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Food

Laminated Grease: Restaurant Place St. Henri

Posted by Stefan / May 17, 2008

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Chase opted for the fish-and-chips. Note: did not taste like the turds they resemble.

“You’d think they’d get someone to proofread their menu,” notes one of my companions as she points to the glossy sheet promising Café, Soups, et Sesserts with every meal. We laugh before marveling at how well-laid out the rest of it is, offering a strange mix of traditional Quebecois diner favorites, alongside what appears to be variations on Chinese and Italian cuisine. The meals are grouped in one-dollar increments beginning at $6, perfect for the price-conscious seeker of greasy sustenance. It captures St. Henri as it is today, with one foot in its working-man past and the other reaching for the other side of the tracks.

There’s something strangely antiseptic about the place, which is surprising given its uninspiring exterior and place in the pantheon of diners which dot Notre Dame, West of Atwater. Whereas the other greasy spoons in the area look as preserved as the pickled eggs on their counters, Place St. Henri wants to show you its Sunday best. That’s not to say it’s missing any of the essential accoutrements, it just took the time to iron out the creases. There’s no white-out on the menu. The waitress looks genuinely pleased to be working. Absent is the strange, smoky musk. You’d almost be embarrassed to roll in there hung-over at 2:30 in the afternoon. Almost.

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Would you like some cream with your cream?

I keep my order simple. My rule for lunch is $10 tax and tip included, anything more and it ain’t a deal. Here, there are more items which satisfy my requirement than I care to experience, ranging from Michigan hot-dog combos to eggplant parmagiana. For the modest total of $8.56 I’m presented with pea soup, fries, veggies, a burger soaked in gravy (the incomparable “Hot Burger”), rice pudding for dessert (sessert?) and coffee.

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It’s more difficult to capture the subjective elements of the place. When is diner food ever good per se? The point is to leave feeling full but not ill, like you scored a bargain without (involuntarily) ingesting cat meat. Toward this end my meal rose to the occasion. My one complaint is that the vegetables were soggy and tasted like they were out of the frozen food section of the Super C across the street. But then who goes to this kind of place looking for greens? At least the fries – the litmus test for diner quality – were hot and crispy.

Though there's something G-rated about the place, don't expect the power-lunch set to start showing up anytime soon. Maybe one day they'll change the sign, tone down the gravy, and ditch the gumball machine. For now, it remains a good place to atone for the sin of buying artisanal olive oil or its ken across the street at Atwater Market.

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Restaurant Place St. Henri
3434 Notre Dame W.;
(514 932 7593).

Photos by Chase Moser

Discussion

16 Comments

Adan / May 17, 2008 at 09:16 am
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Wow, Stefan. I didn't know you were a food critic. Perhaps this is your true calling in life...
Sarah / May 17, 2008 at 12:38 pm
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Good job on your second post Stef
Bryan / May 18, 2008 at 11:04 pm
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I've officially walked past that place for the last time. Next time, i'm heading in for some grub. Fish and Chip turds, awesome.
Kay O. Sweaver / May 19, 2008 at 02:44 pm
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You might also mention that out of the 4 corners at that intersection three are diners, the fourth is a McDink's.
Rob / May 22, 2008 at 04:33 pm
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LMAO @ "Fish and Chips turds"


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