Maple season is finally upon us. Quebec is home to hundreds of the best cabanes à sucres (aka sugar shacks) in the world and supplies about 80% of its maple syrup. Selecting the ultimate best sugar shack can be a difficult task, thankfully we lined up the top 5 destinations you must try out. Whichever you choose, always remember to make reservations ahead of time and schedule your dentist appointment as soon as your sugar high has worn off.
Martin Picard is the mastermind behind Au Pied de Cochon and since 2009, he is also the brains behind Cabane à sucre Au Pied De Cochon. This sugar shack is unlike any other. Not only does it elevate traditional sugar shack cuisine to an uber gourmet level,it also does so with an untamed imaginative flare. Pea soup with foie gras, mackerel omelet, pancakes fried in duck fat and smothered in the cabane’s maple syrup are just few of the dishes that have been featured at Picard’s sugar shack. The desserts are just as innovative! Maple cotton candy, maple whippet cookies, and a yogurt gelatin with jello cubes of maple inside are just the beginning. Au Pied du Cochon has kept the best for last with its 2014 menu. Many have speculated that Picard’s favourite ingredient, foie gras, will be highlighted in a soufflé with pork rinds. Suspected to be on this year’s menu are sturgeon quenelles, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, duck breast stuffed with innards, and squid ink pasta with blood sausage. Au Pied de Cochon sugar shack is already fully booked for this maple season, so if you would like to reserve your spot for the next maple season, submit a reservation request as of December and await confirmation.
Kids under 3 years: free
Kids under 12 years: $20
11382, rang de la Fresnière, St Benoit de Mirabel, QC J7N 2R9
Érablière Charbonneau has been around since 2004 and within this short time frame they have received countless well deserved positive reviews as a top family destination sugar shack. Guests can enjoy maple taffy demonstrations, live music every Saturday night and a petting zoo. Looking to take in the quiet and serene nature that surrounds the shack? Charbonneau also offers sleigh rides, snowshoeing, as well as pony rides in the maple forest. As for the menu, it consists of your traditional sugar shack favourites: Homemade meat pies, cretons (pork spread), buckwheat pancakes, pea soup and of course, baked beans and of course plenty of the best maple syrup around. L’Érablière Charbonneau serves up more than just maple syrup, they also produce their own ciders using their own local brewery as well as apples from their orchard.
Kids under 3 years: free
Kids between 3-10 years: $8.50
Kids between 11-15 years: $11.75
Adults (on the weekend): $25.75
45 ch du Sous Bois, Mont-Saint-Grégoire, QC J0J 1K0
Cabane à sucre Bouvrette
Bouvrette has been producing maple syrup since 1947. This family-owned business still offers its customers the authentic Quebecois maple experience, with some welcomed upgrades for both children and adults. Customers can explore the forest and catch a glimpse of the maple trees by horse-drawn sleigh or by train at $3 a person. Want to enjoy a free activity? Children (and children at heart) can visit Bouvrette’s petting zoo and spend some time with friendly animals. Bouvrette also has a dance room if you happen to find yourself there on a Friday or Saturday evening and want to dance off your snow maple taffy sugar rush. Speaking of eating, Bouvrette delivers its customers some of the best traditional Quebecois sugar shack meals: Baked beans, pea soup, homemade pickles, pork rinds, and more are on the menu.
Kids 0-5years: $7
Kids 6-12 years: $12
Lunch for adults: $19
Dinner for adults: $21
1000 Rue Nobel, Saint-Antoine, QC J7Z 4N1
Érablière au Sous-Bois
Érablière au Sous-Bois isn’t like most traditional cabanes à sucre. What makes it really stand out from the crowd is its menu, serving up an interesting tasty twist of your Quebecois sugar shack classics. After listening to the history of Canadian maple syrup and witnessing how maple syrup and maple butter are made, it’s time to eat. At the buffet, you will find staples like grand-père au sirop d’érable (a dumpling-like treat that is boiled in maple syrup) and pouding chômeur cake made with hot maple syrup or caramel poured on the batter before baking. The buffet also includes beet salad, rice salad, crepes soufflé, sausages and eggs in maple syrup. For dessert, guests can choose from over a dozen options, including carrot cake, bread pudding, and tapioca. Érablière au Sous-Bois also offers dancing until 1:00am on Fridays and Saturdays as well as caricaturists and face painters on the weekends.
