Poutine is sacred in Montreal. Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing: Growing up in Quebec, your family road trips were probably punctuated by roadside poutine and hot dogs; it was simple-but-perfect food, and like any good childhood staple, ridiculously hard to recreate. For many locals, the best poutine in Montreal is the one that evokes a memory—and, TBH, that’s way too powerful to argue with. But if you’re new to the poutine game or you’ve yet to find your fave, check out this list of the ones we crave most.
Find it: 464 McGill St., lov.com, @lovrestaurant
The atmosphere: Do you ever picture yourself hanging out with Jennifer Aniston, maybe learning the secrets of how she gets her skin so glowy? If that conversation was happening in Montreal, this is where you’d be. And not just because LOV, with its high ceilings and whitewashed brick and basket lampshades, is how those of us who’ve never been to California picture Beverly Hills. Here in this plant-based paradise, *everyone* seems to glow. If it’s a ploy to make us order a kale salad with our poutine, it’s definitely working.
The poutine: If you follow a plant-based diet (or hang with people who do), you know LOV is joyfully consistent when it comes to turning out upscale vegan dishes. Their poutine doesn’t disappoint: fries with crispy edges, hunks of plant-based mozzarella and a miso-infused gravy, artfully plated in a cast iron serving dish. For a more nutrient-dense (if somewhat even less authentic) twist, there’s an option to sub in sweet potato fries.
The cost: $12 (+$2 for sweet potato fries)
The atmosphere: Timing is everything at La Banquise, the undisputed champion of Montreal’s 24-hour poutine scene. Line-ups are expected, even accepted—as long as the wait isn’t too long, the crowd snaking its way down Rachel is giddy with anticipation. Weekends are another story: On Saturdays, the restaurant is full by lunch and just gets busier, only dropping off in the early hours of the morning. Inside, the vibe isn’t far off your favourite student diner.
The poutine: There’s a reason why everyone from Anthony Bourdain to that dude from Toronto in a McGill sweatshirt has suggested you must get thee to La Banquise: Theirs is the platonic ideal of poutine, a golden ratio of fries to sauce to squeaky cheese curds, each component perfect in its own right and bettered by the company of its fellows. So much can go wrong with poutine gravy—too salty, too sweet, too similar in consistency to that hyped snail-gel cream you broke down and bought…La Banquise gets their sauce just right, no small feat when you’re serving the masses.
The cost: Classic poutine starts at $8
Au Pied de Cochon
The atmosphere: Remember when Leslie Knope infiltrated the boys’ club of politics in Park and Rec? Walking into this cradle of bro culture, legendary for its meat and excess, you might expect it to feel like that—but actually, the restaurant’s comfortable, welcoming, the kind of place you could easily spend a few hours catching up with an old friend. There’s a skylight at one end of the bar, the front windows are open to the terrasse, and mirrors along one wall catch the early evening light, reflecting it through the room.
The poutine: In a word: pornographic. The famous foie gras poutine is foreplay on a plate, strewn with hunks of seared foie that melt across your tongue when you bite into them. In addition to the usual poutine gravy, the dish is bathed in a luscious foie gras sauce (it’s been blitzed with cream, according to one server)—say yes to the wood-fired bread that arrives before your meal and save a few slices to sop up whatever’s left on your plate.
The cost: $24
The atmosphere: Loft-inspired chic sets the tone at this Griffintown hotspot, best known for pairing fried chicken and champagne (or, for our purposes, poutine and Prosecco). Think white-painted brick, blue velvet banquette seating, gold-accented bar stools—pretty much the perfect backdrop for your bestie’s birthday balloons. On Thursdays through Saturdays, a stylish little speakeasy called Henden operates downstairs.
The poutine: Bird Bar’s poutine offering has evolved over the years, but it’s always a little to the left of classic. A previous iteration was topped with tender shreds of beef brisket, but the protein du jour is karaage-style chicken, and it’s a delight. The whole thing is topped off with sliced jalapenos and crispy fried onions. As an added bonus for those of us who’d rather scarf our poutine on the couch (in other words all of us), it’s available on Foodora and arrives in surprisingly good condition separate sauce container FTW.
