To Canadians, poutine is no joke. Besides being nice, inventing hockey, and drinking Tim Horton’s, it’s one of the few things this country is truly known for. London is just like any Canadian city, we’re proud of our poutine and we want a lot of it… A whole lot of it. The restaurants on this list are the best in the business when it comes to making poutine.
All of the restaurants in this section haven’t reinvented the poutine wheel, but then again, they didn’t need to. There aren’t too many surprises when it comes to what you’ll get when you order poutine from one of these spots, but the flavour is absolutely mind-blowing. They’re the best of the best to satisfy that poutine craving that so many Londoners experience.
The Root Cellar is a spot that we’re constantly drawn to. Local ingredients, expertly prepared, served up hot and fresh? It’s impossible to resist. When you cave in to the urge and visit, there’s no better start to your meal than the poutine. The fries are hand-cut from local, organic potatoes, then fried and seasoned. They’re absolutely fantastic on their own whether you get a full order or as a side with your burger, if you’re somehow reading this and not
a fan of poutine. The fries are then topped with cheese curds, then doused in house-made miso gravy. Vegans of London, rejoice! Ask your waiter for the poutine to be vegan, and in the place of those dairy curds, you’ll get Daiya shreds! When the vegan “cheese” melts under the heat of the fries and gravy, it becomes one of the most delicious, gooey, animal/cruelty-free messes that you’ll ever get to experience. When the holy trinity of fries, cheese, and gravy comes together in the Root Cellar kitchen, you know you’re in for a treat. It may be the classic recipe, but the Root Cellar puts their own twists and trademarks on it to make it unique, and utterly delicious. Stop by and give it a try for yourself, the only downside is it’s not all you can eat.
Neighbourhood: Southcrest 449 Wharncliffe Rd. S (map)
Our love affair with Craft Farmacy continues! Ever since we did a Business of the Week with them last fall, we keep going back. Even though we always intend to try something new, the draw of the poutine always screws with our plans. We simply can’t not order it, we need it in our souls. It’s not just a regular poutine either, it’s duck poutine! You’ve got your fries, cut in house and fried to golden perfection. Top those gorgeous potatoes with local cheese curds, shredded duck confit, and scallions. To finish it all off, a healthy portion of duck demi-glace, which is a kind of rich gravy that was invented in France. It’s almost unbelievable how good your first bite is – you’ll have to go in for a second, and maybe even a third. The fries are perfectly crisp while the duck confit is so incredibly tender, it practically melts in your mouth. The curds, partially melted by the blanket of warmth that is gravy, are amazing to say the least. When eaten all together, it’s a magical experience. If you’re a fan of poutine, you have to get yourself to Craft Farmacy on the double.
Neighbourhood: Argyle Park & Byron 1815 Trafalgar St. (map) & 1035 Southdale Rd. W (map)
Sammy’s Souvlaki has been a staple in London for 40 years now. Every Londoner has seen their booths around the city, and most of them have probably stopped and eaten there a time or two! Their wraps and sandwiches are always great, and their tzatziki is so good that they sell it by the container for you to take home now, but their poutine is always one of our favourites. Sammy’s does poutine in classic chip truck style, which makes a whole lot of sense given their facilities. The fries are thick cut, perfect for supporting the weight of a cheese curd, and freshly fried so they’ll be hot and crisp when you get them. The gravy is the brown, delicious sauce that you know and love. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but it’s done well, and compliments the other ingredients flawlessly. Poutine may not be traditional Greek food, but we sure are happy that Sammy decided to add it to his menu alongside classics from the Mediterranean.
The Early Bird
The Early Bird calls itself a “fine diner,” taking your diner classics and elevating them to fine dining status. With an eclectic menu of sandwiches and fabulous all-day breakfast options, the Early Bird has made itself a popular destination for Londoners to grab a fantastic meal. At the Early Bird you get a choice of gravies for your poutine, either duck or veggie. The duck gravy is amazing, balancing fatty richness and saltiness with ease. The veggie gravy is equally delicious, and perfectly suited for vegetarians since there’s no meat stock or drippings used to make it. For just an extra fiver, you can add one of their signature meats to your poutine. Either the brisket, the pulled pork, or the smoked ham that’s usually saved for their sandwiches could grace your plate atop your poutine. If you’re feeling like something a little more unique than a classic poutine, try out the Early Bird’s perogie poutine – all the poutine ingredients you know and love with the addition of Polish perogies hidden under the gravy and cheese. Yep, the perogies don’t replace the fries, they’re added on top of them! Whether you’re getting your poutine as a side to accompany a sandwich, or it’s just your whole dang meal, you’ll always leave satisfied.
