Chicago, it’s time to meet and eat poutine

The other night, while out with friends, the conversation unexpectedly veered to poutine. And, it was all my fault.

I was with friends who originally hail from Canada. For some reason, I felt compelled to ask them about something I keep hearing about here in our fair city: poutine.

Credit: Poutine Fest

Credit: Poutine Fest

Do you know what poutine is? Or, better yet, have you tried it yet?

Poutine originated in Quebec, Canada. It consists of three main ingredients: French fries, rich gravy and cheese curds.

According to Wikipedia, you can typically find poutine in small, greasy spoon-type diners, which are known as cantines or casse-croûtes in Quebec. In Canada, you also can find poutine at pubs and roadside “fry wagons” known as cabanes à patates (potato shacks).

Given its rich, delectable contents, it’s no surprise that poutine is making waves south of the border in the US – and right here in Chicago.

In February 2014, Haymarket Pub & Brewery (737 W. Randolph St.) played host to Poutine Fest 2014, a two-year-old annual festival that pits Chicago restauranteurs against each other in a battle to make the best poutine. The prize at stake? The title of “King of Poutine.”

Poutine Fest featured 10 contestants, including The Gage, Troquet, Le Bouchon, Atlas Brewing Company, The Big Cheese Poutinerie, and the event host – Haymarket Pub & Brewery.

Breakfast Poutine from The Gage (Credit: The Gage)

Breakfast Poutine from The Gage (Credit: The Gage)

The Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave.) took top honors this year – the second time it’s received the poutine "crown" since the fest began in 2013. The restaurant won for its duck confit poutine with picked red onion, cheese curds, jalapenos and smoke box gravy.

Second place went to The Big Cheese Poutinerie (3401 N. Clark St.), which just opened its doors in Wrigleyville on Friday, April 4. The Canadian-based chain features what you’d expect – poutine. In fact, you can choose from 30 types of poutine, segmented into the categories of traditional, vegetarian, chicken, pork, and build your own.

Credit: The Big Cheese Poutinerie

Credit: The Big Cheese Poutinerie

The Chicago restaurant is the first American location for the chain.

These days, The Big Cheese Poutinerie is the only restaurant in Chicago to pay homage solely to poutine. The Bad-Happy closed the doors of its Chicago location in early January. But, according to its website, there may be hope of it reopening at another poutine-rich location some day.

You can find poutine at other restaurants throughout Chicago, too. In fact, just last month, Zagat’s published a list of the 12 best poutines in Chicago.

But, keep your eyes open – poutine may pop up where you least expect it.

Just the other night, I saw it on the menu at John’s Place (1200 W. Webster Ave.) in Lincoln Park. The restaurant serves up a NOLA poutine, with cheese curds, Andouille gravy, green onions and hand-cut fries.

Who knows where poutine will end up next? No matter where you find it, get ready to say hi and dig right in.

Are you already a poutine fan? Where have you sampled it? If you’re new to poutine, are you ready to join the legions of Chicagoans digging into the Canadian dish? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Filed under: Food and Restaurants

Tags: poutine

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