A fire destroyed a landmark restaurant early Tuesday morning in the western Quebec village of Chapeau.

Fred's was an Ottawa Valley institution, just off Hwy. 148 in Quebec, 20 minutes east of Pembroke. It was known not only for its steaks, but for the personality of its owner and namesake.

"Fred liked to choose the wine for you. He was very proud of his dining room," Waltham resident Henri Picard told CTV Ottawa. "You came here for steak and it was the place to go."

For 50 years, Fred's was run by local businessman Fred Meilleur and his family. Meilleur is now seriously ill in a Toronto hospital. The business was recently sold to another local resident, Odette Godin.

Godin was inside the restaurant when the blaze began, and ran out to warn occupants of a nearby home that was also destroyed. The family living there included grandparents, a young widow and her five children. Though the family is now homeless, everyone managed to escape without serious injuries.

The fire started at about 3 a.m. and was battled for hours by dozens of volunteer firefighters from Allumette Island and nearby communities. By the time fire crews arrived, the 125-year-old structure was engulfed in flames and they had no chance to save the building.

"It was too hot, it was too far gone. We couldn't attack it from the inside, so we pulled back into defensive mode and attacked it from the outside," said Chapeau Fire Chief Virgil Dayment.

The only thing left from the Ottawa Valley landmark are the memories of its patrons.

"There were always bands and people were dancing on the tables and the chairs and it was a lot of activities and a lot of fun. Nice memories," said Picard.

The firefighters also had trouble saying goodbye.

"It's a sad day in Chapeau because it's a landmark that's been here for years and it's sad to see it go," said Dayment.

Quebec Provincial Police are investigating the cause of the fire.

With a report from CTV's Vanessa Lee