There’s nothing quite like a visit to a cabane à sucre when the weather warms up and the maple tree sap starts flowing. Around Montreal, there are hundreds of sugar shacks to choose from, each with their own particular delights — and drawbacks, depending on your preferences.
For some people, a large sugar shack feels exciting but to others, a big dining hall feels too much like a cafeteria, and lineups could be a non-starter. On the other hand, some of the tiny, family-owned log cabins win points for intimacy and authenticity, but may require reservations well in advance and lack entertainment for small children. Some people get excited about a cabane à sucre with activities on-site, while others may feel too many extras make it feel more like going to a carnival than a country outing.
The good news is, with so many sugar shacks within a short drive of the city, there’s bound to be one that will become your new family favourite. Read on to discover the sweet spot that’s right for you.
Most sugar shacks are open from the end of February until late April. While not always described as ‘all-you-can-eat’, it is almost impossible to leave hungry. Advice: wear stretchy pants! Food is usually served family-style at a long table or offered as a buffet and there is a good chance you will discover that maple syrup tastes good with almost everything. Reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends.
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For the gourmand…
It’s not all about the kids, right? Wine lovers will appreciate a taste of something different at Domaine Labranche south of Chateauguay. The site is home to an orchard and vineyard, as well as a sugar bush, so you can enjoy cider or wine tastings along with the usual trappings of a cabane à sucre. Among the drinks available for tastings is a maple wine, created by fermenting maple water that was recently lauded by Boule Magazine as having a “refined and delicate taste.” Expect an elaborate traditional meal with flourishes like apple and cranberry chutney, maple-smoked ham, vegetables with mustard and syrup, and beet hummus. There is also music and dancing, taffy on snow, sleigh rides (every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.), farm animals, and walks through the maple grove. Call 450-454-2045 or visit labranche.ca.
Cabane à Sucre Constantin Grégoire started as a small sugar shack serving 20 back in 1941 and has since become one of the most popular destinations for those craving a sweet and savoury sugar shack meal. Situated northeast of the city near Rawdon, their menu serves up an all-you-can-eat array of maple baked beans, omelette soufflé, potatoes, and ham. New this year, visitors have the option of the traditional meal (reservations required), or the new picnic/canteen formula where a feast will be served hot in compostable containers. Sit and enjoy beside an outdoor campfire, at one of the outdoor tables that are scattered through the maple grove, or head off to your favourite nearby location. There are also trails to walk, a visit to see the sap being boiled, carriage rides through the forest, farm animals, outdoor play structures for kids, and face-painting on weekends. Call 450- 839-2305 or visit constantin-gregoire.qc.ca
La Tablée des Pionniers located at the base of Mont Blanc’s ski trails calls itself a “gastronomic” sugar shack, revisiting traditional recipes with a creative dash of modern style. Run by Chef Louis-François Marcotte, serial restauranteur and author of six cookbooks, in partnership with the apple-growing Lacroix family, menus are updated seasonally, with a special selection buffet of fixed-price menus during sugar shack season. This year’s menu includes a savoury split pea soup with bacon and kale, pulled pork and mushroom puff pastry, soufflé omelette with cheese curds, and maple sticky toffee pudding. Call 855-688-2101 or visit latableedespionniers.com.
For special diets…
Those on strict diets can also try the cabane à sucre at Auberge Handfield in Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu in the Montérégie region. With a menu offering meat-free, pork-free, and gluten-free takes on traditional dishes, everyone can enjoy a meal. Auberge Handfield serves its all-you-can-eat meals from Thursday through Sunday. It also features live music and pedestrian trails where you can go for a stroll before or after your meal. Call 450-584-2226 or visit aubergehandfield.com.
Sucrerie Bonaventure in Mirabel has only been open since 2014, but it has five generations of maple syrup producers behind it. As well as a huge traditional all-you-can-eat menu with maple ham, sausages, and pea soup, they also offer vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free, and kosher options. Families will enjoy the mini-farm, sleigh rides, and chilling out beside the outdoor fireplace. Call 450-434-7476 or visit sucreriebonaventure.ca
Cabane à Sucre Marc Besner in Coteau-du-Lac serves the traditional sugar shack feast buffet style, so little ones can fill their plates with food they will actually eat, and those with dietary restrictions need not feel left out. The buffet includes the usual pea soup, sausages, roasted potatoes, pork rind and baked beans, but also includes a variety of salads with maple syrup dressings, poached eggs, mashed potatoes, pancakes and donuts. There is also face painting, tractor rides and live music. Decorated with antique farm tools used by the Besner family over the years, the place exudes warmth and serves delicious food. Call 450-456-3753 or visit cabanemarcbesner.com.
