A few years ago, poutine was everywhere. It was the junk food du jour on menus everywhere from burger joints to white-tablecloth dining rooms. Before Denverites even had a chance to figure out exactly what poutine was supposed to be, there were more variations and deconstructions than we knew what to do with. But the gravy-fry furor subsided, and now finding a bowl or two of the Quebecois specialty is as difficult as hunting moose in the Canadian wilderness. Euclid Hall was one of the pioneers in the Denver poutine craze, and it still whips up a mean batch — or three. You can get the favorite duck-confit poutine with duck gravy, a Mexicanized version with carnitas and tomatillo green chile, or a pricy number that comes with foie gras. Beyond Euclid's doors, though, dressed-up fries with cheese curds are a carefully hidden treasure. Here are three more spots to get your "ey" on — Canadian style.
1) Big Smoke Burger
650 Colorado Boulevard, Glendale
When searching for a Canadian dish, a Canadian restaurant is a good place to start. I know, I know: There's no such thing as a Canadian restaurant, right? Well, there's at least a Canadian burger chain based in Toronto that oughta know its poutine from its plain old fries. There are only two Big Smoke Burgers in the U.S., and poutine lovers should feel lucky that one landed in Glendale. Big Smoke's poutine sets the bar for the dish here in town, with a simple, primeval version executed the way the dish's inventors intended. It all starts with good fries — and this place has 'em. Even smothered in brown gravy, the potatoes stay crisp down to the bottom of the bowl. The gravy itself is simple and unassuming, with a slight bite from black pepper and a vague beefiness. And Big Smoke uses real cheese curds instead of just chunks of cheddar or mozzarella — a must for purists. Bonus: These Canadians grill up a fine burger, too.
A vegetarian take on Canada's favorite dish.
2) City, O' City
206 East 13th Avenue
There's no rule declaring that poutine must contain meat in any form. Sure, pan gravy is the standard, but most north-of-the-border dive bars probably use a powdered mix anyway, so it's not as if Canadians are likely to get up in arms over a vegetarian rendition (they're a friendly lot, anyhow). At City, O' City, you can go vegetarian or completely vegan (with dairy-free "cheese"). The gravy itself is based on caramelized onion and garlic, so it has plenty of depth. A good fistful of herbs in the mix adds flavors of sage and thyme, making for a sauce that would feel right at home on the Thanksgiving table. Molten chunks of cheese hide amid a nest of crunchy fries dusted with seasoned salt. While poutine fanatics might decry the overly flavorful gravy, they certainly won't miss the meat.
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Highland Tap & Burger's tikka masala poutine.
3) Highland Tap & Burger
2219 West 32nd Avenue
Highland Tap co-founder Juan Padro says he and head chef Eli Odell are both curry fanatics, so Odell couldn't help but transform poutine into something a little more exotic. The house fries are buried under a creamy orange slurry bright and complex with Indian spices that doesn't feel at all out of place on the Canadian dish. Beneath the sauce lurks a mound of melty cheese — and on top there's a skewer of marinated and grilled chicken. Keeping the chicken separate is a wise choice that allows the diner the option of savoring the light char of the grill or mixing the meat into the sauce. If you plan on grabbing your smartphone to share pics of this dish with your 200 closest social-media friends, do it before you dig in — otherwise your fingers, and then your phone, will soon be coated in orange sauce. And with the Tap's beer expertise, the bar will help you choose the perfect Colorado craft brew to go with your French-Canadian-Indian snack.