The cost: $14
The atmosphere: As you’d expect from the team behind date-night fave Impasto and girls’ night fave Pizzeria Gema, Chez Tousignant is not your average casse-croute (that’s snack bar, to those of us who grew up outside la belle province). It’s not fancy—the chrome countertops are highly polished, the food is unapologetically #uglydelicious and they certainly don’t take reservations. But they take their classic diner menu seriously and, as the prices reflect, just about everything is made from scratch.
The poutine: It’s a proper, old-school take on the dish, probably the best of the bunch, with a balance even Goldilocks couldn’t argue with. There’s sweetness from the fries; a rich, deep, savoury sauce; and a scattering of peppery seasoning. As for the cheese curds, they’re about as fresh as they get: creamy, squeaky and heaped on generously. Chez Tousignant proves that simplicity is a virtue—so we’ll leave it at that.
The cost: $8 for a small, $12 for a large
Ma Poule Mouillé
The atmosphere: A bustling lunch spot with line-ups out the door, this Portuguese rotisserie came back strong after a fire at the beginning of 2019. Inside, there’s a waft of grill smoke and the tat-tat-tat of chicken being chopped and portioned. Service is cafeteria-style (don’t forget to bus your tray after eating); there are limited seats in front and back, including counter stools facing La Banquise.
The poutine: There’s one rule to follow as a food lover in Montreal: If Lesley Chesterman tells you to go, you go. In 2018, the former Montreal Gazette food critic named Ma Poule Mouillé’s poutine a “don’t miss” in her guide to the city’s best chicken and, hot damn, she was right. This one’s a flavour bomb, with chorizo, piri-piri sauce and hunks of chicken, lending layers of smoke, spice and sweetness to the dish. A word to the wise: The small is enormous, so order accordingly.
The cost: $10 for a (very generous) small, $14 for a regular
Find it: 351 Laurier Ave E.
The atmosphere: When you’re out-out after 3 a.m., the yellow-painted facade of this 24-hour eatery on the corner of Laurier and Drolet is a beacon calling you home. Insta-worthy, it’s not: Inside, the lighting is a touch too bright, the decor a smidge too chintzy—there are six (count ’em) Marilyn Monroe depictions in the artwork visible from the bar. But when a wisened server plops a disposable plastic cup of water on the table and—oh, thank fuck—rushes off to put your order in right away, it feels like you’re being taken care of, and that’s exactly what you need right now.
The poutine: In the battle of the late-night poutineries (very much A Thing in the hearts and minds of Montrealers), Chez Claudette and La Banquise are the top contenders. Some argue the poutine here is legitimately better, while others say it’s better than queuing up on Rachel when you’d rather be sitting down. Portions here seem slightly bigger, and the classic poutine sauce has a kick of something suspiciously allspice-ish—maybe a secret hangover cure?
The cost: Classic poutine starts at $7; more for larger sizes and “specialty” poutines
Antidote Comptoir Végane
The atmosphere: This adorable vegan bistro in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve has the feel of a neighbourhood spot, but it draws folks abstaining from animal products from far and wide. The menu has a comfort-food focus: generous portions, brunch at weekends and a great reputation for plant-based burgers. And did we mention it’s hella cute? With dark walls, wooden ceiling beams and twinkle lights suspended overhead, this spot is worthy of a date night.
The poutine: Let’s get one thing out of the way: Antidote’s twist on poutine is made with home fries (“patates Antidote”), not *real* fries. Some would say that disqualifies the dish from calling itself a poutine—but if it tastes great and satisfies vegans who miss the *real* thing, that sort of says it all. The potatoes are topped with cheese from Gusta, a local producer of artisanal plant-based food products, and Antidote’s house-made poutine sauce.
The cost: $10 for a small, $13 for a large