It was a couple of years ago that I first discovered poutine. I made what some deem the epitome of French-Canadian junk food one evening for dinner along with some croque monsieur sandwiches. When I planned my trip to Montreal last month I knew that one (if not more) dining experience would involve this iconic dish.
For anyone not familiar, poutine is a medley of warm fries, topped with fresh cheese curds, then smothered with gravy. While it’s no rare culinary find or delicacy, it is popular comfort food for the working classes. Although the dish is beloved throughout Canada (and with variations of it in other parts of the world), it was in the province of Quebec where poutine first came about back in the 1950s.
Before we left I did some research on where to find the best place in Montreal for poutine. The name I came across time and time again was La Banquise, a 24/7 poutine establishment in a neighborhood that was not at all tourist oriented. But in my travels the eateries that the locals love are usually the ones that truly do serve the best “something.” So even though there were countless tourist venues I would have liked to have seen in Vieux Montreal, I had my heart set on La Banquise, especially when I heard that snobby chef and restauranteur Anthony Bourdain deemed it to be the place with the best poutine too. And even though it took a bus ride to get to (I tend to avoid public buses when in foreign cities where I don’t speak the language since buses will not make every stop like a metro does and you need to know where you’re going down to a T), it was worth it.
La Banquise serves 25 different kinds of poutine ranging from L’Italienne (tomato meat sauce), La Mexicaine (hot peppers, tomatoes, and black olives), to L’Obelix (smoked meat) which is what D and I split a large portion of. Poutines are available in small (more individual style) and large, ranging in prices from $6.50 for the small portion of the classic version to $13.35 for a large portion of the smoked meat.
As we had reservations at an upscale restaurant our first night there, I didn’t want to eat too large of a mid-day meal lest we ruin the fancy restaurant experience by not being hungry. When I saw a poutine place mentioned on numerous travel related websites in Vieux Montreal, I thought it was worth trying out. Montreal Poutine is located on Rue Saint Paul Est and offers an assortment of poutines and other dishes. Some of the websites I saw labeled it a tourist trap, but honestly, it was a cut above “hole in the wall” that served up a pretty simple dish to make. To me where eating is concerned tourist trap labels should be given more to places with a wide selection of items on their menus yet everything comes out tasting mediocre. We split an order of the bacon poutine. I’m not joking when I say the amount of bacon would have brought sheer joy to any meat lover. D ordered a Canadian beer to drink, whereas I was met with a rebuttal when I asked for a glass of tap water. I was worried that this was going to be the case for all of Montreal dining, but thankfully it was this one place with its ridiculous, “no, we’re not going to fill a glass of water for you, we want to gouge you instead by making you buy bottled water.” Other than that one annoying oddity, it was a decent place for poutine, especially when your hotel is only a couple of blocks away.
While one has countless dining options when in Montreal, you must make time for poutine. You simply must.
Montreal, Canada-a sneak peek
Montreal’s Atwater Market
Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica
Vieux Montreal-a photo essay
Hotel Nelligan-a review
Montreal’s Mount Royal Park