My love of cafes has nothing to do with coffee–I’m not a coffee person–and everything to do with architecture, interior design, ambience, thirst-quenching beverages and good food. While each aspect plays a role in my overall cafe experience, the importance of those roles change depending on where I am travelling at the time.
In big cities, I am often lured into a cafe based on its architectural details or interior design elements, but it is the ambience, beverages and food that will determine whether or not I will return. In smaller cities, I am usually attracted to the ambience or the promise of rich hot chocolate, interesting tea selections, good food, or all of the above.
Quebec City cafes, much like the city itself, straddle the invisible line (which I drew); a small selection of boutique cafes mixed in with ones that are focused on ambience and good quality products.
As my home base in Canada, the Quebec City cafes I choose to visit are usually based on the availability of strong wifi, comfortable seating vignettes, tea selections, and their willingness to let me hang-out for a few hours.
Easily one of my favourite Quebec City cafes, Saint-Henri micro-torréfacteur is a 20-minute walk (downhill!) from my apartment in Old Quebec. The cafe is large with communal tables and floor to ceiling windows, strong wifi, my favourite tea (Labrador tea) and delightfully fresh artisanal donuts.
A popular spot with locals, and the tourists who happen to wander into the neighbourhood of Saint-Roch, I almost always visit this cafe in the morning shortly after they open (7am), staying until lunchtime–not every day of course, I need to spread the love around–and then venturing to another cafe down the street.
If you’re a coffee addict, I’m told their coffee is third wave and quite good.
The tea selection is good, and their chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) is rich and delicious. While the donuts are a must, they also have croissants, savoury scones, salads and panini sandwiches – all of which are made onsite.
LOCATION: Saint-Roch – 849, rue Saint-Joseph Est
LA MAISON SMITH
I was introduced to La Maison Smith during my first visit to Quebec City in 2013. At that time there was one location (Place Royale), and I made a point of stopping by for a croissant and chocolat chaud every time I was in the city. The location in Place Royale is perfect: along the edges of the square that overlooks 17th & 18th-century buildings and Notre-Dame-des-victories, one of the oldest churches in North America.
The two locations in Old Quebec are, of course, quite close to my apartment and I can usually be found at the one on rue des Jardins–unless I have been in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, then I’ll visit their location on rue Saint-Jean before going home for the day.
I love that La Maison Smith sells croissants (and other pastries) made at Paillard, as Paillard is way too crowded with tourists and I rarely go there now. I am also in love with their chocolat chaud, it is rich and delicious and makes my tummy dance with joy.
LOCATIONS: Place Royale – 23, rue Notre-Dame • Old Quebec – 9, rue des Jardins • Old Quebec – 1141, rue Saint-Jean
CHEZ BOULAY COMPTOIR BOREAL
Comptoir Boreal is more of a “counter” than a cafe, but this little gem on Côte du Palais is a lovely little spot for a quiet cup of tea, hot chocolate; or for indulging in a sweet treat or light lunch.
A companion to Chez Boulay, a gourmet restaurant specializing in boréal cuisine (wild game, berries, herbs and other ingredients found in Northern Canada), Comptoir Boréal continues the restaurant’s theme.
When I visit, it is usually in the morning when the croissants are fresh and warm and the atmosphere to quiet. While their hot chocolate is delicious, I tend to order a pot of Labrador Tea and do a little work.
LOCATIONS: Old Quebec – 42, Côte du Palais
I love spaces that have multiple uses, like Mælstrøm cafe in Saint-Roch which is a cafe during the day and a cocktail bar at night–and a delicious brunch hotspot on the weekends!
Tucked in a quiet corner of the neighbourhood, I love walking down and spending the morning or late afternoon at the cafe. The floors are worn and full of character, the walls are exposed brick, the bar area has white subway tiles, and the tables and chairs are a mish-mash of colours and styles.
Coffee addicts will love the cold brew coffees and cocktails, but, of course, I come for the hot chocolate (that is my addiction, in case you have not figured it out yet). The cafe offers a light lunch, as well as healthy snacks that tend to be vegetarian or vegan-friendly.
LOCATION: 181, rue Saint-Vallier Est
Another favourite cafe (I know, I have too many!) in Saint-Roch, Cafe Pékoe specializes in tea. That being said, they also have a selection of coffee available.
In summer, the cafe sets up a small patio area outside, but sitting along their window seating inside is just as satisfying. A lovely spot to do some work, enjoy a pot of tea and possibly a snack. I’m a fan of their hummus banh mì sandwich. Yum.
LOCATION: 433, rue Saint-Joseph Est
LE LIÈVRE ET LA TORTUE
This lovely little spot in the neighbourhood of Limoilou is more of a tearoom than a cafe, but as a tea lover, I have to include it here. Venturing into Limoilou usually involves taking the bus, which is completely fine with me.
I love sitting at the long white communal table to work, a pot of tea and a scone beside my laptop. I love the big windows; as well as the eclectic mix of vintage chairs, tables, teacups and saucers. A lovely spot for working, reading, knitting or meeting with friends.
The tea selection is impressive, scones and cakes are homemade, and the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing.
LOCATION: Limoilou – 1200, 3e Avenue