For our last dinner in Montreal we decided to hit the St-Hubert that was very close to the hotel. This gave me an opportunity to compare Quebec’s favourite rotisserie chicken restaurant to Swiss Chalet which is the favourite across the rest of Canada.
Both Swiss Chalet and St-Hubert are primarily rotisserie chicken restaurants, with each chain offering a fairly diverse menu with ribs and roast beef as well as more standard chain options like burgers, soups and salads.
St-Hubert’s first location was opened in Montreal in 1951 while Swiss Chalet began in Toronto in 1954. Since 2016, both chains are owned by Recipe Unlimited (formerly known as Cara Operations Limited). Despite the common ownership, they seem to have left the two businesses alone to continue to operate as rivals with their own unique traits.
Historically the St-Hubert vs. Swiss Chalet rivalry is very much a regional/cultural thing with St-Hubert dominating the French-speaking areas of Canada in Quebec and New Brunswick and Swiss Chalet being a fixture in the rest of the country.
Breaking it down
Here’s the pros and cons as I saw it last night. Suffice to say, it was a close competition and I suspect that those who grew up on Swiss Chalet will see it the same way I did, while those who are used to St-Hubert will disagree. Welcome to Canada.
Where it’s a tie:
The chicken. It’s basically the same, although the skin at Swiss Chalet is maybe a bit crispier and has more seasoning on it making for a deliciously salty experience. It also looks a little nicer in my opinion. That said, the chicken meat is basically identical tasting although I could argue that Swiss Chalet has a slight edge here.
Where Swiss Chalet wins over St-Hubert:
Chalet Sauce is far better than St-Hubert sauce. The St-Hubert sauce is more of a thin chicken gravy. There’s a real chicken gravy flavour to it and it lacks the thickness to properly coat either the fries or the chicken when dipped. Chalet Sauce has more spice and flavour overall and from a dipping perspective, it’s clearly superior.
The fries at Swiss Chalet are generally better. I see the fries as a sauce delivery system, and Chalet fries deliver in this regard. They can be mushy if you get takeout or delivery, but they are a bit thicker cut than the St-Hubert fries and more potato-y overall. That said, this was a close battle and St-Hubert fries are quite good.
The roll at Swiss Chalet beats the bun at St-Hubert. This isn’t even a close competition. The Swiss roll is a proper little roll that delivers a great dipping experience. The bun at St-Hubert is basically a toasted cheap hamburger bun bottom.
Where St-Hubert wins over Swiss Chalet:
The coleslaw is included and excellent. You can pick between traditional (vinegar) and creamy (with mayo). Both were good and you get the coleslaw with the meal along with your choice of side. I had the opportunity to try both varieties and while I preferred the traditionaly (nicely vinegary and tasty), the creamy type was also good. If you’ve had the creamy coleslaw at Swiss Chalet, they are very similar, but St-Hubert wins here because you get the coleslaw with your meal as a bonus side.
Sandwich options are better at St-Hubert. Swiss Chalet offers a tasty Chicken on a Kaiser sandwich or a hot chicken sandwich with gravy. St-Hubert ups the sandwich game with a really good club sandwich on toasted bread with generous amounts of rotisserie chicken (dark or white meat).
The ambience/style of the restaurant is better at St-Hubert. Neither are a fine dining experience, but Swiss Chalet feels more like a fast-food place than St-Hubert which advertises itself as a resto-bar.
The delivery cars at St-Hubert are fun. They have a fleet of yellow and red Toyota Yaris hatchbacks with red chicken combs on the roof. Swiss Chalet generally shows up in a rusted out ten-year-old winter beater with mismatched tires.
The final judgement
The chicken is pretty similar although I give the edge to Swiss Chalet for flavour. The fries are close, but again, Swiss Chalet wins by a small margin. The “free” coleslaw is a nice touch at St-Hubert, but in the end it’s just coleslaw and if you really want that, you can get some for a reasonable cost at Swiss Chalet.
The real difference maker is the sauce and while St-Hubert sauce is decent, Swiss Chalet sauce is a national treasure and for that reason Swiss Chalet wins.
