I was so pleased to be contacted by a representative of St. Hubert regarding an opportunity to review their new restaurant in town! I am excited to be entering a new area of blogging I have never touched before... food and restaurant reviews!
In return for a review of their restaurant, we were given a discounted meal at the restaurant. All of the opinions written below are my own.
St. Hubert Express is located at 22 Trinity Ave. in Fredericton New Brunswick. St. Hubert has a 60 year history and its first restaurant was opened in 1951 in Montreal. They now employ 10,000 people at 116 restaurants and service points in Québec, New Brunswick and Ontario. It is truly a Canadian company! St. Hubert is very well known in Québec, and the owner we spoke to indicated that many francophones have been visiting the Fredericton location. The St. Hubert Express in Fredericton opened August 8th, 2012. The owners are Dennie and Barry Pope, they are co-owners of the franchise and brothers who grew up near Sussex, NB. The restaurant manager is David Smith. I met with Barry Pope and he was very willing to answer all of my questions, serve us great food and even take me behind the scenes in the kitchen.
The parking lot was packed when we arrived which is always a great sign! We met Barry right away (an employee led us to the kitchen area) and we were offered to sit and order food first. This was great, as the girls were hungry and the restaurant was busy! I brought up our gluten and dairy allergy and this issue was dealt with in a very professional manner. (Rather than, "I'm so sorry for you, here is the one thing on the menu you can have." I have come across this almost every time we go out to eat.)
The restaurant sends out a red alert when they have an allergy indicated at the cash. In fact, Barry was going to take our orders personally, but he led Tim to the cash to do this in order to put the red alert through the system, so that the chefs were aware of the allergies. Each chef changes their gloves in case they have come in contact with bread. The allergy alert shows up on the receipts. Barry advised me not to have any of the special sauces (served at the condiment station, not automatically with the meal) and he advised me that the chicken, fries, potato, rice and dairy-free coleslaw (!!) were safe. Yes, they make two kinds of delicious coleslaw (with local veggies!), one with dairy products (which Tim really loved) and one without (which I loved). It was great to have a choice to order from as most of their dishes are chicken!
Did you know that the St. Hubert chicken mascot was originally designed by Disney animator Jack Dunham?
Tim ordered the chicken and ribs, I ordered the chicken breast and baked potato, Lila has the chicken thigh kid's meal and Charlotte had the chicken nuggets. I would order Charlotte the real chicken next time instead of the processed nuggets. She isn't used to processed chicken anymore and the real stuff is so much better.
We all loved our food. The chicken portions were big, and although the pricing may be slightly more expensive than fast food, it was so much better. It was filling and the homemade coleslaw added the perfect meal addition. The chicken was moist and full of flavour. The girls received apple sauce with their kid's meal, which was a nice touch. The Express version of St. Hubert is set up like a fast food restaurant in format, but it has a nice quality atmosphere inside the restaurant. When I asked Barry why he chose the Express version as opposed to the sit down restaurant he explained that it was more affordable to set up and run the Express version. (It is one third of the cost of the traditional St. Hubert restaurant.) Also, it allows for people who work in the Knowledge Park area to have a quick lunch option. Moncton has a full restaurant option, and the Express option is going to (hopefully) become more popular in the Maritimes.
I asked Barry if they take any action to source their products locally. I really was not expecting a positive answer for this question. I was pleasantly surprised! They currently buy their produce from Fresh Choice in Fredericton area. Their produce is not strictly local, but understood that their cabbage and carrots are. They receive 50 lbs of fresh cabbage and carrots every morning and process and make their coleslaw on site. Barry and Dennie's father is actually a cabbage farmer in Belleisle! They are hoping to switch and use his cabbage for their restaurant. It surprised me how local and family based this restaurant is.
Their raw chicken comes from Nadeau Poultry near Edmundston. It is air cooled in the processing plant, not cooled using water. Barry explained that at Swiss Chalet, the chicken is water cooled, which causes it to look more white, but less flavourful and moist. The chicken goes through a double cooking process at the restaurant, they have two huge ovens that cook over 100 chickens at once. They are hoping to give back to the community in many ways but they are still deciding strategically how to go about doing this.
In conclusion, I was pleased with the restaurant. I loved the food, the atmosphere, and the precautions took to ensure that Lila and I had a safe meal to eat. I didn't like that we had to pay 50% under the presumption that our meal would be provided for! We are on a very tight budget and would not have otherwise spent money on food at a restaurant. (We also choose the expensive options, before realizing we had to pay.) I didn't like that the floors were slippery, I saw one lady slip in heels and then Charlotte fell coming out of the bathroom. Also, there is not a change table in the women's bathroom, only in the wheelchair bathroom. That could be inconvenient at times. We were served by the owner, so I'm sure a regular experience would be a bit different. But I was really pleased with all that I observed. I am very thankful for Thomas Ledwell for setting up this experience for my family, it was a great opportunity!
Now... go try it out for yourself! Tell me what you think in the comments. Have you eaten at a St. Hubert Express before? Did you have a positive experience?