Category Archives: new york fries

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


Fast food joints looking to escape the ghetto

QSR magazine, the Time or Newsweek of the fast-food industry, recently released its top 100 news stories of the year. Most were ho-hum, but one that struck me was #4: “Wendy’s Tests New Prototype.” As the entry goes:

After hearing feedback from customers that its brand was tired and dated, Wendy’s unveiled a new store prototype in Columbus, Ohio, that allows diners to see the fresh preparation of food and offers more comfortable dining areas for customers to lounge in. The new store is one of four the company is launching. The new prototype in Columbus includes a WiFi lounge area, a new premium coffee program, updated interiors, and an exterior design inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.

No kidding. Given that I sometimes write about fast food, I do on occasion pop into such establishments - for research, of course - and I haven’t been able to help but notice that many of them are, simply put, ghetto dumps. With looks that haven’t changed in 20 to 30 years and the onset of grimy decay, a lot of fast-food joints look like what many people say they are: decidedly low class.

The smarter chains know this and are taking action. McDonalds, the industry king, recently announced it was spending $1 billion on renovations in Canada - and it shows. Say what you will about the food, but most recently renovated McDonalds restaurants feel very different than their competitors. You don’t feel dirty just by sitting in one.

The other night, I was at a Christmas party for media hosted by new wireless operator Mobilicity. The man behind the cellphone company is John Bitove, who also runs a number of other businesses including a whack of KFC and Taco Bell franchises. I remembered reading something a while back about how his company Priszm was looking to unload the franchises because the parent company, Yum Brands, wanted expensive renovations. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on December 15, 2011 in food, kfc, mcdonald's, new york fries, taco bell, tim hortons


New York Fries is utterly Canadian

The things I learn thanks to my strange and semi-professionally-based fascination with fast food. I was in a mall in suburban Toronto yesterday wolfing down some grub at the food court when I glanced up to see a New York Fries outlet. It wasn’t just a normal New York Fries though - it was a New York Fries “poutinerie.” On the menu, along with the regular fries, regular poutine and The Works, were two new kinds of poutine: braised beef and butter chicken.

Wha?!?! Why had I not heard of this? And what was this all about? I already had tacos, but otherwise I most certainly would have tried one of the new creations, since poutine is one of my true loves. I did take it upon myself to get to the bottom of the situation.

It turns out the chain started testing the “poutinerie” concept in the summer and it’s now in the process of rolling it out across all outlets. The braised beef poutine, by the way, sounds awesome. As the press release describes it, it’s “slow-cooked Angus beef, carrots, onions and mushrooms in a red wine sauce.” Mmmm… cheese, beef and gravy…

But that wasn’t the interesting part. One of my first thoughts was, “I wonder if they’re rolling this out in the U.S.?” After all, poutine is a pretty Canadian thing. By and large, it’s not something that Americans really understand (and love yet). That’s okay, give them time. It took them a while with donuts but they got there.

So I called the company’s media folks here in Canada and they dropped a shocker on me: there is no New York Fries in the United States. Nope. It is in fact, an all-Canadian company. There are outlets in every province and a few in other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, South Korea and Hong Kong, but none in the U.S. That seemed really counter-intuitive. After all, I asked, what’s with the name?

The story is that founder Jay Gould and his brother Hal, both from Brantford, Ont. (birthplace of Wayne Gretzky), took a trip down down to the South Street Seaport in New York City after hearing that the best fries around were found at a little stand there. They liked the fries and bought the stand, and the business was born. New York Fries has, of course, been very successful is seemingly everywhere, with more than 200 locations. The company has also recently started expanding by starting up South Street Burger Co., its own burger chain subsidiary.

I find this kind of amazing because when you combine New York Fries with Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet and Tim Horton’s, a larger picture emerges: Canadians do very well in fast food. Anyone who thinks Canadians can’t compete with Americans only needs to look at this sector to be proven wrong.

There are still some interesting questions to be answered about all of this and I’m hoping to have lunch with Jay soon (I imagine we’ll have fries). More on this soon.

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Posted by on December 2, 2010 in food, new york fries


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