A parade of pâtés extends across the middle shelf. Below them sits mortadella freckled with fat, and fresh sausages so plump they might burst out of their plastic packaging. Seeing my salivating gaze, an aproned man as skinny as the saucisson sec in the charcuterie case, proudly exclaims, “We get one pig a week that we get to play with!”
His enthusiasm mirrors the words on the window out front: cuisine ludique. “Playful kitchen” sums up this chummy butcher, Le Pied Bleu, and the thriving foodie thoroughfare it has sparked in Saint-Sauveuer, this Quebec City neighborhood. Sandwiched between the trendy, gentrified enclave of St. Roch and the St. Charles River, Saint-Sauveur is located on the western outskirts of the city, and off the maps handed out at the tourist office.
In 2011, Thania Goyette and Louis Bouchard Trudeau, partners in love and business, opened Le Pied Bleu in a converted barbershop on West Saint-Vallier Street. While Saint-Sauveur has many ethnic eateries—Vietnamese, Moroccan, Thai—run by its immigrant community, the peripheral quartier was an unconventional choice for artisanal charcuterie.
The couple chose working class Saint-Sauveur, aka St. So., because they lived nearby and wanted to be close to their kids; they also appreciated how the affordable neighborhood had other small business owners who manned their shops each day. More than a boucherie, Le Pied Bleu is a beacon that draws in pork-loving quebecois from other parts of town; it is the seed that sprouted Saint-Sauveur’s dining scene.
Over the past few years, Goyette and Trudeau brought two more eateries, Le Bouchon du Pied Bleu and Le Renard et La Chouette, to West Saint-Vallier Street, connected like the links of their beloved saucisson. Eager to join this boulevard of bonhomie, other restaurateurs have recently set up shop: a funky oyster bar, Kraken Cru, and, microbrewery, Griendel Brasserie. Now, West Saint-Vallier Street is Saint-Sauveur’s gastronomic vein, its restaurants pumping new energy into the unassuming neighborhood. In just the length of a football field, these eateries capture the joie de manger of Quebec City cuisine: communal, casual, convivial, and locally sourced.
At Le Bouchon du Pied Bleu, Goyette and Trudeau showcase their porcine prowess in a rustic restaurant. A meal here is akin to dining at a friend’s house—heaving, family-style plates are passed around the tables and guests serve themselves from the buffet of homemade desserts. As is typical of a bouchon, the focus is on hearty, not haute, fare: tartiflette, a cheesy mess of potatoes, and boudin noir. The blood sausage just snagged 5 prizes from France’s Brotherhood of the Knights of Taste.
The culinary couple stress their restaurant is “Lyon inspired”; like champagne from Champagne, a bouchon cannot technically exist outside of France’s second-largest city. This distinction between Quebec and France is an important one. Although French permeates the culture—95% of Quebec City residents are native speakers—this “Paris of the North” is not Paris. Urban Canadians are more laid-back than their European cousins—they prefer the casual “tu” (you) not the formal “vous” in conversation. This easygoing attitude extends to the cuisine. Dinner in Paris is a faux pas before 8pm; in Quebec City, it can start as early as 6pm. Trudeau explains that this early eating hour is a byproduct of Quebec’s agricultural history.
He shares this factoid as he pours me a glass of Le Sot de l’Ange Gamay—natural wine is the star here—before my dinner at Le Renard et La Chouette. The dining duo’s third restaurant is a delightful buvette (snack bar) that is a café most days and diner by night. The menu of small and big shareable plates includes carnivorous choices from Le Pied Bleu—cassoulet! choucroute!—plus a welcoming dose of vegetables from local farms. Quebec City cuisine is heavily influenced by the agricultural bounty surrounding the city. Here, locavorism isn’t a trend—it is a way of life. The nightly special, carrots-three-ways, is not conceptual cooking; it is just how Chef Karine deals, albeit in a delicious manner, with the surplus of carrots delivered to the kitchen that morning.
Across the street, the tiny, scrappy oyster bar Kraken Cru offers a respite from meat. There, chef Olivier Thibault-Allard, playfully clad in a “Shuck You” tee, serves platters of East Coast oysters like New Brunswick’s Acadian Kings and small plates of super fresh seafood. Pair them with the minerally whites or crisp bubbles that are scrawled on the chalkboard. Kraken Cru is co-owned by Olivier and the team behind the popular L’Affaire est Ketchup and other Quebec City haunts. They opted to open in St. So. for the community—of new families, young professionals, and like-minded restaurants—and the up and coming vibe.
I stumbled upon Brasserie Griendel a week after its launch, lured by the windows fogged up from the warm revelry inside. The wraparound windows are also what enticed the first-time owners, who open them on balmy eves to connect the brewery to the neighborhood. “We chose to start a brewery not a bottle shop,” co-owner Olivier Savary explains, “because we wanted to interact with the community and create a space for gathering together.” Griendel’s rotating taps pour cult Canadian craft beers, Dieu du Ciel and Trois Moustiquaires, plus in-house brews. Under twinkling lights, shareable plates are served on slate boards: bretzel bites with cheesy, beer sauce, poutine (this is Quebec after all) and housemade ribs.
Most visitors to Quebec City stay within the walls of the Vieux Ville, whose charming cobblestone streets and stunning 17th century buildings have earned it a UNESCO World Heritage certification. Restaurants in this picturesque neighborhood fall into two categories, traditional or haute cuisine, which reflect Quebec’s history and Gallic influence in this former capital of New France. Both are homages to Quebec City’s past. Venturing beyond these ramparts—the only remaining fortified walls in North America—leads you to the present-day Quebec City cooking that abounds in Saint-Sauveur.
At Le Renard et La Chouette, the front window displays the last stanza of the fable for which the buvette is named. In the Fox and Owl, the mismatched animals find joy in helping each other hunt and fish. Although solitary creatures, they learn how much better life is when shared, as shown in the last line of the story: “To fill this gap they had in their lives.” This sums up Saint-Sauveur, where bellies are filled and lives fulfilled.