Bay area ‘Poutine’ lacks tang, open late


By Dylan Collier, Advocate Staff

Most restaurants are good because they have such a wide variety of items on the menu but there is always that one restaurant that specializes in just one thing, or different variations of one dish.

And at that is the case at “Smoke’s Poutinerie” on Durant Ave. in Berkeley, near Telegraph.

If you are American, you’ve probably had cheese fries, or chili cheese fries at some point. But wait—fries with gravy on top? That’s just genius.

This dish is called “poutine,” and it originated in Quebec, Canada in the late 1950s. It contains French fries, cheese curds, and then gravy on top.

Different restaurants use different cheeses to smother the potatoes.

I first tried this dish the first week in August during my summer vacation in Portland, Oregon, and absolutely loved it. So I had been searching for a place to get some good quality poutine in the Bay Area, and finally found Smoke’s Poutinerie.

I went to the restaurant at around 4 p.m. on a Saturday and I was the only one inside, but it picked up later on in the day.

If you want to go during the busiest hours go from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Saturday nights. This is when all the nocturnal night owls and the students pulling all-night study sessions make their way over to grab a little Canadian cuisine.

Just keep in mind that you might be packed like sardines up against sweaty college students who smell like beer while waiting in line to order food.

Oh, and you cannot use the bathroom because Smoke’s Poutinerie does not have one.

That’s right, if you need to use the restroom you need to walk down to Telegraph to find the nearest one.

The atmosphere and overall ambiance of the restaurant is more student-oriented than family-oriented.

It is probably not a place to bring a date, but more like a ‘roll-up-your-sleeves and get messy’ kind of spot.

Smoke’s Poutinerie is the equivalent to the same environment you would find at a restaurant that primarily serves ribs.

But I was surprised by the customer service. It only took about seven minutes for them to prepare my food.

Yes. I actually timed it from the time when I ordered it, to the time when I had it in my hand.

While poutine is made with three ingredients (fries, melted cheese, and gravy), you can add on extra toppings for between .75 to $2.00 per topping.

I ordered the “triple pork poutine,” which includes fries, cheese curds, pulled pork, bacon, and sausage with gravy on top.

Keep this in mind. If you are someone who prefers your fries ‘naked,’ this is not the place for you.

Other variations of poutine dishes they have are; chicken fajita poutine, chicken chili poutine, chicken inferno poutine, Hogtown poutine, bacon cheeseburger poutine, Montreal poutine, chili cheesesteak poutine, veggie deluxe poutine, and many more.

Beware of the proportion sizes.

Smoke’s Poutinerie offers three different serving sizes; the “snack size” ($4.99); “meal size” ($6.99), “wow size” ($10.99). I made the mistake of ordering the “wow size,” and not being prepared for just how much food it was.

It was gigantic box with its contents spilling over the top of the box. I could barely eat it through half of it, and I can eat a lot.

The blend sweetness of the pulled pork, and the saltiness from the gravy, cheese and sausage was all right.

Another reason I recommend not to take a date to Smoke’s Poutinerie is because it does not have any tables. All the seating consists of counters that run along the windows all around the entire restaurant.

The poutine itself was okay, but not the best I have ever had.

Overall, I would give it three out of five stars.