If you love poutine, you’ve undoubtedly been to Smoke’s, I mean, it’s a whole restaurant dedicated to the stuff. Every poutine begins with fresh hand-cut fries, cheese curds, and Smoke’s signature gravy – although they do also have a veggie gravy for those that choose to not partake in meat. What happens after that is completely up to you. They’ve got a whole menu of spectacular concoctions with various meats, veggies, and sauces that will blow your mind. From homemade chili to buffalo chicken, Smoke’s has something that will get just about everyone’s mouth watering just looking at the menu. Smoke’s is also open late, like really late. 3am on Monday through Thursday and 4am on Friday/Saturday night. It’s no surprise, though, they’re right in the middle of downtown, in close walking distance of a bunch of bars. Poutine is an excellent
drunk food, one of the best really. Smoke’s just knows their audience!
The restaurants in this section of the list have taken “poutine” as a set of guidelines, as opposed to a hard and fast recipe. They’ve switched things up, taken different ethnic inspiration, or added the ingredients they crave to the amazing poutine formula, and the resulting poutine dishes are irresistible.
Shelby’s Food Express
Ever in the mood for shawarma and poutine at the same time? What about in the same forkful? Well, look no further than Shelby’s Food Express. Shawarma poutine, AKA chicken shawarma fries, takes the concept of poutine in a whole new direction. It may not be traditional, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. What you do is take some fresh fries, top it with Shelby’s incredible chicken shawarma meat, straight off the rotisserie. Sprinkle some feta on there – we know, it’s not curds, but it’s still a salty, cheesy pop that’s undeniably good – and parsley for good measure. Finally, instead of a traditional gravy, there’s a secret Shawarma Fries sauce that’s creamy, spicy, and incredible. A real stick in the mud would look at the shawarma poutine from Shelby’s and say “that’s not poutine!” Well, we’re more worried about what tastes delicious than what checks all the traditional poutine boxes, and the shawarma fries at Shelby’s Food Express are too good to ignore!
Smok’in Joe’s BBQ
Smok’in Joe’s BBQ not only has one of the most confusingly places apostrophes in London, but also some of the best barbeque. Mouthwatering meats slow cooked and applewood smoked, so tender they melt in your mouth… What more could a Londoner ask for? Oh, how about putting that delicious meat on some poutine! If you’re looking for something classic, no frills, but still delicious, go for the Simple Joe. Potatoes, curds, gravy, it’s all you really need. Like most things at Smok’in Joe’s, the gravy is smoked, giving it extra flavour and a little more complexity than your run of the mill gravy. However, for the more adventurous or the more carnivorous out there, Smok’in Joe’s has a few incredible poutine options for you. Take the Simple Joe and add a portion of pulled pork on top, and you’ve got yourself a That’s Not All Folks. Or if you’re more into red meat, get yourself a Beefaholic, which uses their scrumptious smoked brisket. If it’s barbeque and poutine you crave, then Smok’in Joe’s is the place to go. They’ve got the best of both, and when combined, it’s even greater than the sum of its parts!
Who says poutine can’t be eaten in the morning? Definitely not the folks at Campus HiFi! This downtown breakfast joint has got the breakfast poutine of your dreams. It begins with the poutine basics: potatoes, cheese curds, gravy. In this case, you can get either the classic choice of fries or switch it up and get home fries, a much more breakfast-y choice. Alongside the curds and gravy, you get two poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce, and your choice of either bacon or sausage. In essence, you’re getting eggs benedict but instead of an English muffin, you get poutine… And that sounds amazing to us. The poutine also comes with a side of toast, perfect for picking up any of the gravy-yolk-Hollandaise blend that may be left over after all the potatoes have disappeared.
Che Restobar takes poutine and gives it some Latin flair with their version, the yuca poutine. They do something that no one else on this list has done: taken the potato out of poutine. In its place is yuca, another root vegetable that is very common in many cuisines of the world, including Latin. Atop the yuca fries are cotija cheese, aji Amarillo sauce, and black olive aioli. The cheese adds a salty pop, the sauce adds spice, and the creamy aioli is absolutely incredible. It’s far from traditional – there’s no potato, curds, or gravy to be found! However, that’s the joy of something as simple as poutine. Chefs can take the basic concept, blend it with any number of global influences and transform it into something that is delicious, new, but still poutine at its core!