Chez Ashton is an institution in Quebec City. Ask locals what their favorite poutine is, and the vast majority will reply it’s Ashton’s. Founded in 1969 by Ashton Leblond, the restaurant chain started out as a snack bar selling burgers, fries, and ice cream, but Mr. Leblond soon imported the idea of making poutine that comes from the Centre-du-Quebec region, where it’s said the dish was invented. He first allowed his customers to try the poutine for free; soon they were hooked. The rest is history: poutine is now Chez Ashton’s flagship dish, and the company has expanded to 26 locations in and around Quebec City.
Chez Ashton is a fast-food chain, but it sets itself apart by making everything to order and sourcing ingredients locally. The potatoes used to make the fries are from l’Île d’Orléans, and they are freshly cut by hand every day. The cheese curds are also “squeaky fresh,” meaning the cheese is so fresh that it has never been refrigerated, so its texture is still soft and slightly springy and squeaks between the teeth. Sauces are made in house and their recipes are closely guarded. All these elements make Chez Ashton’s poutine a dish that everyone seems to be fond of -- and it somehow escapes being regarded as junk food.
Although Chez Ashton makes a delicious classic brown poutine sauce, it also offers a second sauce, called sauce piquante (literally, spicy sauce). It is not spicy but rather a little sweeter than the regular brown sauce is, and it’s flavored with specks of red bell pepper. Chez Ashton’s enthusiasts are usually devoted to one sauce or the other, and customers can ask for either to accompany any poutine variety that is being offered.
Here is Chez Ashton’s poutine lineup:
- La Classique: Just fries, cheese curds and sauce. The best place to start for someone who’s never had poutine;
- La Poutine avec Saucisses: Topped with grilled sausage slices;
- La Dulton: Topped with sautéed seasoned ground beef;
- La Dulton avec Saucisses: Topped with sautéed seasoned ground beef and grilled sausage slices;
- La Galvaude: Fries, sauce, diced chicken and green peas (no cheese);
- La Galvaude avec Fromage: Same as above, with cheese curds.
The restaurant chain also sells all the classic Québécois snack bar fare:
- Burgers, made with 100% fresh beef patties;
- Hot dogs, made with an exclusive, high-protein sausage, and offered in traditional variations such as the Hot Dog du Lac, which is topped with thinly sliced cabbage, mayo and fries;
- Sandwich Rosbif (roast beef sandwich), probably the restaurant chain’s second most popular dish;
- Pain à la Viande (meat loaf sandwich), a hot dog bun filled with ground beef slowly simmered in a secret sauce, topped with sliced onion and ketchup;
- Guedille au Poulet (chicken sandwhich), a hot dog bun filled with chopped chicken, lettuce, tomato, sliced onion and mayo;
- Club Ashton, the restaurant’s answer to a club sandwich, a burger bun garnished with thinly sliced roasted chicken breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
Rounding up the restaurant’s offering are salads and combo plates (in which all side portions of fries can be transformed into poutine).
There are countless other restaurants making poutine in Quebec City, including many offering fancier variations of the dish, but because Chez Ashton makes an excellent traditional version with fresh and homemade ingredients, it’s the ideal place to sample this quintessential Québécois dish.
- Every year in January, Chez Ashton reduces the prices of its poutines by a percentage equivalent to the day’s lowest forecasted temperature. If it’s 25°C outside (as it regularly is), it’s 25 percent off on all poutines. The minimum rebate is 10 percent off, even if the temperature’s higher than -10°C.
- For takeout orders, the restaurant can pack up a poutine with the sauce in a separate container so customers can add it right before eating, avoiding the “soggy poutine syndrome” (probably the worst thing that can happen to the dish).
- Every year in December, Chez Ashton makes a “Christmas Poutine” that is topped with sliced and sautéed green and red bell peppers. The vegetable garnish is complimentary, and it is added on any poutine on request.
Price Point: Inexpensive