Poutine is a highly caloric combination of fries, cheese and gravy. It is Quebec’s official comfort food where every québécois of every génération has an opinion about poutine. Its origins are debated (Victoriaville or Drummondville, huh?), its ingredients questioned (It’s a heart attack on a plate !?!) and a dish that is very often part of drunken midnight adventures. But, above all pleasures and/or disgrace in the name of poutine, scientists believe that poutine can cure a hangover! This reason alone could make poutine the most important dish of Quebec’s culinary heritage. To each nation their own traditions.
In the recent years, the culinary concoction that is poutine has influenced our neighbouring country’s Chefs -that have also turned poutine into the worst of trends– and giddy gourmet tourists. Because the «real deal» is always the better experience. But how real is the deal? Only local foodies know. Enter Foodie Québec.
Because I care for authenticity and uniqueness, I have «pout» together a list of Quebec City’s best classic poutines. No to the sweet barbecue sauce, turned my head to extra condiments and focussed on old-school gravy, the squeaky cheese curds and crispy fries.
I have tasted poutine in 25 different restaurants, chip stands, bistros and casse-croutes to come up with the most authentic and true-to-tradition classic poutine one can eat in Quebec City. I have expanded my choice to the six borough of Quebec City: Beauport, Charlesbourg, La Cité-Limoilou, Haute Saint-Charles, Les Rivières and Sainte-Foy-Sillery-Cap-Rouge. And, because it’s impossible for me to stick to my own rules, I’ve also listed some poutines that are worth an extra kilometre.
Believe it or not, only three ingredients were considered : thickness of the sauce and its subtle herb taste, freshness of the cheese curds and crispiness of the fries where variety does often matter. I didn’t take cost into consideration, because when in need of authenticity and quality, I’m very willing to pay an extra dollar. Prices varied between 6 and 8 dollars.
Quebec City’s top five classic poutines
5-Snack Bar Saint-Jean
780, rue Saint-Jean Québec, QC G1R 1P9
With the Snack Bar Saint-Jean you never know what you’re going to get, because you literally don’t know of which ingredient you’ll get the most! One thing for sure, the individual ingredients are good enough to make this list, it’s the time of year you eat their poutine that changes the whole experience. The best time of year to enjoy a poutine at Snack Bar St-Jean is during the Festival d’été de Québec. This peppery sauce is served is hot enough to slowly melt the Perron cheese curds. The fries are crisp and have skin. Note that if you eat inside, you’ll smell like cooking oil. I highly recommend you eat on their outdoor patio.
4-Casse-Croûte Flash-Bourg inc.
21231 Boul. Henri-Bourassa, Québec, QC G2N 1R4
Flashbourg is in the business of making traditional American greasy food since the early 70’s. The owner -and his boys- wait the tables, know the names of almost all customers and joke around with fake ketchup. The classic version of their poutine is very, very good! They chose fresh Kingsey cheese, powder-base meat stock (I never could have guessed this one!) and russet potatoes from Saint-Ubalde in Portneuf. This classic poutine has a perfect ratio of sauce, size, cheese to crisp, creamy fries. Closes in November opens in March.
109 10e rue Québec, QC G1L 3C2
Pierrot is the best place for a late night poutine with or without your drunken friends. It’s open 24 hours and delivers to any downtown hotel. It has the tastiest of all gravies and the smallest pieces of cheese curds- but not the least in quantity- so you have cheese until the very last bite. The fries are naturally sweet, but the salty, abundant gravy balances the taste. This classic poutine has never disappointed me, no matter the time of day.
332 rue Dorchester Québec, QC G1K 6A2
Every day, thousands of commuters drive by this little 12-seater greasy joint without even knowing it is home to one of Quebec City’s best poutines. It’s where you’ll find the poutine with prominent flavours that stand out in.every.bite featuring a generous and thick beef stock and fresh Chaudière cheddar curds.
122 Crémazie Ouest Québec, QC G1R 1X5
At Frites Alors, the poutine is all about the overall taste. Individually, every ingredient taste great; together they shine! The fries are crispy, the cheese is impeccably salted- not too sweet either- with a perfectly balanced sauce that covers everything in a blanket of love. The sauce really sticks to the fries, the cheese slowly melts in pleasure and Eureka! poutine heaven happens. Not only is this the best classic poutine in Quebec City, it is also the best price-to-quality ratio.
Two poutines definitely worth the drive
La Ferme d’OC-Roulotte du Coin
4495 Chemin Royal, Saint-Famille, QC G0A 3P0
The fries are cooked in duck fat, and the sauce has a touch of foie gras. How can one resist? Unfortunately, it’s only opened in the Summer. Also try their homemade soft drinks and iced tea, you’ll definitely want to thank me on this one. Read my review on La Roulotte du Coin here.
Casse-Croûte Chez Micheline
225 Rte 138, Saint-Augustin QC G3A 1W7
Because it would have made number one on my list if it weren’t for the fact that it is located a few streets outside the Cap-Rouge borough. Chez Micheline has been making poutine for over 48 years and it’s THE best poutine in the greater Quebec City area. It’s located in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, about 15 km from downtown Quebec City. Rent a car, hop on the bus, call a cab, but do have a taste of Micheline’s poutine, because it’s the penultimate «real deal», true to the purest of poutine traditions in the greater Québec City area. It is also where you’ll find the most generous amount of cheese in your plate. They also use Chaudière cheese and source their potatoes from Île d’Orléans.
The worst Poutines in Quebec City
Because one cannot eat that much poutine and not find the best …of the worst. Au Toit Rouge in Charlesbourg serves the worst poutine in the greater Quebec City area. The first bite felt like a putty of mashed frozen fries, flaky powdered and chunky sauce (see the picture below) and overly-salted, really cold cheese. And there was nothing fresh about the cheese. How can a restaurant serve this quality of food and get away with it? If this is how they treat poutine, I can only imagine the rest of their menu…
What’s with this trend of variations-on-la-poutine restaurants? Planète Poutine in Charlesbourg is a perfect example of this new genre. They also serve the worst poutines in the greater Quebec City area! There is so much sugar in their sauce that it feels as though I’m eating dessert. When have poutine fanatics asked for sugar? NEVER! The fries are frozen, under cooked and leave a bad taste of oil in my mouth. It’s also the highest price/quality/quantity ratio in all 25 poutines I have tasted.
The ones that want to be great, but just aren’t there yet
La Fabrique Montcalm makes a «hipster» poutine. It wants to be classic, but just can’t help but revisit traditions. There is so much attention given to the fries, that the rest is bland. The cheese is much creamier than elsewhere? Definitely not frais du jour. The biggest deception: the sauce. A watery concoction that requires a little more flavour and much less salt. They even salt the fries before adding gravy! Don’t! I ended up with a pool of bland gravy and salty fries. And chives as decor? Completely useless!
Much is the same for le Chick Shack‘s classic poutine. It revisits the fries making them as chunky and very greasy, overwhelmingly oil-tasting blobs of potato. The sauce doesn’t taste much like any meat stock what-so-ever and is wayyyy too salty. I could though taste a dash of pepper. And where is the sauce anyway (see picture)?