Eat This in Canada: Poutine

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:

Please help keep the standard high: add your local faves in the comments section below…

Related links:

>>Cheap eats in Vancouver

Photo: Slightlynorth

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13 thoughts on “Eat This in Canada: Poutine

  • Antonia

    Ok…. THE BEST poutine I’ve ever had:
    At the Fairmont Royal York… All the best things about poutine were in this version…
    Hot fresh and CHEESY!!!

    Menu description:
    Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Traditional Quebec Poutine
    Hand cut fries, Balderson white cheddar, Beef jus

    Yummmyyyy yummm

  • Julie Ovenell-Carter Post author

    Hmmmm….Antonia that sounds good, but I’m going to have to try for myself since the Balderson cheddar would definitely not count as “squeaky” cheese…but I’m willing to be convinced! 😉

  • Émilie Rochon Gruselle

    I’m a Montrealer, born & raised, and I can safely say that for me and all my friends, the best poutine can be found at the fast food joint La Belle Province… small (but in reality quite humongous) poutine + a steamed all dresses “roteux” (french canadian word for hot dog) + rootbeer = greasy heaven.
    Enjoy !!!

  • Julie Ovenell-Carter Post author

    Excellent tip! Thanks Emilie…I’m going to try that the next time I’m in Montreal

  • Jools

    Now, my tasting exp is severely limited you understand but my introduction to poutine came in the shape of Montreal’s BBQ resto’s pulled pork number and a damn fine intro it was too! I couldn’t believe the number of paces which offered it as a side dish though!

  • Julie Ovenell-Carter Post author

    Oh, the you’d like La Belle Patate in Vancouver Jules…a million toppings to choose from (give or take) and all delicious…

  • MaryM

    My Canadian friends introduced me to poutine and cheese curds on a trip to Quebec. I’m glad to hear it’s offered in Vancouver. I hope I get a chance to have some while I’m in town next month.

  • jen

    Poutines origins are actually in Drummondville, Quebec and the restaurant that started this amazing dish is still there serving it. The name is ”Le Roy Jucep” and the poutine is truly amazing! As a Quebecer I`ve eaten poutine at many places and this is by far the poutine with the best sauce and toppings out there. Amazing! Sweet and salty, it really stands out from the rest.