Is any other food as ultimately Canadian as the humble poutine? A dish consisting of fries, gravy and cheddar cheese curds, and with origins dating back to 1950s Quebec, this once lowbrow food has come West in incarnations that are nothing short of gourmet. Authentic poutine relies on cheese curds, the squeakier the better. Add some duck confit, Alberta beef or Montreal smoked meat, and you’ve got both a meal and a compelling reason to renew that gym membership.
The Big Cheese
Calgary’s first official poutinerie offers over 20 variations, while custom-built options increase the possibilities exponentially. The Big Cheese’s Notorious P.I.G features Carolina pulled pork, double-smoked bacon and Italian sausage, while the apropos Cowtown boasts BBQ beef and caramelized onions. Lest you think meat dominates, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available. Also worth noting is the availability of blue cheese, yam fries, giant pickles — and enviable location on 17th Avenue, a.k.a., The Red Mile.
Alberta King of Subs (pictured)
With an owner from Montreal and the word “king” in the name, expectations are apt to be high. Luckily, Alberta King of Subs’ huge poutines meet expectations. Options include the classic, smoked meat, hot dog, pepperoni or chicken poutines. Best surprise perhaps, is the fact that they sell spruce beer, too. Although this no-frills restaurant is located in a residential area in Calgary’s N.E., it’s a drive worth making.
The new French bistro on the block, thanks to the owners of Kensington Wine Bar, The Brasserie’s high windows face onto the street of Calgary’s best neighbourhood. While enjoying a glass of wine, you can go plebeian with the pork hock poutine, or decadent with the foie gras version; both are smothered in duck gravy.
Located in Calgary’s historic Stanley House, the charming Laurier Lounge is perhaps best known for fondues and its Warren Buffet burger, named after the billionaire philanthropist who enjoyed a hambourgeois there. Perfect for a place that calls itself the “restaurant with a French accent,” the Laurier Lounge’s gourmet poutines — like pulled duck confit with cranberries and thyme — are a welcome accompaniment to an overwhelming wine menu, Quebec beers and cosy conversation.
La Belle Patate
Squeaky cheese curds alert! La Belle Patate’s actually in Canmore, but is definitely worth the 45-minute scenic drive for its 15 French poutines. There’s the Galvaude poutine, topped with chicken and peas. Or the Ian poutine, with sautéed onion, mushroom, bacon and cubes of Montreal smoked meat. A visit to La Belle Patate offers the added bonus of downing a milkshake with your meal, while taking in that crisp mountain air.
Image courtesy of are you gonna eat that.