All About Poutine: Everything You Need To Know About The Quebec Classic
It's more than just a late-night bite.
At the world's end, when nothing remains but dust and rubble, when the land lies grey and fallow and the birds don't dare to sing, what will become of Quebec's legacy? What will we remember of the province that once stood so tall? Poutine, duh.
Here's everything you need to know about poutine, the classic québécois comfort food dish — what it is, where it comes from and where to get it (and not get it).
What is poutine?
It's a typically savoury meal born and bred in Quebec, with roots in simple comfort food that's easy to access and even easier to shovel down your throat. Oh, and it's pronounced "poo-TZIN" in Quebec, even though most people elsewhere say "poo-TEEN," the pronunciation for which is way easier to write.
All cheesy curds and crispy fries and hot gravy, this dish is perhaps the crown jewel among Quebec's treasures, like snow and ice and Anglo suffering. Poutine stands above the rest: restorative after a night out or a bad exam, delicious on a cold winter's day and satisfying like the knowledge that your city is cooler than all the others.
When was poutine invented?
Allegedly invented in Quebec in the 1950's, poutine has remained a popular mainstay ever since. You can get it literally almost anywhere in the province (but maybe don't actually try to eat 50 in seven days) and in many places in the rest of Canada — and even beyond Canada's reach, for better or for worse (it's pretty grim in Toronto).
Montreal is particularly known for extravagantly large poutines, wildly expensive poutines and some of the weirdest poutines in the country. From breakfast to dessert, there exists a poutine to fulfill your wildest comfort-food fantasies.
What are the main ingredients of poutine?
The traditional poutine consists of fresh fries, hot brown gravy and squeaky-to-melty cheese curds on top. But Montreal has near-infinite variations on that theme, some so far from the original that it's hard to tell what they're even supposed to be. There's a fine line between an avant-garde poutine and a hot mess, but when weird poutine works, it definitely works (here are eight of the weirdest in Montreal).
Is poutine vegetarian?
It depends on who you ask and what you're eating. Anecdotally, many Montreal vegetarians and vegans will choose to ignore the meaty implications of brown poutine gravy, preferring the delicious experience of eating poutine to the pitiful meatless options available at most poutineries. Some places opt for a vegetarian or (rarely) vegan gravy, so if you're wary of animal or animal byproducts, it's worth asking what's in your restaurant of choice's brown elixir. Bonus points if you ask in French!
What qualifies as a poutine?
More creative poutines will play with the formula, but at its most basic, any poutine needs a potato base, a sauce or gravy of some kind and a cheesy or dairy element. Breakfast poutines might swap traditional fries for hash browns or home fries, or trade gravy for Hollandaise (it's delicious, I promise).
Many places add additional toppings to the classic poutine base, like smoked meat and pickles or guac and tomatoes. Other restaurants fuse poutine with popular dishes like butter chicken, General Tao chicken or even tteokbokki at popular Korean restaurant Ganadara. There are even sweet dessert poutines to be found on the island with nary a potato in sight.
It's up to you to decide whether these outliers actually are poutines. Most of the time, they're too delicious to be worth arguing about.
What's the best poutine in Montreal?
- La Banquise
- Address: 994, rue Rachel E.
- Why You Should Go: This tourist haven is known for putting all manner of toppings on their piled-high poutines.
- Address: 3041, rue Notre-Dame O.
- Why You Should Go: A classic smoked meat and burger joint, the poutine served here is standard but never lackluster.
- Décarie Hot Dog
- Address: 953, boulevard Décarie
- Why You Should Go: This family-owned fast food joint serves a classic poutine you just can't beat
- Montreal Pool Room
- Address: 1217, boulevard Saint-Laurent
- Why You Should Go: A century-old classic, this downtown spot offers a traditional poutine experience.
- Patati Patata
- Address: 4177, boulevard Saint-Laurent
- Why You Should Go: Especially if you enjoy olives, this tiny Plateau diner's thin fries and tasty gravy are sure to win you over.
- Chez Ma Tante
- Maam Bolduc
- Chez Tousignant
- Address: 6956, rue Drolet
- Why You Should Go: This spot is a hipster take on the standard Quebec casse-croute, with burgers as well as a true Quebecois poutine.
What are the most notorious poutine spots in Montreal?
According to Google search data, these nine poutineries are the most talked-about in town. The list includes some local favourites we've already recommended, but it's worth noting these new additions:
- Ma Poule Mouillée
- Address: 969, rue Rachel E., Montreal, QC
- Why You Should Go: "My friend recommended this place to me and said this was the best poutine he’s ever had. So I figured I’d try it out, and man, am I impressed," said a Google reviewer.
- Poutineville Ontario
- Address: 1365, rue Ontario E., Montreal, QC
- Why You Should Go: "Always love coming here for some great flavors. You can make-your-own poutine here and play around with different gravies, variety of the cut of the potatoes and the restaurant offers an assortment of toppings and cheese options," a customer wrote on Google.
- Address: 2497, chem. de Chambly, Longueuil, QC
- Why You Should Go: "Really good poutine with a lot of cheese and a fast service and good price," wrote a reviewer.
- Montréal poutine
- Address: 181, rue Saint-Paul E., Montreal, QC
- Why You Should Go: "One of the best poutines I’ve ever had. We did take-out and had the fried chicken poutine and the Montreal poutine, both were excellent," someone commented on Google.
- Restaurant Rest-Poutine
- Address: 554, boul. du Curé-Labelle, Blainville, QC
- Why You Should Go: "Cramped and cash-only... but the poutine is one of the best I've ever had," a Google review reads.
- Restaurant Paulo & Suzanne
- Address: 5501, boul. Gouin O., Montreal, QC
- Why You Should Go: "We ordered a traditional poutine and popcorn chicken poutine. The gravy was good and not too salty, the popcorn chicken was still crispy and the squeaky cheese was perfect," one customer stated in their Google review.
- Restaurant Chez Claudette
- Address: 351, ave. Laurier E., Montreal, QC
- Why You Should Go: "I've got to say, we absolutely loved the gravy and the cheese curds in this poutine. We ordered the Elvis and the Smoked meat poutine for a party of two and almost finished everything despite the relatively large portion sizes," a reviewer wrote.
- Restaurant Grégoire & fils
- Address: 975, boul. Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Mercier, QC
- Why You Should Go: "Delicious smoked meat sandwich and the poutine was awesome! Very friendly staff, and lightning fast service," said one satisfied reviewer.
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