It’s nice to see affordable fast food coming back to my old neighbourhood in Quebec City. For a while, Saint-Jean-Baptiste had been taken over by bland asian-fusion places with designer lighting. Gentrification is a good thing, but a good neighbourhood should still have a few cheap standbys. Snack Bar Saint-Jean brings trashy charm back to the area, especially with its large cheeky sign listing the phone number as 522-GRAS. Located in the middle of the city’s gay district, the clientele is a mix of gay clubbers, lost tourists, and working-class suburbanites. The staff seems to be drawn from the tattoo parlor next door. The XXXL woman manning the till lives up to the phone number’s promises of grease.
The furniture at this place is great. “Like a log cabin,” said the friend I met there for dinner, but a log cabin redesigned by urban Scandinavians.
I especially like the astroturf base on the tables.
This place also serves another Quebec City junk food specialty: pain à la viande. Not to be confused with pain de viande (meat loaf), it is basically a hot dog bun stuffed with a ground beef-worcestershire-ketchup-onion mixture, but more on that in another post. Now for the main attraction…
Fries: The fries are definitely the worst part of this poutine. Dark brown, indicating old grease. They don’t live up to their greasy promise–they taste starchy, floury, and bland. Not enough salt. 12/30.
Gravy: The sauce is fairly generic, with a slightly unpleasant smoky BBQ tinge, but there’s not enough of it to make much of an impression. It sinks to the bottom and the taste only hits you in the last few bites. 25/50.
Cheese: This is great cheese, and there’s plenty of it. The chunks have a nice size and squeaky freshness. The only problem is that some chunks are still a bit cold. 18/20.
Verdict: Starchy, not greasy. “Places that serve real greasy food don’t advertise it as such,” said my friend, suggesting that the backlash against healthy food in their phone number was an inauthentic and ironic marketing ploy. Even if you’re craving poutine at 4AM, Ashton’s is only a ten minute walk away. This place supposedly makes a good pain à la viande though (see above).
Price: Good – Prices are good if you’re up for mediocre poutine, but why bother.
Opening Hours: Open until 5AM.
Location: 780, rue Saint-Jean, Québec, Quebec. 418-522-GRAS.