founded Quebec City in 1608. At a place where the views over the St. Lawrence river are this good, the food might as well be an afterthought, but the hearty, simply-prepared seafood-focused dishes here are spot-on. Go for the classics, like the Atlantic halibut fish and chips or the lobster salad, served with crunchy veggies and a blackcurrant vinaigrette.