Culture | Eating out east

On the corner of Marie-Anne and de Lorimier, a neighbourhood diner sits unassumingly behind a small terrace. Obscured by the umbrellas and trees in front of the low-set restaurant is a glowing rust-orange sign, radiating warmth and offering an invitation to passersby: La Bolduc.

Stepping inside, you feel as if you’ve entered someone’s home: the décor is, to say the least, eclectic. The walls are painted pale yellow, and are adorned with artwork, photographs, a sombrero, and a wide range of knick-knacks. Booths, upholstered in leopard print, surround colourful tables. Dozens of unique homemade and antique light fixtures, fashioned from coloured glass and wire or rescued from flea markets, hang from the ceiling. A long bar used for food preparation runs along one of the walls. On the night I visited, there was a steady stream of music, ranging from Bedouin tribal to French folk, played at a respectful volume. The bohemian ambiance feels authentic: a good balance between “Rent” and Weimar-era Berlin.

“There are lots of regulars,” said waitress Karyne Levesque, of La Bolduc’s crowd. “Most of our customers are typical Plateau people.” I understood this to mean students, hipsters, beatniks, colourful pensioners, and other unwaged individuals, creative types, subversives, et al. This makes for a “great” crowd, explains Levesque, who sees a steady stream of such customers all week.

La Bolduc serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers a lengthy menu. Everything is homemade, and the majority of the choices are under $10. The breakfast menu features a wide variety of omelettes, crepes, and classic breakfast combinations. Lunch and dinner options include a hamburger and poutine combo ($6.99) as well as the Menu du Jour, which consists of soup, a choice of 3 entrées, and a dessert, and rings in at $9.99. Unfortunately the confines of this assignment prevented me from ordering the Menu du Jour (the prices on the menu are before tax). I settled on a specialty hamburger with cheddar, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, and jalapeños called “le Mexicain” ($7.99). My friends, out of solidarity, employed the same $10 dinner budget and chose the veggie-paté sandwich ($5.99) and a specialty burger with goat cheese ($6.99). We were all satisfied with our meals, which, despite their low price-tags, were generously portioned. Since we still had some wiggle room between what we’d ordered and the $10 dollar cap on the article, we felt dessert a fitting reward for our thriftiness. We decided to share a piece of carrot cake ($3.69). It was moist, flavourful, and fresh baked (full disclosure: I may have eaten more than the 1/3 portion allotted to me).

La Bolduc occupies the erstwhile site of the Bolduc family’s eponymous grocery store, which opened in the forties. In the late sixties the elder Bolduc relinquished control of the épicerie to his daughter, who turned it into a restaurant and neighbourhood establishment. The staff was not able to confirm whether the restaurant had any affiliation with the depression-era Québécoise singer, violinist, and Jew’s harp prodigy “La Bolduc” (née Mary Rose-Anna Travers), but one waitress said she had her suspicions. Regardless of whether “La Bolduc” had anything to do with the Eastern-Plateau restaurant sharing her moniker, it is certain that the chanteuse—a symbol of lean times and a hero to the underprivileged of Quebec—would have enjoyed the inexpensive fare at the eatery bearing her name. Indeed, La Bolduc is a rare combination: first-class offerings for steerage prices. Its cuisine and character make it a dining experience you won’t soon forget.

La Bolduc is located at 4351 de Lorimier.

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