While tourists meander the narrow hilly roadways of Old Québec City, locals head to a once-obscure neighbourhood at the foot of the walled city.
A short walk outside the stone fortress is the neighbourhood of Saint-Roch. Two decades ago this was a bland working-class suburb.
These days it's a chic yet fun neighbourhood that retains a dash of its blue collar character with ramshackle houses, an eclectic collection of second-hand clothing and furniture shops, Indian import stores and religious supply outlets from bygone days.
They're all mixed up with trendy boutiques, a high-end outdoor-supply store, hip nightclubs, a new micro-brewery and a handful of affordable hotels and inns.
BREAD, CHEESE AND CHARCUTERIE
L'Artisan et Son Pays; 241 St. Joseph St. East; 418-522-6924.
Québec cheeses are the main focus at L'Artisan et Son Pays, but the classic French deli also offers local charcuterie, Stanstead rabbit and Lac Brome duck. Add fresh, crusty bread or croissants from Le Croquembouche down the street (225 St. Joseph St.) and you've got an instant picnic.
BRING THE KIDS
Benjo; 550 Charest Blvd. East; 418-640-0001; www.benjo.ca
The mother-of-all-kids stores, Benjo is not only a lively outlet where costumed staff sell a bewildering selection of toys, it's also a hub for painting and pottery classes and has a kids-oriented café.
Centre Materia; 395 Charest Blvd. East; 418-524-0354; www.centremateria.com A unique artist-run co-op that shows and sells mostly local works, Centre Materia also collaborates with the nearby Museum of Civilization to exhibit contemporary objects alongside ethnological and anthropological artifacts.
Fanamanga; 383 du Pont St.; 418-614-5052; fanamanga.com
With manga comic books (in French), bubble tea, Japanese snacks, popular Asian Gothic and Lolita fashions as well as karaoke rental rooms by the hour, Fanamanga is a slice of contemporary Japan in Québec.
BEND YOUR ELBOW
Korrigane; 380 Dorchester St.; 418-614-0932; www.korrigane.ca
Korrigane is a fresh new micro-brewery that sticks primarily with English-style ales - IPA, reds, a stout and seasonal treats ramped up with hints of blueberry or pumpkin. It's a lively pub environment.
THE ART OF A GOOD MEAL
La Cercle; 228 St. Joseph St. East; 418-948-8648; www.le-cercle.ca/2010
A trendy new restaurant popular with the arts crowd, La Cercle offers a selection of nicely presented tapas to accompany a well-stocked wine and local beer list. A cultural twist is the adjoining art gallery/cinema/concert hall featuring everything from folk music to surreal art exhibits.
Café du Clocher Penché; 203 St. Joseph St. East; 418-640-0597; www.clocherpenche.ca
Beneath local art on its high walls, the stylish and classic Café du Clocher Penché is a culinary showplace for local products and producers with a butcher-block counter, open kitchen, intimate tables and a simple, appealing chalkboard menu of salmon tartare, wild boar, duck confit, boudin noir or fresh oysters.
COMFORT ON A COLD DAY
Casse-Croûte Jeannine; 82 St. Joseph St. East; 418-522-1602
Eight kinds of poutine including Galpoutine - a hot chicken sandwich sans bread oozing over fabulous frites - homemade baked beans, pouding chômeur and other traditional Québec comfort food are the forte of the tiny, no-frills Casse-Croûte Jeannine diner, a local institution since 1973.
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
The Boudoir; 441 de L'Eglise St.; 418-524-7777; www.boudoirlounge.com
Cocktails, international tapas, DJs and dancing make The Boudoir's chic environment the most popular nightclub in the area, a magnet for young local professionals.
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