Category Archives: poutine

Review: McDonald’s poutine a real mama bear

mcpoutineIt’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any new fast-food offerings, but truth be told, there hasn’t been much of late that caught my eye. Until now. Behold: McPoutine.

That’s not what McDonald’s is calling it – it’s just poutine – but the chain is finally getting with the times here in Canada by making the uber-popular dish a permanent menu item. It’s nearly impossible now to go into a food establishment in this country without having it as an option (is Tim Hortons next?). That’s good news for all of us poutine aficionados (links to PDF), or poutinados, as it were.

Upon hearing the news, I headed straight to the nearest Golden Arches to see how McD’s take on the Quebec staple stands up. After all, McDonald’s legendary fries meets the fundamental awesomeness of gravy and cheese curds – what could go wrong, right? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on December 5, 2013 in food, mcdonald's, poutine


Yes, Poutine Soda really is that disgusting

poutine-sodaIf there’s one thing I love more than anything else on the planet, it’s got to be poutine. French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds – is there anything that is worse for you, but also so damn good at the same time? Its unhealthiness actually makes it even more appealing. It’s like the secret ingredient, along with the main three, is danger, as in what you’re putting your heart into every time you eat it.

It was probably only a matter of time, then, before someone tried to take all that dangerous goodness and put it into liquid form. Score one for Seattle-based Jones Soda, which has done precisely that.

Poutine Soda is the company’s newest concoction, meant to celebrate its Canadian roots and to boost its profile in its native land. I came by a couple of bottles over the weekend and gave it a try. So what’s the verdict? Oh yes, it is absolutely horrible. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 7, 2013 in poutine


NYF’s pulled pork poutine: happiness in a bowl

New York Fries’ new pulled pork poutine: in the running for my favourite.

It’s the Canada Day weekend and I can’t think of any better way of celebrating than with some poutine. In that vein, it sounds like a good time for yet another one of my poutine reviews.

Regular readers know that New York Fries’ basic poutine is my favourite. While there are plenty of independent restaurants that do great poutine (La Banquise in Montreal comes to mind), NYF generally wins out for me overall because of a number of factors: there’s usually an outlet nearby, the cost is good and it’s fast. The quality, while perhaps not as good as a restaurant, is also considerably above the other fast-food chains.

New York Fries, which is Canadian if you didn’t know, has been serving regular poutine since 1989, but over the past few years the chain has been adding different varieties to match the growth of upstart Smoke’s. The recently introduced pulled-pork joins the plain basic kind, as well as the braised beef and curried chicken poutines, on the list. Founder Jay Gould also considers the “Works” and “Veggie Works” fries among his poutine offerings, but if it doesn’t have cheese curds, I can’t in good faith include them.

All told, that means the chain now has four proper kinds of poutine, a drop in the bucket compared to Smoke’s 20-plus. When I interviewed him a while back for my Report on Business feature (links to PDF file), Gould said the thinner selection was a conscious decision – that concentrating on just a few kinds would inevitably allow him to offer them at a higher quality.

It turns out he was right. While I’m not a big fan of the braised beef poutine and only lukewarm on the curried chicken, the pulled-pork is clearly the best of the bunch. And I’m not a big pork fan.

Pulled-pork poutine happens to be Smoke’s biggest seller, which is why New York Fries has added it. I’ve found Smoke’s version, however, to be a little too sweet and there’s generally too much of the pork, which overpowers the fries themselves.

New York Fries’ version, on the other hand, is just perfect. The pulled-pork comes in a tomato-like sauce, which looks like it’s going to be either too sweet or too tart, but it actually turns out to be neither. It’s a little sweet but rather subdued and there’s also a smokey tang to it, so it tastes more down-home barbecuey.

The amount of pork is also just right; not too little so that you feel like they’re skimping, but not so much that you get sick of it, which has unfortunately been my experience with Smoke’s version. And finally, I just prefer NYF’s actual fries – they’re crisper and tastier.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Smoke’s too. My favourites there are the regular Veggie (the gravy seems to taste better than the beef version) and, if I’m exceptionally hungry, the Nacho Grande. But I’m now going to have a tough decision to make when frequenting New York Fries: do I go with the traditional or the pulled-pork?

