Poutine is to Canada what currywurst is to Berlin. Or cheesesteak is to Philly. It’s cheap, messy, ubiquitous–and delicious.
Or at least, it can be.
There is a very fine line between good poutine and bad.
Every greasy spoon and hamburger joint offers some version of the dish. But just because it starts with a “p” and ends with an “e” doesn’t mean the stuff in the middle is done right.
And you can’t tell just by looking.
Good poutine and bad poutine appear exactly the same on the plate: essentially a heap of fries drenched in gravy and splattered with cheese curds.
This is not an attractive dish, to be sure. Your eyes will tell your brain it might be best to stay away from this mess.
So shut your eyes.
Good poutine starts with thick, hand-cut, twice-cooked fries, piping hot and crispy. Over these, a thick–but not too thick–gravy is ladled; it should be home-made, dark and just a tad on the salty side. And the cheese curds must be fresh, not frozen, and they should squeak when you bite into them. If there’s no squeak, your poutine’s a poser. Demand a refund.
Bad poutine is mushy, pale and bland. And there is more bad poutine than good for sale in Canada, so be vigilant in your pursuit of The Real Thing.
Be advised that you will greatly increase your enjoyment of any poutine if you are cold or slightly drunk, or ideally both.
There are many places to enjoy good poutine in Canada. Here are my favourites–not including the famous street-level chip trucks that can be found all over eastern Canada, but especially throughout Ontario and Quebec:
- La Banquise, Montreal
- Au Pied du Cochon, Montreal
- Poutini’s, Toronto
- CHARCUT, Calgary
- La Belle Patate, Vancouver
- Belgian Fries, Vancouver
Please help keep the standard high: add your local faves in the comments section below…