Jean Saint-Germain is a model of perseverance and imagination for the Quebecois. An inventor since just a teenager, his name appears alongside Canadian greats in patent halls and legends of innovation. However, to the myriads of Quebecois travelers he is likely more remembered for his most bizarre – and perhaps enthralling – creation of all: L’extra-Terrasse.
Saint-Germain was failure in school-smarts, but he was a master of “thinking outside the box.” Some of his most lasting inventions have were scooped up by the Playtex Corporation, after they became enamored by his revolutionary new model for baby bottles that replaced rigid glass or plastic vessels with a plastic bag that flattens as the infant drinks (now used throughout the world). Another creation, known as the Aérodium, was developed in 1980 to simulate the state of free fall faced by paratroopers.
After settling a debt that ensured the solvability of his family of 13, Saint-Germain set out to create a new, inspiring wonder to change the world as we know it – only closer to his home. This invention took the form of a most unusual restaurant, known as L’Extra-Terrasse.
Built in 1992 without any drawings except those stored in his head, the famous restaurant had some unusual aesthetic features: a real glass saucer with antennas hovered above the roof, and people on pink sofas emerged from improbable meteorites. The truly inventive aspect of Saint-Germain’s brainchild lived inside the restaurant, where the service was to be provided entirely by robots. In the words of Saint-Germain himself, “The idea was to put on the market the equivalent of McDonald’s with the appearance of a flying saucer.”
From the visitor’s perspective, it was quite delightful in its surreality, with robots moving along rails throughout the interior. The only human inside was a lone individual, charged with managing the server-robot. By listening to the customers through a microphone, she would answer them back using the robot voice, which would then bring each table their order.
Within two months, the L’Extra-Terrasse had become a smash hit. Waits to get a table without human service extended more than two hours, and Saint-Germain was raking it in. But, like so many great ideas, L’Extra-Terrasse functioned better on paper than in reality. The inventor had become overwhelmed by the practicalities of managing a staff of humans and a robot whose circuits would periodically revolt (as electrical systems are wont to do). Within six months, its creator had pulled the plug on L’Extra-Terrasse, and the burger joint from another galaxy was no more.
**UPDATE: Sadly the vacant building where L’Extra-Terrasse once had been was torn down in the fall of 2015.**
Know Before You Go
Roadside attraction crumbling in the middle of farm country, closed since 1995, and finally torn down in 2015.