Carol’s employer has some pretty cool employee benefits programs. One of them tries to address the fact that the Upper Valley area of NH/VT isn’t exactly the most happening place, and offer a lot of programs for both local recreation, as well as travel. As part of this program, they offer up cheap trip (that’s how we went on last month’s trip to New York City for Grimaldi’s, for example). This month, they offered up a cheap day trip to Montreal, so at 5am, we hopped onto a bus at Dartmouth, and by 10:30 we were at Dorchester Square in downtown Montreal. After breakfast and some light shopping, we decided to head up to one of my favorite parts of town (the “Plateau”, where there are a lot of cool shops and restaurants on Boulevard St Laurent and Rue St Denis). To get up there, we availed ourselves of Montreal’s most excellent Bixi bike rental system. After an hour of riding Bixi bikes around Mont Royal park and the plateau, we decided a small lunch was in order. We ended up going to a place that’s been on my hit list for a while: Patati Patata, a small little diner on Boulevard Saint Laurent.
Patati Patata is basically a small “joint”. Consisting of little more than a short counter and a few tables, the entire diner is barely larger than my office at work (in fact, in pure area, I think it’s smaller than the diminutive Al’s Breakfast, my standard for compact diner joints). And it has the same sort of compact menu you’d expect from such a small place: the menu is basically small slider-style burgers, a few similar sandwiches, and salads, fries, and poutine. So you settle into one of the few seats available (I counted 13 seats, although there may have been a stool hiding someplace), and order up your food from one of the employees.
Here’s a good place to mention that the staff at Patati Patata is very outgoing. Fluent in at least English and French, the staff there will happily chat with you about what brought you to Montreal, how you are doing, and most importantly, what do you want to eat? The staff there will heartily suggest two items: their hamburger done up “house special” style (with tzatziki dressing), and the poutine (and they’ll happily give you a lesson in the proper pronunciation of “poutine”, instead of the cranky complaining that some places tend to do). I was an easy sell, I ended up ordering one of their small burgers house style, and a side of poutine. Meanwhile, Carol went slightly healthier and went for a green salad.
Watching them cook is a bit of a treat, since the kitchen is only a small fraction of the already-small restaurant, so it’s mostly a flat top, a small grill, and a fry cooker. But they do everything right here: the salad greens are fresh prepped, and most of the ingredients cut to order. For the poutine, you can see that they use the proper double-cooking method for the fries, since they’ve got several trays of blanched fries that need to be occasionally shifted around to allow the bits of kitchen equipment they were parked on to be used. And the burgers are fried up fresh to order only a few feet away from your seat.
How was it? I’ll start with the slider. Their “house style” can basically be summarized as “like a gyro”, since a combination of the spicing in the burger patty with the tzatziki, lettuce, and tomato gives a taste that’s rather reminiscent of a good fresh-off-the-gyrokone gyro.
Sure, it’s a small burger (just under 3″ in diameter, by my estimate), but it’s also a cheap one, weighing in at a mere $2.50 with their Mediterranean toppings. Good crisp on the meat, a nice little bun, and toppings that just worked well. I could eat a dozen of these, if I wasn’t trying for some restraint these days.
As mentioned above, Carol did quote well with her salad as well, with crisp greens, freshly-sliced veggies, and several house-made dressings. It was a good healthier alternative to my poutine (although she did help me eat the poutine).
The poutine itself? This was a nicely done standard poutine. As mentioed above, the fries were perfectly done using the twice-cooked technique. Combine that with some good cheese curds and a decent gravy, and this was everything I like in a good poutine. Crisp fries. Barely melting curds. And gravy. Lots of gravy.
It’s not fancy cuisine, but Patati Patata is a nice place. The staff is friendly, the food is good, and, most importantly, you get a good value for your (Canadian) dollar here. I’ll certainly want to come back for breakfast at some point.