How hard can it be to make poutine? You take some fries, you add some cheese curds, you pile on some gravy, and bam—delicious Québécois snack and sure-fire hangover cure all in one. Well, if you try to order poutine at a fast-food place, you’ll soon learn how badly the dish can be mangled. Sometimes it’s so bad it’s good—and sometimes, it’s just inedible.
While we’d recommend buying your chips, gravy, and curds in la belle province, we understand that sometimes you just need a fix. For those kinds of emergencies we present you with our ranking of the country’s fast-food poutine from best to worst.
1. New York Fries
Despite its (confusing) name, New York Fries is a Canadian company based in Ontario. Another unexpected fact: New York Fries uses vegetable-based gravy, meaning their poutine isn’t exactly traditional (beef gravy is the purists’ choice) but because it’s vegetarian-friendly and still delicious, it gets our vote. Sturdy fries (with the peel left on), rich, “meaty” gravy, and generous cheese curds make this a good choice if you’re not in Québec. For something less traditional—or if you really want some meat—they’ve also got varieties like butter chicken, pulled pork, and bacon double cheese.
2. Smoke’s Poutinerie
Smoke’s signature waxed boxes form the basis of Sunday morning detritus in club districts across the country. Available in every province except PEI and in four states, Smoke’s has made its name with more than 30 varieties of poutine, including vegetarian versions and the “Hangover Poutine,” which consists of scrambled eggs, bacon, maple syrup, and hot sauce. The traditional recipe is pretty darn good, though, if you just want to keep things simple.
Harvey’s specializes in hamburgers, but their poutine is pretty good too. Because their fries are reasonably thick, they can stand up to a peppery, thick gravy, and a generous helping of cheese curds. According to some reviews, the fries are a little bland, so make sure they’re good and loaded up with toppings.
4. Burger King
Burger King is where it starts to become obvious that standard fast-food french fries aren’t well suited to a topping of gravy and cheese. While the flavour is OK, the fries—thin and reasonably crispy—just don’t have the density to hold up to a sea of oozy, cheese-curdy gravy. Sure, they stay crispy, but they get a little lost in all that other stuff. If there isn’t a better poutine place in sight, this is a reasonable option, but we’d shop around first.
5. Kentucky Fried Chicken
If you can get beyond its strangely thick, gloppy texture, this poutine actually tastes pretty good—though it isn’t quite traditional, since the gravy is most definitely chicken-flavoured. The fries tend to be a little soggy, but then the lifespan of crispy fries in poutine isn’t that long anyway.
The fries are thin and bland, and the gravy is the same—but the cheese is half decent, so this isn’t the worst poutine on the list. Generous curds that actually squeak lift this poutine up a bit—but really, there’s better stuff at Wendy’s (like chili and a Frosty) so don’t waste your time on this half-hearted dish.