An hour outside of Montreal, visitors to the beautiful four-season vacation area of the Eastern Townships (Cantons-de-l’Est) can join the locals for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just coffee at a new association of local cafes that have been certified for serving quality, healthy meals using local ingredients and products. Strict criteria state the cafes cannot be part of a chain, must be central to community life and often feature the cafe owner behind the counter.
Local village café owners invite visitors to their fine restaurants to enjoy coffee (often organic and sometimes free trade) along with meals prepared using top quality local ingredients as well as locally-produced specialty products for take out, often available frozen for quick make-at-home meals.
This newly created, select group of local cafes is similar to the Cafes de pays found all over rural France. These cafes also serve as meeting places that are known to be friendly, welcoming and down-to-earth. The owners of these cafés, which are centrally located in the towns and villages of the Eastern Townships are proud to share their diverse flavours and their beautiful surroundings. The cafes are often located near scenic viewpoints such as alongside lakes and rivers.
An example of a village cafe which produces a specialty product is the one located in the Chocolate Museum in Bromont, founded in 1993. While enjoying such local dishes as salmon pie, chicken crepes or baked beans served with a fresh vegetable salad topped with a home made chocolate and balsamic dressing, visitors can also learn about the history of chocolate and enjoy a wide selection of hand made chocolates and chocolate desserts served with a rich cup of milk or dark hot chocolate.
Some of these small establishments like Cafe Saveurs et Gourmandises also hold liquor licenses and offer local beers and wines. Sitting on the bank of Lake Massawippi in North Hatley, Saveurs et Gourmandises, specializes in homemade delicacies including a perfectly-sized cake-style chocolate brownie filled with walnuts. For lunch, their hearty French onion soup topped with a generous helping of melted cheese is a great place to start followed by a fillet of salmon sandwich or a warm cheese and ham on a fresh croissant. Their six varieties of pizza are popular too.
Other village cafes in the region specialize in maple syrup products or multiple varieties of homemade bread while still others grew out of central food markets. Some serve as local co-ops and a few feature exhibits by local artists.
Whatever their origins or focus, the village cafes, a prime feature of everyday life in the community, are a great place to experience the Eastern Townships like a local.