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For those looking for more than just food…
There is lots to keep everyone entertained at Cabane à Sucre Constantin in Saint-Eustache. From the outdoor play equipment, taffy on snow, and walking trails that are available every day, to outdoor fireplaces and inflatables on the weekends. The all-you-can-eat menu is served at your table and features eggs cooked in syrup, maple-smoked ham, pea soup, homemade marinades and tons more. They can also accommodate allergies, vegetarian, and vegan diets, just let them know. Open from Thursday to Sunday, no reservations are needed. Call 450-473-2374 or visit constantin.ca.
If you want more than just dinner, head to La P’tite Cabane de la Côte in Mirabel on a weekend and enjoy performances by professional folk musicians. Ticket prices vary by show, but include a full meal as well as taffy on snow. Other activities include tree-tapping demonstrations, sleigh rides, and a mini-farm. Call 514-990-2708 or visit petite-cabane.com.
Érablière Raymond Meunier & Fils in the Eastern Townships features special rebates during the week including $1 off your admission when you wear a plaid shirt (plus an extra $1 off by wearing your denim overalls!) on Wednesday evenings, or 50 per cent off of kids’ meals on Mondays. Enjoy the all-you-can-eat meal of ham, roasted potatoes, homemade baked beans, sausages in syrup and more. Free activities include hiking on the trails, sleigh or tractor rides, farmhouse visits, seeing the maple syrup production process, hot donuts (until noon), outdoor play modules for children, mascots, and inflatable games, or try out a fat bike at $10 for 30 minutes. Call 450-347-0757 or visit erablieremeunier.com.
Chalet des Erables in Ste. Anne des Plaines probably has the most activities to offer with train and pony rides, a carousel, miniature cars, a mechanical bull, bumper cars and a petting zoo. There’s even a haunted house. Oh yes, and a full meal too. Call 450-478-0822 or visit chaletdeserables.com.
In Mont St. Grégoire, Érablière Charbonneau also offers a plethora of activities for kids and adults to enjoy before and after the meal, including pony and sleigh rides, a playground, snowshoe and hiking trails, and a mini-farm. The all-you-can-eat meal is served at your table and includes Homemade tourtière, different kinds of potatoes, meatball stew, and crepes with maple coulis. Call 450-347-9090 or visit erablierecharbonneau.qc.ca.
It’s impossible to be bored at La Goudrelle, in Mont St. Grégoire. In addition to enjoying a delicious meal and taffy on snow, there is a designated dance floor (so you won’t have to worry about twirling into tables) and indoor games. Outdoors enjoy hiking trails, a treetop adventure park, and animals. On weekends, you have the option of tractor and horse-drawn carriage rides, a pony carousel, a caricaturist, and children’s face painting. Note that most of these activities cost extra. Call 450-460-2131 or visit goudrelle.com.
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For those who don’t want to go off-island…
Open during the sugaring-off season, the small and charmingly rustic sugar shack in Pierrefonds’ Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park is open on weekends and sells a limited amount of traditional foods such as pea soup, crepes, taffy on snow, and drinks to warm you up. The shack is close to trails and you can hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski in. Read more about it here: montrealfamilies.ca/a-sweet-treat-at-montreals-largest-park
From March 19-20, 2022, take the family down to Verdun’s annual Cabane Panache et Bois Rond Festival for a taste of traditional live music, log-throwing, food tasting and maple taffy on snow. The festival is on Promenade Wellington between Boul. LaSalle and 6th Avenue. For more information, visit promenadewellington.com.
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If you wish the sugar-shack season was a year-round affair…
The good times never stop at Sucrerie de la Montagne in Rigaud. Throughout the sugaring-off season, this busy sugar shack surrounded by trees draws big crowds to the Quebec Heritage site that has been home to generations of maple syrup producers.
But even in the heat of August or the cool days of fall, you can come and enjoy a full sugaring-off feast menu with a reservation. If there are more than 40 people in your group, the owners will pull out all the stops with horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides, live music and a campfire. For something extra special, stay overnight stay in a traditional log cabin! Call 450-451-0831 or visit sucreriedelamontagne.com.