Good casual eats in the Old Port do exist. There’s O+G, Brit & Chips and now, I’m adding Café Pavé to the list. Located in the financial district and brought to life by Chef Matthew Schnarch, this gourmet sandwich shop is a refreshing alternative when blowing money on lousy tourist traps and high-profile restaurants simply won’t do.
Café Pavé presents a myriad of sandwiches served atop warm, toasted ciabatta. It’s worth noting that some meats, like sausage and bacon, are actually prepared on site. A sandwich comes with your choice of soup, salad or tortillas and a beverage to wash everything down. If you want to upgrade your drink to something a little fancier, it’ll cost you extra. Order at the cash and sit wherever you want – your food will come to you shortly. And when you’re done, head back to the register.
Between soup, salad and tortillas, I highly recommend a bowl of soup. It varies from day to day, and I’ve been delighted by Carrot and Butternut Squash. Both purées, bright in color, were lovely with a flavorful stock that shined through. If the others are anything like them, they must be good too!
Let me start with my least favorite sandwich, Copenhagen ($9.99). I was drawn to it for one reason – braised bacon made in-house. Thick, tender strips of fatty, salty bacon were paired with tomatoes, iceberg lettuce and a heavy hand of ranch dressing. Apparently some cheese was involved; I didn’t notice. The bread made up most of each bite and none of the innards stood out – the mellow vegetables obviously, but sadly the bacon too. Sure a slice was thicker than the usual, but there wasn’t enough of it in there to consider a primary player. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it didn’t do much for me. And I don’t like that it goes by the name of Copenhagen when it’s too close to a BLT.
The siren song of the pulled pork in Tijuana ($8.99) called out to me and I couldn’t resist. Unlike Copenhagen, the star ingredient was up, front and center. A pile of pulled pork, braised for 18 long hours, was flavorful and juicy without being saucy, and the oils ran deep into the sturdy but soft ciabatta. Clearly, all that time paid off. The fresh cilantro and mildly spiced Pico de Gallo were a fitting backdrop, and the measly sprouts (like 5 strings…) wouldn’t have been missed. All together, it was a well-portioned sandwich with a tasty Latin flair. Seoul and Monterey are packed with the same pulled pork recipe so they’re bound to be good too!
Another mayo-less number I tried was Lyon ($10.99). Flavorful strips of chicken where rightfully at the forefront with prosciutto next in line. The cheese along with barely there sprouts were lost in a heaping smear of Dijon, but the mustard spread really brought everything together. It also had hints of sweetness that balanced the salt in the prosciutto and chicken nicely. I liked it, but if I had one shot at a chicken sandwich, it would be the one I’m about to introduce to you.
While I enjoyed most of what I had, nothing quite stood out like Palermo ($10.99). The very thought of it, along with this picture have me drooling all over my keyboard. I remember plump chicken seasoned to a T paired with meaty Portobello mushrooms and spinach glistening with oil and full of flavor. There was an element of creaminess in the background, the works of a wonderful artichoke spread, that I just couldn’t get enough of. All of that awesome housed in a warm, crunchy and soft ciabatta had me head over heels in love. Until we meet again you delicious beast.
Café Pavé is an unusual find in the Old Port. It’s easy going, affordable and committed to hearty, comforting food that’ll make you turn a blind eye to the overrated and overpriced restaurants in the neighborhood. Dinner here is not an option. So if you want to get your hands on a sandwich, drop by for a quick lunch where smiles are on the house. I’ll be back shortly. Four sandwiches down, too many left to go.
N.B. Closed Sunday
243 rue Notre-Dame Ouest | map