It was during a visit to Montreal some eight years ago that I first discovered the glory that is poutine. This French Canadian specialty is a heart-stopping, gut-busting treat that somehow manages to out-America American food, topping crispy French fries with mounds of fresh cheese curds and thick brown gravy. Delicious. Frightening. Genius.
The dish is so popular Up North that it’s even served at McDonald’s in Montreal. Now it’s quickly proliferating New York restaurant menus and appears set to become the next Bahn Mi/Fried Chicken/obsessive over-the-top comfort food trend. So I set out to explore every New York restaurant currently serving poutine. With a little (OK, a lot) of help from some friends, I’m delighted to share this exhaustive report, along with the news that my internal organs appear to still be intact…for now.
The first NYC shop to make poutine the focus of their menu, this Lower East Side newcomer sees Canada’s challenge and raises it, offering artery-clogging options like the steakhouse poutine (topped with caramelized onions, blue cheese and thinly sliced steak) and the morning glory poutine (applewood smoked bacon and sunnyside up egg). The gravy (which also comes in a veggie version) is nothing to write home about, but this party-area spot, which is BYOB and open til 5am on weekends, is more about the alcohol-soaking extras. You can ramp your poutines up even further with add-ons like Essex pickles and panko fried cheese curds. 168 Ludlow Street, $7.25 – $9.50
Update: T Poutine has sadly closed
After returning from an eye-opening holiday trip to Montreal, the owners of this Park Slope burger and sandwich shop have updated their menu with an astounding 13 varieties of poutine. The Americanized takes—pepperoni, mozzarella and marinara make up the “pizza poutine”—are in our opinion unnecessary, but Corner Burger hits a home run with the hearty classic versions, such as “poutine galvaude,” a popular Quebecois take that adds shredded chicken and peas to the standard dish, which features a delicious housemade chicken gravy. 381 5th Avenue, Brooklyn. $6 – $7.50
Extra Cheese Poutine: Dive Bar
This long-standing Upper West Side establishment has been serving poutine for years, and there’s nothing fancy or inventive about their take. (The bartender found it hilarious/adorable that I wanted to take a photo.) The possibly canned gravy is mediocre, but as you can see that’s not really the emphasis here. Dive Bar wins the most-cheese-curds-for-your-dollar award by a long shot, and gets extra props for the fact that the extra-crispy fries hold up well under all that weight. 732 Amsterdam Avenue, $8.