So we decided to check out Toronto’s new dedicated poutine restaurant, Smoke’s Poutinerie.
First off, this joint is popular. This is my second time going, or rather trying to go – the first time I went with a couple friends, we turned away empty handed due to the lack of seating and wheelchair accessibility. It’s got seats, it’s just that they were all full, and they were this time, too. But it was a lunch expedition, and we just took our gut-busting lard-based treats back to work and ate them there.
This is a quality poutine, no question. The fries are excellent, the gravy a nice, mild chickeny sort, and the curds authentic. The proportions – a crucial equation that has destroyed many a lesser poutine – are perfect. You can select from a number of variations, including the usual Italian and smoked meat varieties; I went with the meat-crazed “Hogtown” (bacon, sausage, onion and mushroom – while most everything in this life can be improved by adding bacon, just this once I do regret not going with a plain one to get a clearer taste of the essentials).
It’s $7 for a plain-vanilla poutine, and variations run to $8 or $9. Your cholesterol bomb comes nicely packaged in a brown cardboard box. I won’t say this is the greatest poutine I’ve had – this is it here – but it’s definitely good shit (as one would expect from a place that makes nothing but poutine).
Here’s the problem, though. Poutine is a terrible take-out food. Mere moments after the gravy hits the fries, it is waging a guerilla campaign against crispiness, and perhaps 15 minutes later, you are in a quagmire of mush. We had only a five minute walk before we could sit down and start destroying our arteries, and already the integrity of our poutines had been compromised by the inexorable pairing of time and gravy. The reasonable response to this is to get the gravy on the side, something Smoke and the gang should strongly consider. If you visit Smoke’s and it’s rammed to the gills and you cannot immediately pounce upon your Quebecois prey, ask for it that way.
During the gorging session, and before the gravy coma hit, it came up that the word on the street is that the best poutine in Toronto – nay, all of Canada! – is from one of the chip trucks out front of City Hall. Gentle readers, an expedition is assured, but it may wait until fairer weather enables on-the-spot feasting. And so until then, this poutine reporter must sign off.