Kids 0-3 years: free
Kids 4-12 years: $8
Kids 13-15 years: $10
Lunch for adults: $19
Dinner for adults: $20
150 Chemin du Sous Bois, Mont-Saint-Grégoire, QC J0J 1K0
Cabane à sucre La Branche
La Branche offers everything a traditional Quebecois sugar shack should offer along with some secret family recipes. Expect nothing less than great maple syrup, a hearty traditional meal, Quebecois music, and crisp country air. So why is it on our top 5 list? La Branche sugar shack also includes Domaine La Branche: their homemade alcohol product line. The Domaine includes many interesting homemade ciders and wines. Definitely check out their maple wine and maple liqueur and look out for their ice, sparkling, crackling, still and fire ciders. All of these are made using ingredients grown locally, most of which are grown on-site. Domaine La Branche also supplies their red and white wines. Cabane à sucre La Branche is perfect for amateur cooks and foodies proud of Quebec’s produce. Before leaving, ask for recipes using their alcoholic products along with their maple products.
Kids from 3-5 years: $8.50
Kids from 6-12 years: $12
Kids from 13-15 years: $19
565 Rang Saint Simon, Saint-Isidore, QC J0L 2A0
2015 is a new year, so we’ve updated our list with 4 more spots you should try out if you’ve exhausted the options above.
Sucrerie de la Montagne
Some sugar shacks work hard on looking and feeling ancient. They decorate their buildings with wooden slats and artifacts of colonial Quebec. Sucrerie de la Montagne is one of those few sugar shacks that does not pretend. It is very old and still employs some very old ‘technology’. The complex out near Mont-Rigaud is quaint and not overly commercial. It still runs a very old-style bakery with wood-fire ovens baking mouthwateringly delicious bread. It sports a typical cabane-à-sucre breakfast meal with ridiculously sweet desserts. What is so charming about the place, however, is the site. Spread out like a little village, each house and building offers a different part of history. And the bread. Don’t forget that bread. In the words of Pierre Faucher, Sucrerie de la Montagne is an excellent place to come experience a “sugaring off”.
Kids 3 to 6 years old: $13
Kids 7 to 12 years old: $19
300 Chemin St Georges, Rigaud, QC J0P 1P0
Haut Bois Normand
Sugar shacks are fun in and of themselves. Despite this, sometimes the long drive for a single meal can seem too much. To remedy this, you could go to Haut Bois Normand: a sugar shack, tubing, and tree-to-tree adventure complex. The tubing, literally in the back yard, is a great way to work off the sugar you will inevitably ingest. On the other hand, if you happen to go late in the season when the snow has melted, the tree-to-tree adventure climbing is a great attraction too. Climb and circumvent the mountain overlooking Lake Stuckley. The whole complex sits in the shadow of the eastern township’s Mont-Orford which is one of the most beautiful mountains in the winter. Haut Bois Normand can easily be a whole day affair with tubing in the afternoon and an early dinner inside the sugar shack.
Kids under 5 years old: free
Kids under 13 years old: $16
426 Chemin George Bonnallie, Eastman, QC J0E 1P0
Another activity filled sugar shack is Famille Constantin up in Saint-Eustache. This sugar shack is an especially nice treat for smaller children. With bouncy castles, jungle gyms, a petting zoo, and a puppet show, any little one will be entertained until they fall asleep on the car ride back. For the bigger kids, there is an ATV course outside and a mini-disco party after dinner. The premises are full of interesting things to see for the little ones while you enjoy the classic sugar shack meal and snow-toffee. There is even a fully stocked bar available if maple syrup shots aren’t enough. Finally, for those interested in supporting local producers, Famille Constantin only uses local products from the region.
Kids 0 to 2 years old: Free
Kids 3 to 5 years old: $7.75
Kids 6 to 12 years old: $10.75
1054 Boulevard Arthur-Sauvé, Saint-Eustache, Quebec J7R 4K3
Aside from a chosen few, the food at sugar shacks rarely changes: pea soup, beans, eggs, ham, and sausage with tons and tons of maple syrup. Sometimes though, some food stands out, staple though it may be. At La Goudrelle, there are the kind of beans that seem to be baked in molasses. There are Criss d’Oreils which counter the sweetness with salty, crispiness. And there are fried doughnuts which are just so good you order 3 baskets. Aside from the food, La Goudrelle has a dance floor, hiking trail tours, and a flurry of activities for the kids. It is a nice alternative to Charboneau down the street which sometimes gets overly packed. Both are excellent examples of Mont Saint-Gregoire’s mastery of sugar shacks.
Kids 0 to 3 years old: Free
Kids 4 to 12 years old: $8
Teens 13 to 15 years old: $10