If you’ve never heard of the Magdalen Islands, or Îles de la Madeleine, you’re not alone. This tiny archipelago, located northeast of Prince Edward Island, is actually a little-known part of Quebec sitting in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Every aspect of the Magdalens is unique; from its sprawling landscape of sand dunes to its proudly Acadian people, there’s no place quite like it. Best of all, it has some damn good food.
It’s the most wonderful combination of French and Eastern Canadian cuisine: the chefs pride themselves on using fresh, local ingredients (think cod, lobster, crab, and seal. Yes, seal), and serve up dishes alongside some of the tastiest beer the Maritimes have to offer.
According to the locals, the best place for good grub is Café de la Grave — a small, quiet café sitting in the middle of the
main only street in the historic site of La Grave. The restaurant itself is in a two-storey, grey-washed clapboard building that looks almost too old and weathered to still be standing. The interior is warm and wooden, with book-lined walls and antiques and local art adorning empty spaces throughout.
During the day, the café is calm. It’s the perfect spot to grab some lunch and sit on the back patio along the pebbly beach, or enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of carrot cake big enough to feed four.
At night, especially on the weekends, the venue transforms into a vibrant, musical space, where seemingly everyone from the islands comes to eat, drink, and – naturally – be merry. People sing and dance along with the performers, and join in and play the instruments scattered around the restaurant.
If you want to be a part of it, just grab a violin or take a seat at the piano. Just don’t expect to sing along unless you’re fluent in French, as English speakers can be a rarity.
The food (the best part, duh) is unpretentious and local—think salt cod cakes, wild boar sausage, and mussels—and most of all, it’s tasty. Really, what else could you ask for?
Café de la Grave
969 chemin de la grave, Havre-Aubert, Quebec