By now pretty much everyone the world over has heard of Montreal’s most recognizable snack food, the Poutine, so the fries and cheese and gravy of it all require little introduction. But there’s a new kid in town – Smoke’s Poutinerie – which is a string of franchises founded by a guy who isn’t even from here. But here’s the thing: it rocks.
Smoke’s Poutinerie on Bishop Street is a party hosted by an enigmatic guy named “Smoke”, who may or may not be real, but is a personification of cheesy ‘80s Canadiana. The vibe is loud ‘80s glam-rock blasting from noontime until late into the weekend nights. It’s a party, and at the center of that party is an all-poutine menu featuring classic, delicious “pout”, as well as several brilliant innovations.
Their a la carte selections include crazy notions like Nacho Grande and Prime Beef, a Veggie Deluxe with peas and mushrooms, and monthly specials like the intriguing “premium fish stick” poutine. They also feature the full array of hard-to-find and nostalgic Pop Shoppe sodas, which is exciting if you grew in Quebec or Ontario in the ‘80s (though if you didn’t, they’re still pretty delicious).
Smoke’s original poutine features carefully sourced local potatoes and cheese curds from a top-secret fabricator in the Eastern Townships. And the gravy, oh the gravy – they use a chicken base instead of the more classic beef, and there are several variations – a rich vegetarian gravy, if that’s what you’re into, as well as peppercorn and curry sauces.
Yes, you might say that to open a newly-minted poutine shack with out-of-town innovations and a few hairpin turns in the recipe is like running a Sbarros in Rome – in other words, a fool’s errand. But Ryan Smolkin, the enigmatic mastermind behind Smoke’s (with outlets across Canada as well as the one in Montreal) thinks it’s a great idea.
Happily, Smoke’s concept also leaves room for innovation – or poutinnovation – as well.
Smoke’s Poutinerie, 2019 rue Bishop Street, (514) 419-4744