French fries served with hot gravy and semi-melted squeaky cheese curds is the ultimate Canadian snack. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is. Lunch, dinner, ten minutes after the bars close… There is no rule on when one can enjoy poutine.
Poutine is the one dish that every single visitor to Canada MUST try; otherwise your trip to Canada is a total and complete failure. Yes, I am totally serious. If you’ve come to Canada and didn’t try poutine, then your trip was a total failure. Too harsh?
Traditional poutine is french fries, squeaky cheese curds, and a beef gravy. The trick is to have lots of cheese, and a hot flavourful gravy that will melt the cheese as you eat. It’s gooey goodness. That being said, a bad gravy will completely ruin a poutine experience. The gravy shouldn’t be too strong in flavour, nor too weak. The best (in my opinion) gravies are not thick. Medium thickness is best.
In Québec (the best place in Canada for poutine as this is where the craze started) the best places for traditional poutine are Chez Ashton or Snack-Bar in Québec City, or poutine shops along rue Saint-Paul in Old Montréal. And of course I also need to mention St. Hubert’s, a restaurant found throughout the province!
I am a sucker for gourmet food as it tends to be more flavourful and interesting. I love the marriage of textures and flavours. Sure, some places try and fail miserably, but other places truly shine and turn dining into an near orgasmic experience. While there are still many places (and poutines) to try, I do have a few favourites:
Mighty Loutine from Lou Dawgs
I fell in love with the Might Loutine at Lou Dawgs in Toronto during a ‘When Pigs Fry’ tour with Urban Adventures. This delicious poutine features mouth-watering BBQ pulled pork and a chicken gravy (so as to not detract from the flavour of the pulled pork). It. Is. Amazing. I’ve taken many friends and travellers to Lou Dawgs to try this poutine. In fact this is currently my go-to spot in Toronto.
Firehouse Poutine at d|bar
Featured on the menu at Four Season’s d|bar, the Firehouse Poutine features jalapeño peppers and pulled pork. It’s spicy goodness and I secretly wish they served this 24/7 instead of just during d|bar opening hours. Its the perfect late night comfort food, but I’d also down this baby as a morning after recovery breakfast.
La Braisée Poutine at Le Chic Shack
Le Chic Shack is definitely one of my favourite places in Québec City – especially when I’m craving gourmet poutine! While they have about half a dozen poutines, my favourite is La Braisée which features Red-ale braised beef, Parmesan, pickled onions, and horseradish aïoli. It’s a tad messy to eat, but the perfect dish on a cold winter day, or when you need some serious comfort food!
Experiment at Home
Making poutine is not that hard. The key is fresh cheese curds and a really good gravy. Once you have those two things it’s time to play around and experiment. Maybe try creating a poutine using Easter dinner leftovers (fries, fresh cheese curds, leftover turkey gravy, some leftover stuffing, and a dollop of cranberries)? The possibilities are endless. Really.
As for me, I’m working on a Chicken & Waffles poutine. Still working out the kinks.
P.S. If you’re in Canada and want to make poutine without making your own gravy, buy the St. Hubert’s poutine gravy mix at the grocery store. You won’t be disappointed!