Poutine is a Canadian dish that many in the United States don't fully understand, but it's really rather simple. While variations of gravy can differ, classic poutine is made with thick-cut french fries, rich beef gravy and fresh, "squeaky" cheese curds. It's decadent and filling, a comforting meal in a cup. Poutine was created in Quebec, but it was only a matter of time before such a tasty indulgence made its way to the States and, to our elation, to Denver. Now you can find variations on poutine all over the city, but be warned: Some are completely off the wall ,and any self-respecting Canadian would probably eschew such creations. That said, from traditional to crazy to Colorado-themed, these ten poutines proven perfect in their own way.
1380 Horizon Avenue, Lafayette
As devious as it sounds, the mushroom-enhanced "illegal poutine" at this new Lafayette eatery shouldn't be outlawed. Thought up by Stem Ciders co-founder Eric Foster and executed by chef Daniel Asher, the dish is an umami bomb of shiitake gravy, Wisconsin cheddar curds, roasted Anaheim peppers and the Acreage's signature Belgian fries. As a bonus, the poutine is vegetarian and pairs wonderfully with one of the off-dry ciders you can get on tap.
Au Feu in Zeppelin Station
3501 Wazee Street
Chef Jared Leonard's poutine at his Montreal-style deli inside the newly opened Zeppelin Station comes closest to the original. "One thing I have learned from eating poutine all over Canada is that there's kind of a classic style, kind of like barbecue," says Leonard, adding that through research, he learned that gravy can differ and fry size varies. "But there are things you can do to make it not poutine." To make it just right, Leonard's right-hand man, Dylan Lipe, double-fries the steak-cut potatoes so they're crispy on the outside while maintaining a pillowy texture on the inside. Next comes locally made cheese curds, which are added at room temperature so they melt slightly when the super-hot veal demi-glace gravy is poured on. If you're a poutine newbie, then this should be your first, but if the dish is old hat to you, then you know why you need it.
Beast + Bottle
719 E. 17th Avenue
Pop into chef Paul C. Reilly's New American restaurant during brunch for a delectable poutine. Unlike many other iterations of the dish, this one is made with thin and crispy fries — a B+B signature item. Although seemingly delicate, the fries stand up to the delectable pork gravy and creamy yolk from the sunny egg on top. Semi-melted cheese curds add to the rich breakfast, perfect for soaking up last night's excesses. Get it as your entree if you dare, or better yet, order a plate for the table so your whole group can enjoy it along with this Uptown joint's other tasty brunch delights.
1317 14th Street
Chef Jorel Pierce has always liked poutine and, inspired by what the folks at Montreal's Joe Beef and Aux Pied de Cochon were doing, he decided Euclid Hall would also offer the dish. "We were setting off to have great fries and a killer sauce program, so poutine was a natural fit," he says. Today guests can find three rotating poutines on the menu, including one laced with duck, one with pork carnitas and and one with egg, each from a specific farm. For example, the carnitas papas fritas (more like green chili cheese fries than poutine) boasts pork from Corner Post Meats in Colorado Springs. Pierce is also working on adding a Peruvian-influenced octopus poutine, but until then, diners will have to be happy with one of the others, such as the duck-confit poutine, which features the same hand-cut fries as well as peppered duck gravy and cheddar cheese curds.
Highland Tap & Burger
2219 West 32nd Avenue, 720-287-4493
Sloan's Lake Tap & Burger
1565 Raleigh Street, 720-456-6779
A dish like poutine fits in so well with the other items on this menu of American comfort foods, one may even forget that it's a Canadian specialty. Guests at either Tap & Burger location can see what the fuss is about and sample hand-cut fries laden with warming brown gravy, bright cheddar cheese curds and pulled braised beef. It's big enough to be a solo meal if you wish, though sharing would be the nice thing to do.
