Ottawa

Times are tough for Canada's self-proclaimed french fry capital

Chip stands and french fry shacks once dotted the small village of Alfred, Ont., about 70 kilometres east of Ottawa. Now, only one remains.

Only one remaining independent french fry shack left in Alfred, Ont.

The Landriault Snack Bar is the lone remaining french fry canteen operating in Alfred, Ont., Canada's self-proclaimed french fry capital. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

For the past few years, Ottawa's Carole Richard has made an annual pilgrimage with her friends to the small town of Alfred, Ont., to sample the local spuds.

The village of about 1,200 people on County Road 17 — about 70 kilometres east of Ottawa — is, after all, the self-proclaimed french fry capital of Canada.

"I like small fries like these, well-cooked, a little dry," said Richard, pausing between bites at the Landriault Snack Bar. "They're super good."

These days, however, fried potato enthusiasts like Richard only have one local option for satiating their cravings. Of the multiple chip stands and canteens that once dotted the village, only one — the Landriault Snack Bar — still remains.

"When we [were] here 10, 11 years ago, there were four," owner Bruce Forget recently told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview.

"They all disappeared quietly," he said.

Bruce Forget, owner of the Landriault Snack Bar in Alfred, Ont., is the lone remaining french fry shack operator in the small eastern Ontario village. (Radio-Canada)

Some in Alfred trace the decline of the fry shacks to the arrival of a Tim Hortons franchise at the village's entrance.

Others cite the 2012 completion of Highway 50 on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, which allowed motorists travelling between the National Capital Region and Montreal to bypass County Road 17 altogether.

There's also the simple fact that the french fry business is hard work — one of the main reasons that Suzanne Villeneuve, owner of Miss Alfred, decided not to open her doors this winter.

Had she done so, her canteen would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

Empty tables sit outside the now-closed Miss Alfred french fry canteen in Alfred, Ont. The village, which once proclaimed itself as Canada's french fry capital, has only one canteen left in operation. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

"People can't imagine [how busy it is]," Villeneuve told Radio-Canada in French, noting that all the food at Miss Alfred was homemade.

"It was 12 hours a day [six days a week]. On the seventh, you changed the oil and then finally took care of your own business."

As for Forget, he agrees that running a fry shack is hard work — and is well aware that, when it comes to the village's crispy claim to fame, he's the only one left keeping it alive.

"I'm the last of the Mohicans," he laughed.

With files from Radio-Canada's Denis Babin

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