Oh, poutine. Canada’s very own heart-attack-in-a-carton, poutine’s classic recipe calls for french fries covered in cheese curds (NOT regular cheese cubes, and certainly not cottage cheese), topped with beef gravy.
Messy? Yes. Delicious? Also yes. Healthy? Not so much.
But hey—with three food groups in one dish, how can it not be good?
Defying fainting dieticians everywhere, poutine is showing up in greasy spoons and fancy joints alike—often with a twist. Not satisfied to stick with tradition, Canuck kitchens across the country are inventing their own variations on the customary curds ’n’ gravy combination, creating dishes that resemble poutine more in the name than in the execution.
Read on to discover just some of Canada’s craziest poutine variations.
Smoke’s Poutinerie (available nationally, except in PEI and the territories)
Smoke’s is arguably the most wide-ranging poutine joint in the country, with good reason. Frequently located in areas with an active nightlife (think Toronto’s club district or Water Street in St. John’s), Smoke’s poutine is a perfectly greasy, salty after-party complement to an evening of dancing and—ahem—imbibing. While their classic poutine is definitely popular (and their fries are actually delicious on their own), Smoke’s offers some more off-the-wall combos, including the Montreal (smoked meat, yellow mustard and a kosher dill pickle) and the Rainbow (vegetarian poutine made with mushroom gravy, striped with guacamole, sriracha, sour cream and cheese sauce). Whatever the toppings, though, every carton of poutine incorporates fries, cheese curds and gravy. Tradition’s there—it’s just covered in other stuff.
Smoke’s Poutinerie updates a Canadian classic with another classic combo: pork and beans.
Towards the higher-priced end of the poutine spectrum, sit-down deli Poutineville offers “poutine reinvented,” allowing patrons to customize their plates of poutine with a raft of different choices. Popular combos, listed on the menu, include Le Tour de Chapeau (Hat Trick), which features a meaty triple-threat of ground beef, hot dogs and bacon atop traditional poutine, and Steak Filet Mignon, incorporating steak cubes, onions, mushrooms and blue cheese. Starting at seven before Canadiens games, Poutineville offers cheap drinks—the better to wash down your poutine-and-Pogo combo.
This patron creation at Poutineville features ground beef, cheddar cheese, and fried onions.
Poutine La Banquise (Montreal and Toronto)
Open 24 hours—because there’s never a bad time for poutine, although they do serve traditional breakfasts as well—La Banquise offer 28 fully different poutine combinations. Slightly off-the-wall ones include a sausage-fest called “La 3 Amigos” that includes cut-up hot dogs, pork and beef sausage, and the heavily spiced merguez sausage, and the slightly more minimalist L’Abreuvoir, which features a sliced-up Pogo atop traditional poutine.
Poutine La Banquise’s “La 3 Amigos”: cut-up hot dogs, pork, and beef atop the basics.
The Big Cheese Poutinerie (Calgary)
A better name for Big Cheese might be “Stuff to Pile on Poutine,” as their offerings aren’t so much toppings as they are complete meals, served on top of poutine. Particularly toothsome combos include Perogie Poutine (perogies, caramelized onions, bacon, and sour cream) and Mac and Cheese (exactly what you think it is). Nods to Canadian cuisine can be seen in toppings that include Donair-style beef, Montreal smoked meat and Alberta barbecued beef. Oh, and just in case you’re craving something sweet, there’s dessert poutine too: fries tossed in cinnamon and brown sugar and topped with cream cheese and caramel sauce.
Big Cheese’s Perogie Poutine features perogies, caramelized onions, bacon, and sour cream.
Spud’s, which calls itself a “Potato Bar and Poutinerie” (although, puzzlingly, there is no vodka on the menu) has a few locations in and around Ottawa. In a nod to true Canadian-ness, they offer a combo called The Sugar Shack, which features bacon, sausage and — you guessed it — maple syrup, all atop traditional poutine. If you’re craving something a little more exotic, try the Batatas Grande, where beef chili, corn, green onions, sour cream, guacamole, corn chips, and queso sauce give a Mexican kick to a French-Canadian classic.
One of Spud’s creations features poutine topping a baked potato.
We know there are more crazy combos out there—duck confit poutine, for example, and a truly bizarre dish from California’s Psycho Donuts called Donut Poutine (doughnuts, salted caramel sauce, Bavarian cream, and bacon bits). What are your favourites?