If you’ve never had poutine, well…. I feel bad for you, because damn it – it’s delicious. Inspired by a friend’s tweet about her desire to write a blog post about all the regional food she’s tasted in her travels, I decided to write a similar post – but only about poutine.Allow me to preface this by saying that I live in Buffalo, NY… which is pretty much Canada. (Okay, not really. We’re still in the USA and I bleed the red, white and blue, but Canada is literally a five-minute drive away, just over the Peace Bridge.) Thus, it’s recent that I was introduced to the Canadian snack of poutine, and now I’m here to introduce it to you.
It’s a pretty simple concept: French fries, gravy, and cheese curds. To some, this combination might sound utterly disgusting; to others, it’s delightful. I happen to fall into that second category.
So here’s just a few reviews of the places I’ve HAD poutine from, and my thoughts re; each one. I’ve never been to Quebec but I’ve heard talk that the poutine there is absolutely the best; for now, this will suffice.
Jack Astor’s, Buffalo, NY; This is the only American location of Jack Astor’s, which is (apparently) a Canadian restaurant chain. Our location is hosted in the Walden Galleria Mall, which is a popular stop for Canadian travelers who come to Buffalo for shopping purposes. Poutine is a fairly recent addition to their menu, and they’ve got two ~flavored ones: chicken BLT and spicy sausage. Not on the menu, however, is the regular ole poutine – just ask for it, it’s about $7.
Jack Astor’s is the first place I ever had poutine, so I might be a little biased to its taste, but it’s pretty damn good, even if they slop on a little too much gravy for my liking sometimes and THERE’S NOT ENOUGH CHEESE CURDS. I always get the plain poutine when I go – I’m not quite adventurous enough to try the flavored ones. So if you’re looking for poutine in Buffalo, it’s a good place to start. (I’ve heard that The Blue Monk and Jim’s Steakout also have poutine, but I’ve never had either of theirs).
New York Fries, Grimsby, ON; Despite the name, New York Fries is not, in fact, located in New York. It’s basically a fast-food chain and I found mine at a rest stop in Grimsby, en route to home from a weekend up in Muskoka. Their poutine was delicious, and if you tell them ‘to go’, they’ll even put it in a cute little travel bowl for you with a lid to prevent it all from spilling (what a mess that would be…) For a fast food chain, I wasn’t expecting too much but it was definitely good and I know I’ll be getting it again any time I see a NY Fries.
Wendy’s, Clifton Hill, ON; For the record, Clifton Hill is the tourist part of Niagara Falls, Ontario – and if I hop a 45 minute bus ride from Buffalo to the NY side of the Falls, I can walk over the Rainbow Bridge and be there shortly after. The area has a number of restaurants, including Pizza Pizza, which I initially wanted but found a bit expensive.
I was pleasantly surprised to find, however, that the Wendy’s up there sells poutine as part of their menu! It was pretty cheap and I got it as a side item; since it’s considered a ‘side’ it isn’t as big a serving as Jack Astor’s or NYF, but it’s also not as expensive. The fries are an essential part of poutine, and I really quite enjoy Wendy’s new sea-salt fries; the cheese curds were good (and plentiful!) and you can bet your bottom dollar that I ate it all right up. Sure, it may not be the highest quality poutine around, but if you’re tight on money and looking for a little something, don’t be afraid to try it.
Food Truck, Pittsburgh, PA; A friend and I went to Pittsburgh earlier in the summer to attend the NHL draft. The Saturday of that weekend, post-draft, we decided to walk around the Strip District; unfortunately, a lot of the stores were closed by then – but we happened across a beer garden/party in the Strip and decided to check it out. There, they had a food truck and – yes, you see where I’m going – MOST RANDOM PLACE TO GET POUTINE EVER?!? Okay, maybe not ever, but we definitely didn’t expect it and had to try it. It was good, slightly overpriced (but, well, it is a food truck) and definitely made me crave more. So hey – be on the look out, because poutine might pop up where you don’t expect it!
Smoke’s Poutinerie, Toronto, ON; I’ve actually had poutine from Smoke’s twice now. They’re a chain throughout Ontario/Quebec areas and have multiple locations – check the website for all of them. The first time I had their poutine, it was the version with vegetarian gravy at a Toronto Marlies game at Ricoh Coliseum. Can you say ‘yum?’ Now say it again because hoo boy, that’s good stuff. Be forewarned, it’s cash only so bring some if you want some. They’ve got homemade gravy and the website boosts ‘fresh Quebec cheese curds’ and lots of it!) and it’s certainly one of the best I’ve ever tasted. They offer the regular style poutine as well as a number of flavored ones, so give it a shot!
I’ve also visited a stand-alone location in Toronto, one that was about a 10 minute walk from the Rogers Centre, and it was equally delicious. (I proceeded to eat half of it on my way walking to the Jays game that day – they put it in a cute little cardboard container, pictured above this article, that you can close up if necessary to save some for later. Hah!)
Oh, and I’m visiting London, Ontario in a few weeks and there’s a Smoke’s a few blocks from my hotel…. any guesses as to where I’ll be going for dinner?!?!