Loosen your belt: no trip to Montreal is complete without a hearty serving of poutine. (Photo: Getty Images)
Poutine used to be Canada’s best-kept culinary secret, but no more. This gooey combination of fries, gravy and cheese curds — invented in the province of Quebec — has become a fast food staple and one that tourists visiting Montreal seek out.
Many restaurants in Montreal cater to first-timers trying the dish. But it takes a local to spot the difference between a run-of-the-mill chain restaurant and the real deal.
Poutines in Montreal come in all shapes and sizes, and some even go beyond the usual three-ingredient template. Here are eight restaurants in Montreal serving poutine that any local would approve of.
The All-Nighter: La Banquise
Located in the hip Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, the always-bustling La Banquise is one of the most well-known poutine-centric spots in Montreal for good reason. They’re open 24/7, meaning you can satisfy your craving at all hours or fill your belly after a night of clubbing.
They also serve up a seemingly endless list of different varieties, from the impossibly meat-stacked T-Rex to the entirely vegan Véganomane.
The Must-See: Gibeau Orange Julep
The famed giant orange ball along the busy Decarie Expressway is easy to spot from the road. Although more famous for its namesake orange beverage and classic car and motorcycle meetups in the parking lot during the summer, the Gibeau Orange Julep delivers a consistently great classic poutine, with perfectly squeaky cheese curds and typical greasy-spoon fries as the base.
The Fanciest: Au Pied de Cochon and Garde Manger
If you’re looking for a more refined, haute cuisine experience, you can’t go wrong with either Martin Picard’s artery-hugging poutine with foie gras at Au Pied de Cochon on the Plateau or Chuck Hughes’ generously portioned lobster poutine at Garde Manger in Old Montreal.
Both are credited with kicking off the poutine renaissance and bringing the dish from humble diner menus to fine dining establishments.
The Diner: Chez Claudette
Another late-night favorite in the style of La Banquise, only tucked away on a quiet residential side street in the Mile End neighborhood, Chez Claudette offers a quintessentially Quebec experience — one that starts with a mural of Montreal Canadiens player and folk hero Maurice Richard outside by the entrance and hockey paraphernalia lining the walls inside.
After you’ve had a Dalton (poutine with green peas on top) or Bâton (with corndog pieces, called “pogos” here), you’ll wonder how you ever ate a poutine without these essential ingredients.
The Old School: Maamm Bolduc
There’s a long-held expression in Montreal that the city is made up of “two solitudes”: the English side and the French side.
Case in point: The approximately 50-year-old Maamm Bolduc is considered an institution. Yet because it’s located slightly toward the east side and away from the tourist-y areas, English lists and guidebooks tend to omit this charmingly decorated restaurant. Don’t make the same mistake.
The “Casse-Croûte”: Chez Ma Tante
The French term casse-croûte denotes any sort of unpretentious fast-service snack bar— or even something as simple as a food-service window or drive-through. Chez Ma Tante is certainly off the beaten path, but if you want a true Quebecois experience in the form of no-frills hot dogs and poutine, there’s perhaps no spot more authentic in Montreal.
The New Kid: Chez Tousignant
On the periphery of Little Italy and run by two of Montreal’s most well-known Italian chefs — Stefano Faita and Michele Forgione — this new-yet-classic-looking diner does blue-collar favorites a little differently.
Everything at Chez Tousignant is made from scratch. So even if you’ve eaten a million poutines before, chances are they’ve never tasted like Chez Tousignant’s. Eating there is meant to feel nostalgic but without the same-old familiar ingredients.