2602 St-Patrick (Metro Charlevoix)
Main menu available from 11 am to 11 pm daily (breakfast from 6:30 am weekdays, 8 am weekends) Wheel chair access to Tavern and washrooms. most main course dishes are between $7 and $15. Cards: AE, Diner's, MC, Visa, Interac; parking on site. Tel.: 935-9647
There are too damn few really good taverns left in this town. Thank God for Magnan's. This kind of place used to be on every street corner. You'd walk in and know instantly that this was where you'd get a fresh draft of beer, a good cut of beef, and, for a couple of bits, a meal that would have you rolling out the door.
Magnan's was built 65 years ago so that the guys at the local lumber mill would have a decent place to eat. Prices have gone up since then, but the place has remained pretty much the same. Sure, they added a restaurant; it's downstairs and has tablecloths. If you're with the kids you'll have to eat there, but the Tavern is where you belong.
There are two large eating areas and both look like massive 1950s wood-paneled rec rooms. The crowd is noisy, the TV screens are huge. Cutlery is served stacked in a glass at each table. Take off your jacket and settle in.
This is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-dig-into-the-food kind of place. Everyone comes here eventually: tourists, stock brokers from downtown, even those who work at the lumber yard (now called a Renovation Centre.) They don't come for intimate dining. They come here to eat.
Magnan's is famous for its roast beef, which is superbly seasoned and marbled. The slabs fill the plate and come in six different thicknesses. The #2 at $13.50.would suit most people. Linebackers and professional wrestlers might enjoy.the whopping 22 ounce #6 at $28.80.
Our crew was hungry and tried to take in as much of the menu as possible. The house soup ($1.01), tomato noodle that day, was surprisingly good. The chicken wings (12 for $5.97, twice as many for the same price after 8 p.m.) were bland. They were served with packages of commercial plum sauce. Surely Magnan's can create something better. Prices are weird here. Sometimes it brings the taxes to a nice round number. Other times it makes no sense at all.
Magnan's may be heaven for carnivores but the fish we tried was good too. It was a thick-cut salmon steak ($13.95), beautifully grilled. Main course meals are served with good seasonal vegetables: mushrooms, carrots, and turnips this time of year. There's rice for the fish and a choice of potatoes for the meat dishes. The fries are good but I've always been partial to Magnan's chunky style of mashed potatoes.
A lot of the Magnan's menu looks like it was lifted from a roadhouse diner. That doesn't mean everything is always good, it just means you don't have to wait long to get it. The hot roast beef sandwich ($6.09) was overcooked and covered with a generic brown sauce. The chef salad was mostly uninspired iceberg.
It's hard not to fill up on the main courses here, but try to keep room for dessert. Lots of people knock simple dishes like pudding chomeur but they probably haven't eaten a good one. Magnan's ($1.01) is a small, dense cake covered with thick brown sugar syrup and it's superb.
Their pies are also better than average and most are under $2.00. It's great to occasionally tuck into a thick, creamy lemon meringue. The apple pie is made with fresh apples and came with a wedge of cheddar cheese. The pecan pie has a topping like candy with plenty of nuts. Coffee was good.
A word on beer: Magnan's has standard drafts, of course, but check out the locals ($2.06 a glass) which include St. Ambroise and Boréale. We liked the Gargouille rousse, an ale that's not too bitter. Their blonde is like a pilsner and has a good body with lots of taste.
Would I go back? Yes, but stick to the roast beef or daily specials
If you have the time, go for a stroll on the canal across the street. After a meal at Magnan's you'll need it.Reviewed by Barry Lazar