Bagels? Check! Schwartz’s Smoked Meat? Check! Hot maple taffy stick prepped on a block of ice? Check! Hmm what was I missing from my Montreal trip…
That’s right! I couldn’t leave Montreal without having some “real” poutine! Poutine is a super simple concept, but it’s surprising to see how easy it is to mess up. Getting the right mix of fries, gravy and cheese curds is not an easy task, especially for a nitpicker like me.
That being said, poutine isn’t something that translates well to being turned “fancy” either. Regardless of what kind of toppings you add on, poutine is poutine and trying to upscale it probably won’t change much! The key is still nailing the basics.
La Banquise is probably the most well-known poutine joint in Montreal. It’s open 24 hours a day and almost always has a long lineup! There’s tons of other contenders and local favourites for the title of “best poutine in Montreal”, but one weekend wasn’t going to be enough to try all of them so I decided to stick with this one.
The menu here is gigantic! There are poutines with every topping combination imaginable to go with other fast items like burgers. Prices depend on the type of topping chosen and come in small and large, although even small is plenty large by most people’s standards!
There was a carefully selected collection of local beer from microbreweries on offer which was great for showcasing some delicious local products!
To be honest the poutine at La Banquise didn’t meet my high expectations. It was certainly better than average and authentic for poutine, but this felt too much like quickly prepared cheap food. That’s not a bad thing, and it’s still a delicious (and humongous!) snack for a decent value, but poutine does get tastier as I’ll explain below.
I wouldn’t mind coming here occasionally to catch up with friends, enjoy some fatty food and relax over a beer, but it’s not something that I would go out of my way to try if I had a return visit to Montreal. It was disappointing considering what a famous institution this is but would be okay if I came in with no expectations.
I’d expect poutine to get better in Montreal, and out of the names I saw Poutineville seemed to get the most love for a good classic Canadian poutine. Something to keep in mind for my next food expedition in Montreal!
Things Roger Ate like a Pig
St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale - $4.95
I really liked this beer! It’s brewed by McAuslan Brewery in Montreal, which has grown to be one of the larger family-run microbreweries in Canada.
It had strong aromas of wheat and the sweet and sour tang of fresh apricots with a refreshing finish that was easy to enjoy!
B.O.M. – 3.5/6 (Good – Very Good), $8.50 (S) / $12.95 (L)
- Poutine with bacon, sautéed onions and Merguez sausages
I got the small here, but even small means a pretty hefty portion when you’re taking about poutine in Montreal! It was actually not that greasy for poutine and had a good mix of fries, cheese curds and toppings on top of a bed of gravy.
The fries were pretty standard but maybe a little soft and rushed; I would’ve liked fries with more crisp and character than these did here to stand up to the gravy. Speaking of gravy, this was your standard thick delicious savoury mess, and the amount and thickness of the gravy was just right!
If the cheese curds look a little sad, you’re right! To me this is the defining feature of good Canadian poutine, even more so than fries and gravy (because anyone can cook up some fries and gravy, but only us Canadians get the cheese right!)
Good cheese curds should be squeaky with almost a rubbery texture with a mild hint of fresh cheese. This looked the part but unfortunately didn’t have the squeakiness of fresh cheese curds. I was a little disappointed in that because this should be what separates true poutine from pretenders.
The toppings were quite decent all things considered. The sautéed onions brought a charred and caramelized sweetness while the Merguez sausages were plump and nicely spiced. The bacon was a little limp and sparse but its salty flavour was much appreciated in the overall context of the plate.
Overall this was solid and would certainly satisfy a craving for poutine, but I wouldn’t consider this worth a special trip based on this alone.
La Banquise is the most popular name in Montreal for poutine and it has a lot of variety on offer at any time of the day. Personally I feel like poutine gets better than this though!
Date visited: Feb. 3, 2013
Price range: $0 – $10