Paul Patates review
Casse-Croûte Connoisseur: Paul Patates
Words— JP Karwacki
From time to time we venture out of the office and explore the many nearby eateries. We thought we’d share some of what we occasionally snack on in a feature we’re calling Casse-Croûte Connoisseur.
It doesn’t take long for anyone walking through the tiny borough of Pointe-Saint-Charles to realize it’s a working-class neighbourhood, and a working-class neighbourhood needs to fuel itself on good fare for cheap. The casse-croûte Paul Patates is just such a place to provide that.
While there’s no exact shortage of diners in Montreal, there are few that exude as much character as Paul Patates. Calling it “retro” doesn’t do it justice: With roots that reach back to 1958 with the original owner André Roy—having since handed it down to his son Dany who’s left the place largely untouched—it’s a time capsule of the Quebecois-American take on diners that's immediately apparent in its hallmark yellow and royal blue tiling and now-defunct tabletop jukeboxes. It’s a well-oiled machine with a refined menu, kept small for both simplicity and ease, that is emblematic of a time when corner snack bars served up classic menus that barely broke ten items to choose from.
Décor isn’t the only thing that makes Paul Patates a place of particularities. Few restaurants can tout having been prominently featured in the popular Taxi 0-22 series that ran on Quebecois airwaves throughout the late 2000s, featuring the curmudgeonly taxi driver Rogatien Dubois Jr. (played by the show’s creator Patrick Huard) rolling through the restaurant and unleashing opinions on customers and staff alike at a lightning pace. It was a pretty popular program for its time, with James Gandolfini (may he rest in peace) opting to create an American version for HBO. Considering the clientele of Paul Patates, it’s little surprise a location scout settled on this spot. Watching Dubois hunched over the counter with a server to ask why anyone would buy a filet mignon dinner for $40 when there are buffets that cost $12? Every scene in the series like it exudes the down-to-earth charm of the restaurant and the people who populate it.
But looks aren’t everything. Fewer restaurants of its breed, for example, can tout having a spruce beer recipe sourced from the Émile Bertrand restaurant established in 1898. A milky white and bittersweet soda brewed at the restaurant, made from boiling bark down with sugar and yeast. It’s prominently offered as the first drink of choice in any of Paul Patates’ combos, and really, it’s one of those things you have to try once. It’s an acquired flavour of a bygone era that’s seldom found today; even Crush was making spruce soda up until the year 2000.
As for those combos? Who’s making the best poutine is a hotly contested topic in Montreal, and while Paul Patates is considered to be among the frontrunners in that category, I’m of the mind that its hot dogs are the most solid bet. Paul Patates reigns supreme: A plump, steamed sausage on a plain white bun, dressed in chopped onions, slaw, mustard and relish is by no means a difficult feat in and of itself, but a consistently flawless execution with each and every order is. Sitting down to eat two of these dogs at the Formica countertop with your ass firmly planted on a swivelling vinyl stool, the Top 40 playing, you might start to feel that thin thread connecting the present to those first few years in business.