Contrary to popular belief, poutine wasn’t invented in Montreal. It was the casse-croutes (roadside snack bars) of rural Quebec that popularized this greasy cheese-infused favorite in the 1950s, which according to food-lore was the result of a regional dairy surplus. More dairy equals more cheese curds equals the invention of Canada’s national dish! Poutine didn’t achieve gastronomic glory in Montreal until the 1980s, long after these snack bars, drive-ins and fromageries started serving it.
The Poutine Path
Autoroute 20 connecting Montreal to Quebec City isn’t particularly exciting. In fact, most drivers who frequently make the trek would recommend the more scenic Autoroute 40, which passes by Trois-Rivières. But for those hungry travellers the proof is in the poutine. Some of Quebec’s most classically-curded poutines are found along the Autoroute Jean Lesage; it may as well be dubbed the poutine path. These culinary treasures are perfect for a pit-stop. Forget those designer dishes, this is the real deal. It’s all about the authentic squeak of Quebec cheese curds, thick savoury gravy, and crispy hot fries. You don’t need a Michelin guide to find them – here are some poutines worth a road trip through Quebec.
Start your odyssey in Montreal with a myriad choices at places like Restaurant La Roulotte on the West Island, or the infamous-always-open-always-busy La Banquise. Any greasy spoon in the city will serve an authentically massive plate of poutine. After you’ve indulged, head east on Autoroute 20 and in an hour you’ll hit the town of Saint-Liboire. There, the seasonal Cantine Chez Dave & Dan serves up a mean dish from a charmingly-modest roadside snack shack just off the highway.
Trudging onwards for 20 minutes, you’ll arrive at Fromagerie Lemaire in the rural town of Saint-Germain-de-Grantham. This cheesy wonderland has been open since 1956 selling a selection of cheeses, burgers and even poutine glacée — dessert poutine.
Fifteen minutes down the road and you’ll see where it all began. Le Roy Jucep in Drummondville claims to be the inventor of poutine (one of two popularly-known origin stories), pumping out giant platters of it since 1964. If you want to spice things up there are 23 variations on the menu — but the original is so good, who knows why you would?
You’ll have about 15 minutes to digest before heading to Victoriaville, the home of Fromagerie Victoriaville. This rural Quebec institution has been open since 1946 serving up poutine with giant cheese curds. If you’re not in a poutine-coma by now, another hour and 20 minutes later and you’ve arrived in Quebec City.
The provincial capital has dozens of holes-in-the-wall to soothe the unending desire for cheese laden fries. Buffet du Nord sits north of the city. They’ve been plating up poutine at their walk-up window since 1957. Pat Retro’s name is aptly descriptive with its retro decor and authentically rural Quebec. A word to the wise: Make sure you wear your stretchy pants for this road trip.