On Saturday night we decided to introduce bercilakslady to poutine. The natural place to do this was La Banquise, since we could be pretty sure their vegetarian poutine was actually entirely meat-free. Moreover, they dish up some of the best poutine in town.
994 Rachel East, corner of Lafontaine Park
Montreal, QC H2J 2J3
Metro: Mont-Royal, then bus 11
no credit cards
open 24 hours, 7 days a week
(between 9PM and 5AM you pay when you order)
La Banquise serves 25 different varieties of that Quebec delicacy, poutine. A basic poutine is nothing more than fries covered with cheese curds and gravy, but as with most simple dishes, the trick is starting with quality ingredients. La Banquise gets all the parts right: the fries are excellent, the cheese is fresh, and the gravy is savory and flavorful.
And it's inexpensive: bedfull_o_books got the Obélix Poutine, which is topped with smoked meat ($7.80), bercilakslady got the Veggie, with peppers, mushrooms, and sautéed onions ($6.75), which she confirmed did not seem to have a meat sauce. Both of them ordered the regular size, rather than the large, as the regular makes a meal in itself. If you order the large you'd better be sharing.
I got the spaghetti with meat sauce and smoked meat ($7.25). For an extra $2.95 they add soup, dessert, and coffee. The spaghetti is good diner-quality spaghetti. The soup was a thick turkey and rice with a rich, smoky flavor, and was one of the two soup specials that day (the other was squash). They'd run out of chocolate cake, which had been my choice over carrot cake, but they offered me what bedfull_o_books identified as a nanaimo bar instead. The coffee was again good diner-quality coffee, although there was no decaf.
Service was good, even though the servers were busy with a noisy weekend evening crowd. There are a variety of sandwiches and breakfasts if you're not interested in poutine, all in that same price range. They also have a variety of microbrews available, and in summer there's an outside terrace.
I've always thought poutine a winter food, although that hasn't stopped me from eating it during the summer. But that density of calories and fat really helps sustain you when you're out in single-digit fahrenheit weather, which is what we had to deal with afterwards, when we waited for the bus to take us back to our hotel.
And that's really the only bad thing about La Banquise, other than mild annoyance of the hipster crowd that frequents it: it's not really convenient to any metro stop. Both Mont-Royal and Sherbrooke are annoyingly far. On a warm summer night, it's not a big deal to walk from either. Saturday night with the thermometer at 8ºF, was another story entirely. Fortunately the 11 goes from right in front of Mont-Royal Metro to within a half block of the door.
24/7, cheap and good. Can't really go wrong there.