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A wooden board with two piles of bite-size cheese for tasting; one pile is white cheese and the other is pale yellow

Cruising the Foodie Trail in Saint-Roch, Québec City

Saint-Roch is an up-and-coming neighborhood bursting with culinary energy.

If you want to experience the culture of a city, indulge in its food and drink. Foodie tours are an excellent way to sample the local tastes in two or three hours.  

I’ve been fortunate to take several foodie tours in different cities, and I highly recommend them. Guides are passionate about sharing their knowledge of the cuisine, history and, occasionally, quirks of their hometowns. Some are artists or architecture students, and others are retirees with a love of history. Most are volunteers who appreciate your tips. Their insider info makes the tours all the more fun!

During a recent visit to Canada, I was invited to join a walking foodie tour in the trendy, urban Saint-Roch neighborhood of Québec City. (A hearty thanks to Quebéc City Food Tours for hosting me!)

Located on the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River, Saint-Roch has a colorful history centuries old. It was named after the Catholic Saint Roch, the patron saint of people who are ill or falsely accused, and dogs. Since the neighborhood was first settled in the early 17th Century, it made turns as a center for ship-building, manufacturing and commerce before being largely abandoned in the late 1900s.

On the right 2/3ds of the page is a section of a round modern building wrapped in horizontal strips of siding; in the lower left corner is a portion of an old brick building with a clock tower
In the Saint-Roch neighborhood of Quebec City, new architecture mingles with vintage rehabs.

Saint-Roch in recent years has undergone yet another transformation. Students, artists, tekkies, hipsters and entrepreneurs of all ages and cultures have infused the neighborhood with new energy and creativity. The streets are dotted with myriad small shops, cafes, eateries and bars. New buildings mingle easily with vintage rehabs. Saint-Roch isn’t chic or touristy, but it’s genuine and a bit gritty. 

Several people sitting at ourdoor tables in front of a restaurant named Noctem
Saint-Roch bustles with new culinary energy.

Most of our walking tour was along rue Saint-Joseph between rue Caron and rue Monseigneur Gauvreau, but we deviated around a couple of blocks so our guide, Florence, could point out compelling architecture or chat about historic moments. Starting in the late morning, we made six stops for food and beverage, which added up to a hearty, satisfying lunch. 

Here are the highlights of our tour–yours may vary slightly:

Sitting on a wooden board, from front to back are a row of 3 glasses or orange liquid, a row of white cheese, a row of 6 glasses or orange liquid, a row of pale yellow cheese and a row of sausage slices on toothpicks
Cheese, charcuterie and a sea-buckthorn beverage from Fromagerie des Grondines & Ses Amis.

We began at Fromagerie des Grondines & Ses Amis, a cheese shop, gourmet food boutique and casual eatery. Grondines is a brand name for cheese made by the owners with organic raw milk from Swiss brown cows. Their farm is about an hour away from the store. The shop also sells cheese, meats and other locally made food products. “Ses Amis” translates to “his friends.” (Note the feature photo at the top of this post.)

“By local, we mean within 100 kilometers,” Florence said.

We sampled several cheeses and charcuterie as well as a bright orange drink new to me called Argouille. It’s a carbonated beverage made from the juice of tart sea buckthorn berries and sweetened with maple syrup, sort of a Canadian interpretation of lemonade. The samples were generously sized–and then the staff brought out a tray of grilled cheese and ham sandwiches with artichoke spread on rustic bread!

An arrangement of grilled cheese and ham sandwiches cut into triangles on a wooden board strewn with greens and grape tomato halves.
Grilled cheese and ham sandwiches with artichoke spread.

Next up was NESS Restaurant Sante, a cheerful vegan and vegetarian eatery with an extensive dine in and carryout menu. Lots of gluten-free selections, too. There, our tasting was a lime tart made from almonds, coconut, dates avocado and lime juice.

A fast-food counter with an employee at the cash register and another behind the service counter
NESS Restaurant Sante, a casual vegan and vegetarian eatery, served us a lime tart.

Our third stop, Noctem Artisans Brasseurs, is a craft brewpub with an innovative farm-to-table menu and a black-cat-themed decor. An extensive beer selection includes ales, IPAs, stouts,  pilsners and ciders with names like Catnip and Helia Peppercat. We were treated to octopus ceviche, and macaroni and cheese with smoked chicken, along with two beers: A seasonal brew infused with rosemary, sage and thyme, and a very hoppy stout. 

A plate of octopus ceviche with a slice of smoked salmon
A clear goblet filled with amber-colored beer
Craft beer and octopus ceviche at Noctem Artisans Brasseurs.

Chez Ashton is a fast-food chain of about two dozen restaurants, but don’t let that turn you off. The restaurant specializes in poutine, a Québec original since the 1950s. Poutine is a carb-happy concoction of French fries and fresh cheddar cheese curds smothered in a tasty brown sauce (please don’t call it “gravy”). 

A dish of a Canadian favorite—poutine—layers fries, nuggets of cheddar cheese and brown sauce.
A Canadian favorite—poutine—layers fries, nuggets of cheddar cheese and brown sauce.

“When the bars close down, this is the best thing to soak up all the alcohol you drank,” Florence said with a smile. 

You know the cheese is fresh when you bite into a curd and hear a little squeak. After 24 hours, the cheese loses its moisture, and it doesn’t squeak anymore.

Poutine (pronounced POO-tin, she said, but I’ve heard it pronounced by other Canadians as poo-TEEN) can be upgraded with meat or chicken. The brown sauce also can be ordered spicy.

Back wall of a tea store is lined with shelves filled with large metal canisters of tea; there are 5 rows with more than 20 canisters on each
The tea house sells more than 100 different teas from around the world, plus accessories.

At Camellia Sinensis Maison de Thé, we were served cups of freshly brewed Labrador tea, a soothing herbal tea used for medicinal purposes by the First Nations. The plant is native to the  peatland of Lac (or Lake) Saint-Jean in Quebec province. Almost colorless with a citrusy aroma, Labrador tea is said to be an anti-inflammatory and decongestant, and to have a calming effect. The shop sells more than 100 different teas from around the world as well as an array of cups, pots and other accessories. 

A hand holds a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone
Our dessert was a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone from Champagne Chocolatier.

Our final stop was the Champagne Chocolatier, an upscale confectionery and sweets shop. Our stomachs were quite full by this time, but there’s always room for chocolate, right? Right. It was summertime, so we delighted in chocolate-dipped ice cream cones. Winter tours feature homemade hot chocolate. Either way, it’s a delicious ending to the Québec City Food Tour!

Two rows of various handmade chocolate candies in a glass case
Chocolate–the perfect ending to our Saint-Roch foodie tour.

8 thoughts on “Cruising the Foodie Trail in Saint-Roch, Québec City

  1. A new food tour – we’re there. Especially since you describe it as not touristy, genuine and a bit gritty. You’re playing our song. Everything sounds amazing. Have to try a lime tart.

  2. This summer we made our first excursion to Quebec City. Like you, we found this “European feel” Canadian city to be great for foodies. Thanks for the beautiful reminder of our experience.

  3. I haven’t gotten beyond Montreal in Canada. I’ve heard great things about Quebec city, and now you’ve shown me all this yummy food! I definitely have to think about going in 2020!

  4. I would love to visit Quebec City, and next year I will have the opportunity! I’m so excited, and thanks for the foodie tips!

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