Last Friday I joined seven friends at Smoke’s Poutinerie for an outing of our restaurant club. The menu is simple and straight to the point: They take poutine–the quebecois combination of fries, fresh cheese curds, and gravy–and add a variety of themed toppings.
I had the Hog Town Poutine ($8.95) which features sausage, bacon, mushrooms, and sauteed onions on top of the usual poutine. It was pretty close to perfectly executed. The fries are (apparently freshly cut on a daily basis from Yukon Gold potatoes) just the way I like them; crispy but slightly soggy just like KFC’s and Swiss Chalet’s fries were twenty years ago. Smoke’s cheese curds are much better than average but mine didn’t really squeek. The bacon is unbelieveable; the mushrooms and onions are par for the course; and the sausage accurately mimics the Toronto street meat that I’m pretty sure it is meant to evoke. Chowhound has hosted some debate on whether the strong note of thyme in the gravy is a good thing or not. I liked it because it is out of the ordinary and went well with the toppings on my poutine. The gravy could use a stronger, more meaty base though.
I tried some of Kat’s (the girlfriend) Pulled Pork Poutine ($8.95). I think that pulled pork is a tasty topping for poutine. Taking into account that this is a “quick serve” poutine place and not a purpose-built barbeque place I have to say that the pulled pork was very good. Both poutines were very good but I don’t know if they are worth more than twelve bucks (including tax and a Pop Shoppe soda) when you consider what that can get you at one of Toronto’s better pizza, souvlaki, or falafel places.
The first location to open on Adelaide is right above Burrito Boyz (almost always tightly packed on weekends) so I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t do well for some time. A “Smokes on Wheels” travelling poutine truck is one of the soon to open “locations” listed on the website for this ready-made chain. Apparently, restauranteurs can now skip the stage where they struggle to make a living serving good food for a fair price and move straight to the franchising stage.
Other than the value issue I only have two substantial complaints with Smoke’s: Its decor’s over-polished faux authenticity is a bit jarring and I’d like to see at least the basic poutine option offered in small and large sizes. The quite generous size now available seemed a little small for a whole meal but on the big (and pricey) side for a post-drinking midnight snack.