Vancouver Weekend: We're Thinking....Poutine

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      Need something to do this weekend? Here are five spots where you can find a healthy heaping of poutine in celebration of Canada Day.

      Belgian Fries, 1885 Commercial Drive

      Belgium is known for Tin Tin, fruity beers, chocolate, and delicious waffles. But it is also—and rightly so—known for its fries. Thus a cultural mashup that blends Belgium's crispy national dish with Canada's penchant for cheese curds and oozing gravy is a match made in coronary-inducing heaven.

      Head to this vast Drive institution for a heaping, budget-friendly plate of double-fried frites doused with real chewy curds and dark, tasty gravy, best enjoyed at this time of year out on the patio, and washed down with an icy-cold Stella Artois for the full country-colliding experience. (Note there are veggie options too.) We like them straight up, but for a true Brussels-by-way-of-Quebec, gut-expanding delight, opt for the Montreal smoked-beef poutine, a meaty mountain of steaming goodness; you'll probably want to share the guilt on this one.

      Game for more ethnic flavours in the mix? Belgian Fries has gone crazy with its offerings lately, serving up everything from lamb merguez to butter chicken over its poutine. But hey, what is Canada if not a melting pot? At this place, anyway, there's more than enough fatty goodness to go around.


      Areta Wong/

      Fritz European Fry House, 718 Davie Street

      If you’ve ever found yourself dazed, drunk, and confused on Granville Street at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning, you’ve more than likely stumbled into Fritz European Fry House. The spot is decidedly no frills with a small takeout window and a single bench that seats no more than five diners at a time, but it does one thing—fries—and it does it damn well.

      The poutine, in particular, is what keeps weekend warriors streaming through Fritz well into the wee hours of Sunday. (Remember: calories don’t count if you don’t remember having them.) The ratio of fries to gravy to cheese is near perfect, with generous helpings of each and a deliciously peppery gravy that’s hot enough to melt every one of the cheese curds. Toppings range from pulled pork and Montreal smoked meat to marinated chicken and beef chili, though there are also vegan cheese and soy bacon options for the veggie-only crowd.

      Don’t skimp on the specialty dips, which really take the dish to the next level. Parmesan peppercorn and garlic wasabi are among the more out-there varieties, though we recommend the curry ketchup and the WAR sauce—a mix of peanut satay sauce, mayo, and raw onions—both of which are staples in Holland.


      La Belle Patate

      La Belle Patate, 1215 Davie Street

      This eatery at Davie and Bute knows how to put an international spin on old-fashioned poutine with the best of them, boasting no less than 38 varieties on its menu, from "Mexicana" to "Donair" models.

      But make no mistake: you're in a genuine outpost of La Belle Province here. If the Habs paraphernalia isn't enough of a clue, check out the traditional recipe (topped with "curds that always have that fresh squeak") or a poutine version of the "all dressed" combination (pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms) that has graced everything from pizza to potato chips since the days of the Montreal Forum. (God, we miss the Montreal Forum, we really do.)

      Don't forget the "Steamie" hot dogs and, of course, the towering smoked-meat sandwiches. And if you're ordering the latter, do your best to pair it with a cherry Coke—the old waiters at Schwartz's down on Saint-Laurent would insist!


      Mean Poutine

      Mean Poutine, 718 Nelson Street

      Is there any Canadian comfort dish that is better than a box of slightly soggy fries drizzled with gravy and topped with fresh cheese curds? That was really just a rhetorical question. Our country is proud of this iconic food item and rightly so—a messy mixture of potatoes, sauce, and dairy actually makes a flavourful combo.

      The Granville Street district’s Mean Poutine is one of Vancouver spot where you can get yourself this calorie-heavy but irresistible snack. Opened by B.C. Lions football player Sherko Haji-Rasouli, this family-run business serves up a variety of poutine combos. Some of its popular menu options include Philly Cheesesteak (certified Angus roast beef and sautéed mushrooms); Fried Chicken (buffalo chicken chunks); Southern BBQ (slow-roasted pulled pork, double smoked bacon, BBQ sauce, and ranch dressing). You can also opt to build your own poutine if none of the choices appeal to your tastes.

      So the next time you find yourself in the city’s nightclub neighbourhood on a Saturday night with a slight headache from maybe one drink too many, you can try to sober up with a hearty box of poutine.


      Smoke's Poutinerie

      Smoke's Poutinerie, 942 Granville Street

      Sure, it's part of an ever-expanding chain, but don't hold that against Smoke's Poutinerie. After all, when franchisor Ryan Smolkin started his business in 2008, his motivation was a noble one. As you'll see on the company's website, it goes something like this: "The goal of Smoke's Poutinerie is to bring the authentic Quebec classic to the rest of the World."

      The key word there is authentic, with Smoke's secret weapon a deliciously thick gravy the company developed to mimic the brown liquid gold found in Quebec. That's ladled upon hand-cut fries made from high-grade yellow-fleshed potatoes and ping-pong-ball sized clumps of cheese curds. Being traditionalists when it comes to the best Canadian export this side of hockey, maple syrup, and Chad Kroeger, we tend to go the classic route with poutine.

      But for those of the opinion that there's no such thing as too much, options such as the Chili Cheesesteak Poutine and the Nacho Grande Poutine come with toppings like chicken, steak, bacon, and jalapeños. Finally, who cares if Smoke's is a franchise—pretend you're in Quebec by finishing your meal off with a deliciously unfiltered Belvedere cigarette.

      Running every Thursday, Vancouver Weekend spotlights five Straight-approved places around the city worth discovering.