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Quebec City — Dining

You have to work to get a bad meal in this city. Almost all restaurants post their menu outside the door, and most include a Table d’hôte, or set menu, usually with appetizer, entree and dessert, for a fixed price.

For traditional Québeçois cooking like grandmere used to make—pea soup, onion soup, meat pies, fish and game dishes and for dessert, maple syrup pie—dine at Aux Anciens Canadiens (418-692-1627; $$$–$$$$; left). Five cozy dining rooms on two floors have been built in one of the oldest houses in the city, Maison Jacquet. The building was constructed between 1675-76 with thick stone walls, wainscoting and recessed cupboards. The lunch menu (normally less than C$15) is served from noon until 6 p.m., making for an affordable and hearty early supper for skiers returning from the slopes.

Next door, Restaurant Continental (418-694-9995; $$$–$$$$) prepares Québec’s only true upscale French cuisine with flambe tableside service. The other top spot in the upper old town is Le Saint-Amour (418-694-0667; $$$$).

One of our favorite restaurants in Vieux-Québec is Auberge du Tresor (418-694-1876; $$$) which serves mussels (moules) that were the best we’ve eaten this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Au Parmesan (418-692-0341; $$$), with an accordionist and lots of singing locals, serves homemade pasta. Gambrinus (418-692-5144; $$$), overlooking the Place d’Armes, is an excellent Italian restaurant with a French flair and good seafood. A strolling musician performs at night. At 47ieme Parallele Resto International (418-692-1534; $$$), you’ll find home-style European and exotic dish presentations.

There’s no graffiti at Graffiti, (1191 Cartier Ave; 418-529-4949; $$$), but an eclectic array of art adorns the brick and warm wood walls. French and Italian cuisine make up the two menus—a la carte and table d’hote. Don’t miss the apple tart with maple sauce. Brunch in the atrium room is a popular Sunday event. We’re told this is one of the city’s best.

Another good choice is Initiale (418-694-1818; $$$$), which serves fine French cuisine. Laurie Raphael (418-692-4555; $$$) emphasizes fresh Québeçois-style cuisine. The more casual art deco L’Echaude (418-692-1299; $$$) serves a mix of traditional and nouvelle French cuisine. Cafe du Monde (418-692-4495; $$–$$$), with its bistro atmosphere and affordable wines, fills with locals each evening. Piazzetta (418-692-2962; $$) only steps away is an inexpensive choice for creative focaccio and pizzas (we loved the apple-and-pork pizza).

Rue du Petit-Champlain has several good eateries. Stone walls and a fireplace create an intimate setting at Marie-Clarisse (692-0857; $$$$), at the base of the funicular and the bottom of the Breakneck Stairs. It serves excellent fish and seafood in two intimate dining rooms.

Cochon Dingue ($$) offers a wide-ranging, bistro-style menu in a busy atmosphere. It’s a good choice for families and it serves excellent breakfasts. Kids younger than 10 pay C$5 for a complete meal. Three Cochon Dingue restaurants are at 46, boul. Champlain (418-692-2013); 46, Rene-Levesque O. (418-523-2013); and 1326, av. Maguire (418-684-2013). Le Petit Cochon Dingue (OK, Cochon Dingue means Crazy Pig; 694-0303) is a traditional pastry shop with a bakery, cafe and sandwich shop. The donuts are, well, old-fashioned, and you can’t beat the raisin buns anywhere. Le Lapin Saute (418-692-5325; $$–$$$) is popular for breakfast, but avoid it for dinner.

In the old train station, Gare du Palais, l’Aviatic Club (418-522-3555; $$$–$$$$) looks like an officers’ mess and serves specialty foods from five continents. Stay awhile and join the nightlife.

Along the Grande Allée, start the night with dinner at Louis-Hebert (418-525-7812; $$–$$$) and you’ll be well situated to enjoy this street’s hearty nightlife afterward. This is where the cognoscenti dine, such as the Members of Parliament and other creme de la creme. Allow a long evening for your dining experience and don’t be afraid of asking for special plates. There is also a boutique hotel above the cookery.

Cosmos (418-640-0606; $$), on the Grande Allée, is the place to see and be seen. It has a fantastic Québeçois menu at a reasonable price. It’s a trendy bistro with a vast offering from around-the-world salads to great sandwiches, pastas, frites, poutine and huge dessert menu.

Take in a view of the whole city from L’Astral (418-647-2222; $$–$$$$), the revolving restaurant atop Loews Le Concorde hotel. It takes about one hour for it to make a complete circle. A buffet is served Saturday night, and the Sunday brunch is in a class of its own. Reservations are a must. For a carbo feed, head to the Place du Spaghetti (418-694-9144; $$).

For simple, Mediterranean-style fare, head to Freres de la Cote (418-692-5445; $$), a lively restaurant with an open kitchen and wood-burning ovens. The eclectic menu ranges from tenderloin horsemeat to sweetbread to European pizza to osso bucco. Portofino Bistro Italiano (418-692-8888; $–$$), in the center of Old Québec, is a good choice for pizza. The Pizza Grizzly (with smoked salmon) is particularly tasty.

If you’re a bit adventurous, visit a sugar shack: Follow signs for a cabane à sucre. Most open only when the sap is running. The fare usually includes crepes, eggs, meat pies, meats, toast, baked beans, all topped with maple syrup and flavored with music and dancing.

Dining Legend: $$$$–Entrees C$30+; $$$–C$20–$30; $$–C$10–20; $–less than C$10