Have a great Canada Day weekend! I’ll be back here on Tuesday.

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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in new york fries, poutine


Road testing Wendy’s poutine

As a self-proclaimed poutine maven, I’m a little ashamed that it took me so long to try Wendy’s offering. I’m always keen to try the fast-food giants’ efforts to see if they match up with the really good stuff served up at smaller restaurants, so what took me so long? I dunno – maybe it’s just been too warm out to eat poutine? Yeah, right. Like it’s ever too warm for that.

Anyhow… first, the good. I’m pleased to report that Wendy’s poutine is entirely edible. That may sound like faint praise, but it is a compliment compared to what some of the other chains are selling.

The biggest challenge with producing mass quantities of poutine is avoiding making it too salty, while the danger on the flip side is blandness. Wendy’s poutine comfortably straddles the middle – it’s neither too salty, nor flavourless. The gravy is beefy-ish and gives it a solid earthy taste.

That said, it’s probably the most remarkable of the three ingredients, with both the fries and cheese curds decidedly middle of the road. The chain made a big deal a little while back about going “natural” with its fries – they have potato skin and sea salt on them now – but honestly, I haven’t been able to tell much of a difference, they’re still meh. The curds, meanwhile, are perhaps the least important ingredient. I’m sure some gourmets would disagree, but as long as they’re not hard and stale it’s hard to tell one batch from another.

The downside of Wendy’s poutine is the serving size and price. The chain is selling it as a $3.99 side dish, which is a bit steep for the amount you get. It’s certainly not big enough to act as a standalone meal, unlike what you can get at New York Fries or Smoke’s for about $2 more. Indeed, the basic poutine at both those chains is better in terms of value and taste.

As such, I wouldn’t make Wendy’s restaurants a destination for poutine, despite the company’s attempt to install it as Canada’s national dish through a “poutition,” but it’s certainly not something that should be avoided if you do find yourself in one.


Posted by on May 23, 2012 in new york fries, poutine, wendy's


Poutine Wars, the extended remix

I promised last week to post some additional material from my “Poutine Wars” story in the current issue of Report on Small Business magazine (a PDF of that story can be accessed here, on page 24). Some of the international angle ended up on the cutting room floor. So, with no further ado, here’s a little bit on poutine’s growth in unexpected places, such as Thailand and Germany, from the original draft:

Poutine's debut in Munich.

Andrew Clark likes to hold court with friends and guests on the rooftop patio of Q Bar. His establishment is one of the more posh hangouts in Bangkok’s trendy Sukhumvit district. With $10 martinis and a host of expensive imported vodkas, only well-to-do Thais, expatriates and visiting foreigners can afford to regularly frequent the place.

Clark, who was born in Montreal and raised in Victoria, moved to Bangkok in 1989 and started an ad agency. The business was successful, which gave him the means to open the high-end bar in 1999. Since then, the Sukhumvit area has come up around him, transforming itself into the city’s nightlife hub.

He speaks in a strange accented English, the sort of unplaceable dialect that belongs only to people who have spent a good portion of their life away from their native land. Still, Clark says he’s steadfastly Canadian. When I visited him last year, he had just conducted a successful experiment in patriotism – he had fed some of his Thai customers poutine.

“When we mentioned it to them, they said, ‘What, Vladimir Putin?’ Or poontang? Then when you explained it, they still said, ‘Ewww, that sounds like a heart attack,’” he says with a laugh.

But, like any self-respecting Canadian, the Thai customers uniformly loved it. Not only has Q Bar since added it as a full-time menu item, Clark’s wife Punchanit also recently opened a café called Munchies in the eastern suburbs of Bangkok that specializes in snack food, particularly poutine.

The future of poutine is promising in Thailand, he says, because the people are now comfortable with Western fast food, yet they still maintain their adventurous palates.

“It’s ultimately easier to convince the Thais than anyone because they eat anything,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in poutine


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