Bus: STM 57, 61, 71, 101, 107
Visit: February 17, 2014
Whenever I look for a new place for this search, I try to find things that set it apart. Montréal has so many places that have unique quirks which attract people from far and wide. When I think of my own childhood and the fizzy drink known as spruce beer, I only have fond memories. What makes things ever better is the fact that there’s a place in this city that makes their own and they’re quite proud of it. That place is Paul Patates.
Over the last little while, I’ve been on a tour of the smaller restaurants that serve fast food. These are the restaurants that make up the fabric of this province. You might say that they are a dime a dozen, but they’re worth a whole lot more to me. Finding good ones might be tougher than finding a needle in a haystack, but it’s a battle that some of us like to take on.
Whether it be a tip or a rumor of something interesting, there’s always a necessary element to make you want to show up to a new place. I really dislike going to places on a whim, especially when I have no choice, which will be ironic when you see the next burger. But, this visit to Paul Patates was one that I wanted to make because of one main reason.
The province of Québec, like any other place on the planet, has those unique items that make it an interesting to live. When it comes to food or drink, this province has some of the best things to indulge in. Spruce beer, or bière d’épinette, is a fizzy drink that is a staple, as far as I’m concerned, of this province. I’ve had it a few times as a kid, but never in the fashion that Paul Patates makes it.
I arrived to the location in the middle of the afternoon. Since it was between the two major periods of eating, I was the only customer in the place at the time. During that moment, there were two staff members in the middle of prep. They weren’t really the type of casse-croute workers I was expecting, but it wasn’t such a big deal either.
Ordering at Paul Patates is simple enough, as you have a variety of hot dogs, burgers, and poutine dishes to choose from. You also have some other items, most of which are common place at these types of establishments. What’s really interesting is the fizzy attraction that a lot of people make special trips for.
When I was ordering the food, I was a little worried that I would be eating too much, since for some reason, I’ve been thinking about portions a lot lately. Also, this was my first poutine of 2014 and it had to be something good. I was really happy when I was informed that there was a mini version that suited my needs.
The first bite of the poutine was a bit of a disappointment. Not all the curds were properly soaked in the sauce that accompanied the poutine. With a little adjustment, I was able to make the rest of the bites work to my advantage. That’s where I started to really appreciate the mix of the sauce, fries, and cheese. In combination, it makes for something quite special. To boot, the fries were top notch. They might seem like something you see everywhere, but they were a cut above.
This burger contains lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.
Most of the time, I go to a restaurant specifically to try their burger. This time around, the burger wasn’t really the main attraction, though it was really nice that there was one on the menu. While it’s not the most ideal situation to judge a burger, it’s still one anyway.
From my vantage point, I got a chance to see the burger being made, something that I always love seeing. It takes a little bit of time for the patty to cook, but that’s something that you should get used to no matter how thick it happens to be.
When the burger was presented to me, part of me was shocked and the other part of me wasn’t that surprised. It’s a mixed feeling that I rarely get these days. I’ll start with what was expected. In places like this, burgers aren’t huge or luxurious, they’re nice and simple. This burger fits that mold and the ingredients were there to boot. The size of the burger wasn’t a big surprise either which makes the price feasible.
The piece of the puzzle that shocked me was the bun. While I had no real issued with anything between the buns, I was not really thrilled with the bread. The buns seemed borderline stale and somewhat stiff. That quality greatly diminished my enjoyment of the simple burger in front of me. You can ask anyone who knows even a little bit about burgers and they’ll tell you that the bun is vital to a solid burger. So, the bun didn’t do it for me here.
If you take the bun out of the equation, you have a basic cheeseburger that lends itself to people who like simplicity. You might have a thin patty, but it wasn’t like some of other casse-croutes I’ve tried in the past. It gained a few points back for the burger. While I might not have been happy with the bun, it wasn’t a deal breaker and I would be happy to eat this one again.
The final point goes to how fast I actually ate the burger. I have never eaten any of my past burgers as fast as I did with this one. Say what you want, but it takes something good for that to happen. By the way, I’m still in the middle of finishing that one in Laval that’s taller than my head.
Bertrand Bière D’épinette ($2.07)
This, for me, was the main event of the afternoon. To set things up a little bit, I have to make the necessary admission. In 2001, I made the hard decision to give up any carbonated beverages. In the past 13 years, I may have mistakenly had some, but I remained off that stuff for a long time. I used to drink something like four to five glasses of Coke or Pepsi a day and by the end of that, I was disgusted by the aftertaste. I was mistakenly served some recently and I wasn’t even close to being able to identify it.
Back in my soft drink carbonated era, one of the ones that I loved was spruce beer. It was never any kind of local stuff, but that 2L bottle you could buy at some big grocery store. It was the kind of thing that you could drink every so often, as I easily get sick of things if I have them regularly.
Now, I’m not going to be able to do this justice because I’m not that good at describing tastes, but all I can tell you is that this drink is the real deal. I actually had trouble drinking it because the accumulated gas would cause me to pause every so often. If I would compare it to the grocery stuff, this is infinitely better. What is even better is the fact that it’s a local company that is centered at a local restaurant.
After I got through the entire bottle of spruce beer, I was actually contemplating taking the bottle with me. I didn’t really know what the etiquette was on that. Do they reuse the bottles? If I paid for the drink, am I entitled to it? It wasn’t something that I was going to push since I really didn’t have the space to carry it home. But, the actual experience is worth more than a keepsake.
Paul Patates is the type of place that I live to try. The quality of the food is not that different than most good casse-croute restaurants. But, since a lot of people like that kind of stuff, you’ll love it here. If you don’t come for the food, come for the spruce beer. Either way, you can’t really go wrong.