Better weather and lots to see and do on day two in Montréal.
We started early with breakfast at Starbucks before hopping the Métro to Pie-IX station for a visit to the Jardin botanique. There is a special exhibit going on with thousands of butterflies released in one of the buildings. It was very cool to go through the various buildings, learning about the different regions of the world and also things like spices and different fruits.
The Papillons en libérte exhibit was the highlight, to be sure. There were many kinds of butterflies fluttering about and landing here there and everywhere. The best of my photos are here.
After we left there, we walked down to the Parc Olympique area and marvelled at the Big O, built for the 1976 Olympic Games. It was Lindsey’s second Olympic Stadium visit in four days. The stadium area feels a bit neglected and tired, but I guess that’s what you get with these giant nearly single-purposed buildings.
We also checked out Le Centre sportif which was home to the diving and swimming events in 1976.
After that, we hit the Métro again and went over to the Marche Jean-Talon to grab a bit to eat and check out the market there. The lunch options were a bit disappointing, but it was nice to check out the market and see what Montréalers do for their fruits and vegatables. It was like a smaller version of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market.
Then it was over to Mont-Royal stop on the Métro again and a bit of a long walk over to the Tam Tams and then up the trails and steps to the Parc-du-Mont-Royal and the lookout. The views were great with sunny skies having pushed the drizzle and clouds away.
We walked back down the hill, stopped for some Ben and Jerry’s and then back to the hotel to rest our early legs and watch game 6 of the Leafs vs. Boston playoff series.
It’s our first full day in Montréal today, and it’s cold and rainy. But that isn’t getting in our way at all.
We walked over to Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral which is just around the corner from the hotel. It’s no Notre-Dame Basilica, but it was still interesting to look around and see the inside of this church.
After that, we walked down to the Lachine Canal locks and discovered two things. First, there was almost no water in the canal. Second, it was windy and cold down there. We continued our journey on foot over to the Old Port of Montréal where we planned to visit the Pointe-à-Callière museum. We were a touch early so rather than wait around, we walked up to see the Notre-Dame Basilica.
Being that it’s Easter Weekend, and likely also because of what happened in Paris this week, the lineup was about an hour to get in to see. So we opted to hop on the Metro and we took that out to see La Biosphère de Montréal.
Once back, we did visit the museum! It was really, really interesting with all sorts of ruins of the old city to see. The museum is set atop some of the foundations and original parts of the city dating back hundreds of years. You can trace the history of Montréal from the 1600’s all the way to the present day.
After a bite to eat, we walked through the Old Port area and made our way back to the Metro. I was stupid and threw away my weekend transit pass, but I figured I might be able to retrieve it as I knew exactly where I had tossed it and it didn’t actually make it into the garbage can proper. It was my lucky day as the pass was lying under the can and I was able to grab it. $13.75 saved!
Our tired feet were looking for a break, so we’re back at the hotel now resting up and planning for dinner and maybe a walk along rue Sainte-Catherine or something tonight.
If there’s one thing we want to instill in our kids, it’s that travel is something to be excited about and not something to be feared.
There are a ton of neat places in this world and getting to visit them is one of the privileges that we have as fairly well-to-do Canadians.
Lindsey just got back from Vancouver today after spending a week there on a YMCA cultural exchange. They visited and hung out with a group of kids from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver. In a month, the same group of kids will come here, to Toronto, to see our part of the country.
Mackenzie hopped on a plane today with my mom and they flew over to New York City for the weekend. They’ll visit the landmarks like Central Park, the Highline Trail, Times Square and the Brooklyn Bridge. I didn’t visit New York until I was in my 30’s so for Mac to get to go there at age 16 is a real treat.
We’re not immune to the travel bug either. With the kids getting to go away, Ginny and I started getting jealous. So we booked a last minute weekend in Montreal. We’ll take the train tomorrow (Friday) and stay a few days before returning on Monday.
We should probably tell Lindsey that she’s only getting one night in her own bed tonight before she’s hopping the train with us to Quebec. I think she’ll be okay with it.