This evening, I ate a cheese-stringy, gravy covered, steaming hot bite of the neighbourhood at The Casse-Croute Vanier Snack-Shack. That’s right, we poutinized our evening and discovered another charming go-to destination amongst the streets of our new home. (And I watched a networking/marketing master at work – talk about having people invest in your business . . . oh my goodness, it was fantastic.)
Here’s the thing about Vanier that’s awesome, and what I never really anticipated before moving here. This area of Ottawa has a whole lot of community sunk right down deep into its streets, venues, and parks. And bit by bit – through the neighbours Zsolt gets chummy with, the fellow who bikes around with his trailer and waves hello, the dad who plays with his daughter every morning outside, the house that’s covered in ornaments, the park that hosts a spring-time sugar shack, and now our night excursion to the snack shack – we are learning more and more about this community.
I’m going to tell you about this Vanier Snack Shack right now, because I feel like it’s only right. You’ll see why in just a second.
Okay, this evening I had planned on baking salmon (still marinating and raw in the fridge at this moment) to eat along with the Naosap Harvest wild rice I was given at the Shesconnected conference this past weekend. Very healthy, no? Yes. But through a combination of feeling damn lazy, a wee bit discouraged from an unexpected bill (can you say, “whoops, I spent how much?!”), and being about a day away from my period – I was like, screw the salmon! I want to visit that remote snack house we noticed the other day by chance.
Zsolt wisely consented.
So we were off! Walking along the dark streets of the neighbourhood, we pass through an empty lot and approach the snack shack. Thankfully it’s open (we’ve tried to visit before and failed), which I can tell because there’s light coming from inside and there are little Christmas lights around the doorway and window.
In we go!
First impression: Inviting. There are little neon coloured poster boards all over and in different sizes advertising various food deals – two steamed hotdogs and small fries for 3 bucks, something called a bacon cheese hotdog, a variety of burger sizes, a poster for an American hotdog (?), an arrangement of styrofoam containers up on the wall with different prices, situated above a chest-high wooden counter, behind which is the kitchen, a fellow in an apron, a young lady looking on, and the owner – Serge.
And here’s why I think I have to write about this restaurant. (Not including the fact that Zsolt has labelled this his favourite poutine so far in Canada, citing the “harmonious mix” between the cheese, gravy and fries.) We were given such a warm welcome. Serge asked me firstly whether I was French, because I had a French sounding accent . . .I blame this on the word ‘poutine’, which I happen to say in a way that’s rather French. If ‘poutine’ and ‘croissant’ were the only two words I ever needed to say in French, I could be mistaken for a native speaker. . . anyhow, he then asked if we were new to the neighbourhood, advised us to buy property as Vanier is about to boom, talked with Zsolt about his new patent job & the office move, let us know there’s tons of art and music festivals in this area and we’re welcome to contribute if we have any ideas, and gave us a tour of his entire menu. All the while the young lady was trying to get our order, bue Serge wouldn’t stop telling us all about the area and his snack shack.
We did eventually get a big poutine. Not the biggest poutine, but a fairly large one nevertheless. Before leaving he gave us his card, and said he was looking into the facebook thing but never had any time for it. I’m not surprised. This fellow strikes me as sunk into his community and his restaurant. He’s organizing festivals, recruiting whoever walks through the door, and running what seems to me a successful small business. So no, he’s not online as of yet, but you can find ratings for the Vanier Snack Shack at www.urbanspoon.com – which he asked me to visit and rate, if I was so inclined.
So, are we going to go back? Duh. He made us feel like part of the community – he welcomed us to Vanier, and his long-waiting-customer-behind-us (apparently they are old friends) welcomed us to Vanier too; from now on, going to the Snack Shack will never just be about a harmonious poutine, it is about being part of the neighbourhood. (But of course, the yummy food also matters!) Brilliant welcoming – brilliant marketing – and just plain brilliant poutine.
Bonne Appetite! And yes, I am glad we moved to Vanier. 😉
P.S. I loved the huge helping of cheese curds. If you have poutine without the curds, you are missing out!