It’s no surprise that Canada’s craziest bar is in its most certifiable province. Quentin Long tours La Maison du Bootlegger Quebec in the Charlevoix region where eclectic is not even the start of it… did you know Elvis was here?
It’s a night you won’t easily forget (or remember, if you get too much into the spirit of things – just check your Facebook feed for clues as to what the hell happened last night).
About 125 kilometres east of Quebec City, La Maison du Bootlegger puts on a show like no other.
Part museum, part restaurant and 100 per cent crazy bar with live music and a rocking atmosphere, the steak house is in fact an old Victorian home.
The building was moved from a nearby town to these secluded quiet woods of Charlevoix by a wealthy American, with the express intention of building a speakeasy and bootlegging operation during the church-imposed prohibition of the ’40s.
Taking a tour of the lower floor of the two-storey establishment is a journey into secret rooms and passages – a very Agatha Christie-esque mystery home.
In one room the gambling tables are drawn on the floor so, with a few carefully placed rugs and a few pieces of furniture moved, the set-up transforms into a sitting room before authorities can knock twice.
A double-sided cupboard that opens to the outside of the house was a convenient way to sell the illegal booze without revealing the seller or customer’s identity.
The King, Elvis Presley was reportedly a big fan of the Bootlegger, and in one tiny sideways-walking-only passageway you can see what is purported to be his signature on the wall.
The fascinating tour of the passageways and dens of iniquity are only half the story. Upstairs in a huge attic, the restaurant is an experience all of its own. Under a ceiling of huge handcut beams, rows of long tables are set and guests are seated wherever there is space.
There are not that many English speakers but the communal seating, cocktails and beers, and incredibly energetic and outrageously gregarious staff bring everyone together for a party that won’t soon be forgotten.
A quirky collection of hats and feather boas are distributed help diners get into the spirit of things.
The ceiling and walls are covered in all sorts of memorabilia, stuffed animals, naughty figurines and taxidermy. It’s as kitsch as an old Oxford Street queen’s parlour.
One of the best steaks in all of Canada comes off the open grill, and that’s before the house band kicks off with their old rock’n’roll favourites.
The attic heaves as people spill into the aisles to dance between the tables, and everyone is invited to pick up a tambourine and join the band.
For cowboy-lovers, the seats at the bar are saddles. The only downside is that getting back to your hotel can be a lengthy cab ride if you are not staying on the property (and the accommodation is just a quirky as the house).
La Maison du Bootlegger is one of those surprising travel experiences. It wouldn’t top your itinerary but you are sure-as-hell happy you found it.
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