Poutine is Quebec’s most famous fast-food dish. It has a simple ingredient list; french fries, cheese and gravy. The dreamy concoction originated sometime in the 1950’s, and several Quebec communities all argue that they are responsible for its creation. There is a popular tale that originates from a restaurant owner named Fernand Lachance, who apparently was asked by a trucker to put cheese curds with fries after seeing them lying on the table. Legend has it that Lachance replied “ça va faire une maudite poutine” (it will make a damn mess), and sometime shortly after this, the poutine was born. It would eventually make its way from fast food chains to gourmet restaurants, and is now considered an important part of Quebec’s unique cultural identity. Over the years, innovation has met with poutine; restaurants now serve them with smoked meat, ground beef, pees, fois gras, you name it. As fancy as that sounds, there is still nothing like a traditional poutine.
After eating a really light breakfast and a enduring a full morning of snowboarding, I became ravenous. I found myself craving something hearty and non-nutritious. Because poutine has become ubiquitous in Montreal’s restaurants, you really need to know where to enjoy one because a lot of them are dreadful. As well, you don’t want to double your daily caloric intake for nothing so you have to be selective.
After typing “best poutine in Montreal” in Google’s search engine and searching through the results, I noticed that there are a few places that are repeatedly being listed as the city’s best. I get skeptical when I see this, so I had to see for myself. I called my girlfriend and best friend and got them on board to help me find the best poutine in Montreal.
The first place that we tried was Maamm Bolduc (4351 Avenue de Lorimier). I kept hearing good things about their Bourguignonne poutine, which is made with ground beef, mushrooms, onions and garlic, and topped off by a chocolate brown sauce which smothers a mountain of dark brown fried potatoes. We ordered that, along with the traditional.
The Bourguignonne was really good. I love that they make the gravy with red wine. Many dreamy Bolognese sauces are made with red wine and I guess this gave Boduc the idea of using it in their poutine’s gravy which really enhanced the sauce. After a few bites you might be full but extremely content. I never had mushrooms, onions or red meat in a poutine so this was really new to me and exciting. The only thing that was missing was a bit more sauce.
The traditional poutine was out of this world and I preferred it over the Bourguignonne. The sauce tasted like it was cooking for hours. It was the tastiest sauce I ever had on a poutine. The fries are dark brown fries with the peel left on them, my favorite. They were cooked perfectly and had so much taste. The cheese curds were fresh and soft, they had a perfect texture and complimented each bite. I found myself dipping the Bourguignonne in the traditional’s sauce and it tasted better. I was really surprised that the poutine at Bolduc was so good. It would be quite hard to top this.
The next place we tried is Frite Alors (1562, Laurier Ave. East), a Belgian style chain that offers golden crisp fries in a $7 poutine.
The fries are good, they’re very crispy and tasted like they were deep fried in peanut oil but they’re too crunchy to put in a poutine so I felt like they didn’t go well inside. The sauce had very little flavor. The curds were large which is always nice, but they failed with their flavor as well. Thinking this bombed, we closed the lid and put it away. Interestingly enough, I revisited it 2 hours later and it was a lot better. It now had a great taste and the fries were soggy and soft and I actually thought it was excellent. While I was pleasantly surprised with my discovery, a poutine shouldn’t only be good 2-3 hours later so this was a bomb.
Next up was Patati Patata, (4177, boul Saint-Laurent). I heard that this trendy bright and colorful place does a mean poutine with their thin cut fries that were described as heavenly. The only thing that was mean about it was finding an olive inside (I hate olives!). Their poutine was awful. The gravy had a sourness that overpowered the taste of the fries and the cheese curds tasted like they were overly humidified and sat around for a month. The fries were also nothing special. It was a distinct taste I would not come back for, so I have no idea why people say they like this poutine so much. I’m sure you may think it looks good in this picture, but trust me on this one.
Then there’s Le Banquise, which is open 24 hours and also listed as having the best poutine in Montreal from several respectable sources. Known as the go to place in the plateau after hours, this small restaurant usually has a crowd of people waiting in line day and night.
While they definitely don’t have the greatest dish in Montreal, they do have the biggest variety with nearly 30 different types of poutine. Olives, bacon, smoked sausage, peppers and smoked meat are among the many different ingredients that they offer as choices.
I liked that they go heavy on the sauce, which had a nice smoky flavor. The curds and fries were fresh and tasty but I feel it was nothing more than decent. Perhaps I had been spoiled by Maamm Bolduc. It just wasn’t what I expected. It was definitely a good poutine, just not great.
Then there’s L’anecdote (801 Rachel E. Montreal) whom I heard makes a killer poutine with Emmental cheese, which is normally used in gratins and fondues. I had to try it myself.
It failed miserably. The melted Emmental dominated every bite which was neither piquant nor visually appealing. Emmental simply doesn’t belong in a poutine; it took too much chewing to properly swallow all that melted stringy cheese and on top of it all the smell was nauseating.
We were starting to lose hope. It was almost as if each poutine had gotten progressively worse. It was time to head back to the roots and aim our hunt towards the poutine’s origins, as the place where it all started could quite possibly be the winner. After a bit of research, a lot of information pointed me to Roy Le Jucep (1050, boul Saint-Joseph) who is listed as the originator of the poutine. After all, it was in Drummondville! To finish off the hunt, we took the 1.5 hour drive.
This was hands down the worst poutine of the entire endeavor. The curds were so rubbery, to the point where they made a very loud squeaky sound when I bit into them. The fries were bland, and the gravy tasted similar to the sauce in Alphaghetti; it had a slight taste of a sweet/sour salty tomato to it. Maybe like wine, poutine gets better with age?
And so the winner is….. MAAMM BOLDUC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Incontrovertible.
JarredReviews is my personal weblog. The opinions and experiences represent my own. If you read that I didn’t particularly enjoy a meal or restaurant, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it and see for yourself. Restaurants can have an off day, people make mistakes, we’re all human. My writing is mainly so that you can find out about great restaurants that you may have not heard about, and also to give you an idea of what I enjoyed that you can experience for yourself. Food reviewing is very subjective and you must take this into account and use your discretion when reading any review; If I have had a bad experience somewhere, do not let that stop you to try the restaurant for yourself.