Located just 40 minutes south of Montreal, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is Quebec’s seventh largest city, with just under 100,000 people. It’s slightly more interesting and slightly more underrated than other cities in its league, but don’t get too excited. There’s a striking cathedral, some nice brick architecture in the city centre, a few interesting shops, and some good cycling trails along the Chambly Canal and Richelieu River. The city is surrounded by farmland and a massive dystopian-looking military complex.
People here seem fond of bad puns. A pool-hall/steak-house is named “Sharkcoal.” A bar advertised itself as being “au BAR de l’eau.” Some artisanal veal purveyor was proud to say “ça VEAU la peine.” But the most inexplicable of all bad puns in town was local fast food legend Chez TI-PITate frite (which combines the hillbilly nickname “Ti-Pit” with the popular Quebecois word for potato: “Patate”).
I stumbled upon this place some twenty years ago after taking a wrong turn on the way to Vermont. I ordered a poutine and was surprised to find that the cheese had been omitted. “It’s under the fries,” said TI-PITate himself, “That’s the way a REAL poutine is done.” At some point in time, this cheese-underneath poutine does indeed seem to have been a strange aberration found around the Richelieu River valley (see here for my thoughts on this), and TI-PITate’s defiant attitude led me to believe that he would never give it up, but he has, as you should. He’s still behind the counter today, looking older and slightly chubbier, but his poutines now have cheese on top.
The restaurant is also located in a bucolic setting by a narrow branch of the Richelieu river as it swings around Ile Sainte-Thérèse.
Unfortunately, the surrounding suburban built environment is a bit shit (unless you happen to be a fan of brown diagonal metal cladding on houses).
Last but not least, the greatest attraction is next to the toilets: a signed photo by Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu’s own Gerry Boulet. This rock star legend sported the jeans-on-jeans look back when you could unfortunately get away with that kind of thing. C’est comme s’il était toujours vivant, icitte avec nous, en train de manger une grosse poutine. Merci Gerry!
Fries: The fries are relatively decent at first, with some nice crispy bits on the exterior and soft inside. Unfortunately, the scalding sauce they throw on top melts away all crisp into a mush within a few minutes. 20/30
Gravy: This gravy probably comes out of a can, but it’s a good one. There’s a little extra umami in there that gives an addictive flavour to each bite. The texture is good, but there’s way too much gravy, and it’s too hot. 39/50
Cheese: Kingsey cheese. There’s a generous quantity of cheese but some chunks are a bit cold and lack squeak, hinting at cheese-killing refrigeration. 16/20
Verdict: This is a good bet if you’re in the area, but not worth a detour.
Location: 133, rue Saint-Jean, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, on the northern edge of town by the Richelieu River