This summer had two trips up to Montreal, both associated with my annual Death March tradition (in which we find a city and hike across it, exploring the sights and eating the food). The drive from NH up to Montreal is always a bit amazing to me, since driving up I-89 it’s basically the rolling green mountains of Vermont, until you cross the border at Highgate Springs. I-89 becomes Provincial Highway 133, and the rolling green mountains of Vermont become…. Iowa. Well, at least a Quebecois version of it. The land becomes flat and open, with spacious farms lining farm fields. And, at least until the expansion of Provincial Highway 35 goes all the way to the border (expected sometime about a decade from now), it also means a transition from highway driving to fairly quiet country roads.
Along the way, the route to Montreal meanders through several smaller farm towns, with a nice mix of English and French names (Saint-Sebastien, Saint-Armand, and Pike River). And most of these towns actually have some interesting little diner places, two of which have been on my hit list for a while. One of these is Restaurant Chez Pépé, right on the border between Pike River and Saint-Sebastien, which always has a healthy collection of cars outside (The other, Chez Ti Polo, over in Henryville, is no longer on the route since the Hwy 35 expansion, so I’ll have to catch it another time). So this time, we decided to stop and give them a try.
Restaurant Chez Pépé isn’t a fancy joint… it’s basically a diner, with an assortment of Italian dishes as well. And, most importantly, a decent example of the ne plus ultra menu item for any Quebecois joint: poutine. You simply can’t have any respect as a diner in Quebec without a serious helping of fries and cheese curds, all buried under gravy. So that’s what I had: a turkey club sandwich with poutine. Carol, meanwhile, tried the rigatoni with pepperoni.
I’ll have to say, while it wasn’t high-end cuisine, Restaurant Chez Pépé did quite well with my meal. Unlike a lot of places that will foist off some cheap cold cuts in a turkey sandwich, here it was some nice solid slabs of juicy and tender turkey breast meat with some crisp bacon on a nicely assembled club sandwich. And the poutine? Some rather nicely done, soft and fluffy interior with crisp exterior fries, some very nice squeaky curds (no shredded cheese here!) and a decent gravy, and it was just the sort of light dinner that served as a nice break from driving.
Carol’s rigatoni? Not as impressive, but a decent sauce and a healthy amount of grated cheese, with the only detraction being some overly-crisped pepperoni. But again, a pleasant enough light dinner. I’m glad we finally had a chance to check them out, and hopefully will have a few more chances to do so before highway 35 goes all the way to the border.