3316 Tejon Street
While lobster certainly isn't a common poutine ingredient, it didn't stop Old Major owner Justin Brunson from utilizing it in his tater-tot version of the Canadian staple. "It's cold, it's winter, and we love making those tater tots," he says. "We always have some sort of lobster dish on the menu, and it seemed to make sense." The gravy topping the homemade tater tots is also made with lobster, giving it a unique, habit-forming flavor. While none of the other ingredients are traditional, there's a healthy handful of cheese curds to give a nice squeak to the dish. Hurry to Old Major, since this poutine will disappear in April. But don't worry, says the chef, it will most likely be back come fall. "It's been one of the biggest-selling items," says Brunson. "I guess Denver loves its lobster poutine."
The Pig & The Sprout
1900 Chestnut Place
To make the rich gravy that tops this traditional poutine, The Pig & the Sprout uses a house-smoked mirepoix, dry and sweet sherry, butter, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and Asher Organic Tree Hugger Amber ale. Yes, it's totally addictive on its own, but under this velvety layer, you'll find crisp fries and Wisconsin cheddar curds topped with slices of the restaurant's own smoked brisket. "I first fell in love with poutine during routine road trips with my high school buddies to Montreal from my home town of Boston," says owner Andy Ganick. "After a long night at the bars in Montreal, poutine is just the kind of meal you need to fill your belly and set you up for a good night's sleep." It took the crew about six months to perfect the poutine at this restaurant in the new neighborhood behind Union Station, making it a wonderful combination of memories, tradition and the already tasty goods coming out of the kitchen.
3040 Blake Street
Fair warning: This poutine isn't like what you will find in Montreal, which is why it's dubbed "Colorado poutine." The dish consists of local fingerling potatoes fried and topped with a creamy Colorado onion gravy, pickled Hazel Dell mushrooms and chunks of fresh mozzarella. "It's an homage to Obe’s [co-owner Obe Ariss] native Canada and my love of local ingredients, as the dish is made entirely from produce grown in Colorado," says co-owner Whitney Ariss. "It is decidedly non-traditional and may certainly offend any Quebecois poutine purists, but as far as satisfying a craving for creamy, cheesy fried things, it definitely hits the spot." And that's one of the points of poutine in the first place.
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3763 Wynkoop Street
In a totally crazy take on poutine, chef and co-owner Dan Lasiy has reimagined the dish with fried beef tripe (also known as cow stomach) instead of potatoes. "It's basically meat fries, and you can't go wrong with that," says Lasiy, adding that the poutine goes along with the restaurant's philosophy of trying to use the whole animal and get people to not only try bits of unusual meat, but like it, too: "We think the extra parts are very tasty, and this includes tripe." In order to get people into the ingredient, Lasiy decided to fry it up. "Everyone loves fried food, and poutine seems to have some steam these days," he says. "We didn't want to mess with what made poutine so great, so all we did was change the potatoes to tripe and added some foie." The result is possibly the richest "poutine" you will ever have. The fried strips of tripe soak up the foie gras-infused gravy and act as the perfect vessel for conveying strings of melted cheese from the plate to your mouth. It's well worth ordering for the table, and a great way to get to know tripe.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
2907 Huron Street
In this twisted poutine, you will find hearty chunks of russet potatoes, mushroom gravy made with Unibroue La Fin Du Monde (a Canadian strong blonde ale), and white and yellow Wisconsin cheese curds. Created by chef Georgia Torres, this dish made it to the menu after many guests of the casual comfort-food restaurant suggested it. Think of it as a marriage between poutine and home fries. "We used chunks of potato because we wanted to do something a little different," the chef says. "It's greasy and thick, and it tastes very good." It also pairs well with the craft beers and cocktails, she adds. For example, the Nuts on 29th, a strong drink made with Eagle Rare single barrel bourbon, Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino, Dancing Pines black walnut liqueur and orange bitters, makes for a lovely accompaniment that goes with each bite of the luscious potato dish.