5 Sugar Shacks Where You Can Experience Montreal’s Maple Obsession

The coziest way to spend a spring day in Montreal’s snowy countryside is at a “cabane à sucre,” or sugar shack, where maple syrup is made and hearty feasts are on offer.

Two maple trees in the foreground with buckets collecting sap, with a house covered in snow in the background between them

It takes an average of 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

Courtesy of Bonjour Québec

Québecers are a hardy bunch and nowhere is that as evident as on the plate—French Canadian cuisine is not for the faint of heart. Case in point: Québec’s most famous dish, poutine. French fries doused in brown gravy topped with chunks of fresh cheddar curds is the kind of dish you enjoy after a hard day of skiing, a long trek snowshoeing in the woods, or most famously, as a great hangover cure.

And in late winter through early spring, that heartiness is on particularly notable display in Québec’s countryside at the sugar shack, known as a cabane à sucre. These rustic, cabin-like institutions are often found hidden away in the forest, and they’re where maple sap is boiled down into syrup. Although it can vary, it usually takes about 40 gallons of collected sap to yield just one gallon of the precious, sticky-sweet treasure.

Although maple syrup production extends west to Ontario, east to the Maritimes, and all the way down to the United States, from New England to Virginia, Canada produces 71 percent of the world’s maple syrup, 91 percent of which is produced in Québec. With hundreds of sugar shacks strewn across the province, visitors have plenty of options for enjoying the traditional cabane à sucre feast.

What do you eat during a sugar shack feast?

While there are variations, the sugar shack menu is pretty much set in stone. Expect to begin with a soupe au pois (pea soup) and pain croûté (crusty bread), followed by jambon fumé à l’érable (maple-smoked ham), fèves au lard (baked beans), and an omelette soufflée (souffléd omelette). Following that there are oreilles de crises (fried pork rinds), ragoût de boulettes (stew with pork meatballs), and tourtière (meat pie).

Condiments include homemade fruit ketchup and pickles, especially gherkins and pickled beets. For dessert there’s sugar pie, crêpes, and/or pancakes doused with maple syrup. As a grand finale, diners head outside to enjoy tire d'érable, or maple taffy rolled off a bed of fresh snow.

A person in a flannel shirt pouring a squiggle of maple syrup out of a metal pitcher onto a flat table of snow

One of the most fun ways to enjoy maple syrup is taffy rolled in fresh snow.

Courtesy of Bonjour Québec

The sugar shack feasting usually takes place at midday, when visitors are encouraged to head out into the woods—pre- or postdining—to peek into the buckets fixed to maple trees to capture the sap that will become the basis of the meal. Once inside the cabane, the enticing smells of wood smoke and pea soup fill the air as diners sit at communal tables, elbow to elbow, watching dishes arrive in waves.

There’s a real sense of joviality in a crowded sugar shack, and once you’ve shared a plate of fried pork rinds with the strangers around you, they will be strangers no more. Purists won’t hesitate to douse the entire meal with a good glug of maple syrup—it’s that mingling of sweet and salty, wood-smoked flavors that makes this meal so uniquely delicious.

Where can you experience a sugar shack near Montreal?

Many Québécois families have their own sugar shacks, where this traditional feast is enjoyed en famille after buckets of maple water are carried into the shack to be boiled down to make syrup, justifying the meal’s high calorie count. But even if your physical activity for the day consists of a walk in the woods after the feast, don’t miss the opportunity to get a taste of this cornerstone of Québécois culture. The height of the season is February, March, and April, with some cabanes stretching service out to May, and still others offering it year-round. Here are five standout sugar shacks, all within about an hour’s drive of Montreal.

A hearty meal on a traditional stove at Sucrerie de Montagne, including pot of pea soup

The hearty meals at Sucrerie de Montagne are still prepared on a traditional stove.

Courtesy of Sucrerie de Montagne

1. The must-do: Sucrerie de la Montagne

Located about 50 minutes west of central Montreal in Rigaud, Sucrerie de la Montagne is a tourist hot spot—and the one that Anthony Bourdain visited when he filmed an episode on Montreal. It’s got the whole spoon-playing, sleigh-riding, tire-eating experience down to a science. There’s a snazzy general store and gift shop next door for those looking for everything from maple candy and spreadable maple butter to maple lip balm, candles, and soap. The property is open year-round, and if you want to make a weekend out of it, you can stay over in one of four charming cabins, which are kitted out with old-fashioned details like wood stoves, fieldstone fireplaces, and clawfoot bathtubs.

2. The family option: Cabane à Sucre Bouvrette

In operation since 1947, family-run Cabane à Sucre Bouvrette in St. Jérôme is one of the closest sugar shacks to the city—about 40 minutes away—and it’s especially family-friendly. The food is traditional and just plain excellent. For kids, there’s a train ride through the woods and a small farm that houses turkeys, ducks, rabbits, and llamas. The 2024 spring season runs through April 14, but the venue hosts other events throughout the year, including New Year’s Eve parties and winter rides on its horse-drawn sleigh.

3. The classic: Cabane du Pic Bois

Located in the Eastern Townships southeast of Montreal, the fourth-generation Cabane du Pic Bois—which takes its name from the Québécois French word for woodpecker—offers no show or petting zoo, but you don’t need bells and whistles when the food and maple syrup are this good. Not to be missed is the Pic Bois’s maple vinegar, a winning bittersweet condiment that’s similar to balsamic and that pairs perfectly with foie gras, meats, and seafoods. During your visit, you can plan a guided tour (call for reservations) or drop in for a tasting, which includes maple pancakes and taffy on snow; tastings are offered Saturdays and Sundays in March and April, and no reservations are needed.

4. The deluxe: Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon

Known for its hearty, meat-heavy fare, Au Pied de Cochon (or “Pig’s Foot”) just might be Montreal’s most famous restaurant, and in 2008, chef Martin Picard expanded with Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon, a sugar shack in Saint-Benoît-de-Mirabel, 45 minutes from the city. Unsurprisingly, he’s turned the sugar shack experience into a gastronomic feast. This year’s menu, for instance, includes stuffed rabbit with maple and sour cherry sauce and crispy maple duck with crêpes, and even the traditional pea soup gets upgraded here with pan-fried mushrooms, bacon, and foie gras. The portions are overly generous, the ingredients are luxurious, and the wine list is superb, so tables book up far in advance. In fact, the entire 2024 season (through May 12) is fully booked, so if you want to nab a table in 2025, set a calendar reminder now: Reservations for the season open on December 1.

5. The under-the-radar: La Cabane d’à Côté

More recently, the Au Pied de Cochon team acquired land next to the sugar shack that’s planted with 500 pear, cherry, plum, and apple trees and opened La Cabane d’à Côté, a more intimate, country-style sugar shack. As at the Cabane à Sucre, reservations for the 2024 season are unfortunately also booked up. Instead of waiting until next season, you can also visit for a summer picnic in the orchard, with reservations opening on May 1.

This article was originally published in 2018 and most recently updated on March 20, 2024, with current information.

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