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Chez José: A small and friendly restaurant on Duluth Street

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Located on Duluth Street, Chez José is a well-known neighbourhood address. Over the years, the 25-year-old establishment has forged an identity that is both unique and shaped by the lives of its many regular customers.

The thread that runs through Chez José is the man who inadvertently gave it its name: José, originally a pastry chef by training. About 25 years ago, José opened his pastry shop, the Pâtisserie Bijou. The address was appreciated by the people of the neighbourhood, who, by force of habit and by knowing the pastry chef, started talking about going to “José’s pastry shop” or “Chez José”. Without anyone really knowing how, the name naturally changed and became official when one of José’s customers drew a caricature of the eponymous man on a piece of paper; this drawing is now the welcome above the door of Chez José, the new logo of the establishment. The same goes for the restaurant’s kitchen, which, after several specific customer requests, has grown beyond its pastry identity to quietly become the unpretentious restaurant we appreciate so much today. You will still find José in the kitchen, who left the management of his establishment to another person 8 years ago. It is now the cheerful Sarah Leroyer Henriques who owns Chez José.

Chez José’s decor has grown in a similar way to its offerings. When it opened, the former pastry shop had a clean and tidy look, designed by an interior designer in what José developed to be the restaurant industry standard. Sarah describes the man as having a flamboyant and energetic personality; little did we know from the original decor. Then the customers come into play again. Sarah tells us about a man who, while sitting at a table in the restaurant one day, asked José if he could paint the walls of his establishment. The black stripes on a green background that have now spread to the outside of the restaurant are the result of this request. On one of the restaurant’s walls, José asked to have the cover of the movie Big Blue – José’s favourite film – painted. This anecdote represents in some ways the progression of the decor, which changed drastically from that moment on to better represent the personality of a man who enjoys the good things in life. The restaurant has a warm and welcoming visual hubbub that we love, as well as a charming mini terrace and small outdoor tables adjacent to the restaurant.

Needless to say, the key word here is evolution. The menu at Chez José has changed a lot over the years – again, by special request from customers. There are many options for sandwiches, breakfast plates, both sweet and savoury crepes, soups, meal salads, as well as great smoothies. Each dish has its own small story behind it, which makes the menu all the more interesting to our taste. Among our favourites is the Churrasco chicken sandwich: marinated chicken, guacamole, cheese, and cucumber – perfect simplicity. We add a touch of hot sauce – their excellent homemade hot sauce! – for that extra small kick that we love so much. We also love their famous smoothie. Everyone has their favourite dish here. Sarah tells us about the delicious seafood soup, cooked on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, that some customers order in advance and travel long distances to be able to sometimes serve it to their guests! The dishes are unpretentious and have a homey, comforting feel. Chez José uses local products, sourced from the market and from merchants in the neighbourhood. They offer affordable local cuisine, but note that the service and the food are extremely casual, so it might be best to come another day if you’re in a rush!

We love this place because of its unique energy, and return often to enjoy dishes that we have always appreciated. When you enter the restaurant, you feel the freedom that Sarah talks about when she mentions the harmony of her team. The small restaurant has carved out a place for itself in the lives of many in the neighbourhood. If you’re in the area, pass by for a tasty lunch experience at this unique address!


Photography by Alison Slattery



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