About a year ago, Michele Forgione of the dynamic duo behind Impasto and GEMA started dropping cryptic Instagram posts eluding to homemade burgers and hot dogs and throwing around the idea of a throwback casse croute headed by Yann Tousignant. Leading his fans and followers on a year-long fast food foreplay session before it was finally announced that “Chez Tousignant” will finally be a real thing. Fast forward months of research and development and numerous social media posts and we have an authentic Quebecois casse croute in Little Italy.
Having images like this fill you news feed was both cruel and titillating as there was never mention of an opening date but just photos of beckoning burgers. So when they finally opened I hit up Chez Tousignant like it was no one’s business.
You can’t go to a casse croute without having a hot dog, a homemade hot dog at that. It’s made in-house with 100% beef with a homemade potato bun topped with mustard and coleslaw, this hot dog is a treat. Grilled on the flat-top, the sausage was nicely seared on both sides and had a great snap to the bite. The flavour was subtle, more so than other all-natural beef franks that I’ve ever had. Perhaps my palate is accustomed to industrial fillers and delicious nitrites that I associate the ritual of eating a hot dog with – the hot dogs of my youth tasted like waxed paper and toothpick splinters. I don’t dare to say this is an artisanal hot dog, but this is how a hot dog should be eaten; all natural and homemade.
The “Tousignant burger” – an upgrade form the regular burger with the addition of cheese and homemade maple ham. The burger was good, the meat was beefy and had a great crust. The maple ham added a nice sweetness to the burger and another dimension of flavour – fat = flavour. It was dressed exactly how I normally order a burger anywhere: topped with tomato, onion, iceberg lettuce, pickle and the house burger sauce and in this case the “Tousignant sauce.”
After much anticipation and social media teasing, did the Tousignant burger tantalize me into a state of burger bliss? No, but it did leave me with a mild burger boner. As much as I appreciate the fact that Chez Tousignant makes their own bread, I found it dense and a bit tough. It’s preference. Instead of being toasted, I prefer my burger buns soft, to steam inside its wrapper off the residual heat of the meat to become soft and supple enough to soak up the juices from the patty. This is personal and how I like to get intimate with my burgers.
Ever eat something so good that you nod in agreement to it while you’re eating it? This. The quarter chicken leg plate. Sweet sweet baby Jesus this was goo-ood eating. Served with coleslaw, fries, bread and their soon to be famous brown gravy. The chicken was moist and flavourful and probably the best rotisserie chicken I’ve had in a very long time.
Our unofficial-official national dish, the poutine. There’s no denying it that it’s the perfect meal, it incorporates all four food groups; dairy from the cheese curds, vegetables form the potatoes… and um, the other groups… the gravy takes care of. The Chez Tousignant poutine is a unique creature that’s elusive and is rare amongst the poutine landscape of Montreal. Why? Cheese on the bottom my friends, cheese on the bottom.
It’s hard not to pick off all the curds in your first few bites leaving a bowl of fries swimming in gravy, Chez Tousignant remedies this with their delicious versatile sauce (same gravy that’s served with the chicken.) Their gravy is like the Barry White of the gravy world: dark, deep and savoury.
Chez Tousignant grinds the meat for their own burgers, stuffs and smokes their own hot dogs, makes their own bread, and cuts their own fries. The only thing they don’t do is milk their own cows and pasturize their own cheese. However, they may have even poured their own aluminium and forged their own metal while still in construction phase of the project, but I could be wrong. Artisanal casse croute? Hardly. Old fashioned Quebecois diner going back to the roots and essence of what it was like when food was real food and didn’t require a degree in science to understand what you were eating? Yes.
6956, rue Drolet