I was here by way of a social shopper coupon. It promised me two of their deluxe poutines, so I invited a friend along to share in the bounty.
“Frites” is one of the newer poutine places to call the entertainment district of downtown Granville Street, home. This location is a wise one, I can only imagine the lift in traffic from after hours businesses and the serge of additional customers during the weekend nights. After all fries, cheese, and gravy sound pretty amazing when you are drunk, tired, and hungry. It sobers you up and warms you through.
As the new kid on the block it also probably didn’t hurt them to move into an area already known for hosting other successful poutine shops. The healthy competition draws people looking for this very Canadian food item in. And as a result “Frites” probably picks up new customers and additional patrons only now discovering their location. Some willing to compare how they stacked up to their neighbours, others wanting to try something new, those unwilling to wait in the longer lines of their more established competitors, and even maybe those who recognize this chain from its original locations in Toronto. Either way this area probably earned them residual sales. After all it’s about location, location, location; an if you build it they shall come sort of thing.
Its black awning and matching black sandwich board weren’t too striking. It was actually their slogan that drew me in first: “fries with benefits”, it referenced their unique “double-layered poutine”. A poutine that had a more even gravy and cheese ratio to fry, made using authentic Belgium fries.
Inside their shop was where they choose to advertise their offerings with large poster-sized images. Coloured close ups of their waffle sandwiches and burgers, along with their various topped poutines. All a little pointless in my opinion. In order for potential customers to see them they need to enter the shoppe first. And once in the shop it is almost a guarantee that they will buy something. I guess it was more artwork and decoration than anything. Though all they did aid in your decision making process, allowing your eyes to do the ordering.
Seating was very limited, signifying that this was the type of place meant as a quick meal, and not one to linger at. Black cushioned stools were paired with red bar/table surfaces. Majority faced out the window, with a table for two against the left wall. At the centre of each setting is a diamond shaped cut out. Its intended purposes was to hold a cone tipped serving of fries. We didn’t need this, but it told me their most requested item was their Belgium fries as is; as there was a need for this specific table modification.
The process starts when you head to the cash register at the counter. A cashier greets you and takes your order. Behind him is the kitchen. A cut out wall allowed for the viewing of orders being made by another employee stationed in the back. Visible from front door, there was no mystery to their processes.
Like food court style service you look up to a posted menu in order to make your selection. Anything off one of the three television sets broadcasting the expanse of the menu in a fun and engaging way. Your options were fries, poutines, or sandwiches made with waffles instead of bread. Each of the above also came in variations, for a have it your way sort of deal. There were five options for poutine, together covering all the major meat groups: chicken, pork, and beef. Having regular fries opened you to the option of it being served with one of their 22 different gourmet sauces. “Suicide”, “peppercorn ranch”, “Madras curry”, “Jamaican jerk”, “sriracha”, and “Go Ju Jang” their Korean style sauce; just to name a few. They were certainly not exclusively Belgium in style, more a multiculturally influenced smorgasbord. The waffle sandwich gave you the most customizable options. Choose your meat, your sauce, and even the bun; it didn’t even need to be a waffle. Though without the waffle it kind of defeated the relevance found in the name.
Because of the coupon, our choice was limited to either pulled pork, beef chilli, or bacon mushroom. Just as well, as I wouldn’t want my first taste of their food to be with anything, but one of their layered poutines.
After your order is processed, a handful of fries take a dip into oil. This is made to order, done in order. Once crispy, a ladling of pre-made gravy is then generously drizzled over a portion. And finally topped accordingly. Each helping of poutine is served in to go containers with foldable lids and stickers of their banner.
As with most poutines there is a need to eat this one quick as well. A need to shovel in multiple sticks of fries before the gravy gets absorbed and the potatoes get soggy. The gravy used had a light and runny texture. Greasy, with a consistency similar to that of a meaty vinaigrette, or a runny real maple syrup. The dollops of cheese were the size of nuggets. I was most impressed by the amount and freshness of each curd. They were slightly melted by the warm gravy, and become stringy as we pulled them from the box towards our mouths. As promised there was a double layer. There was plenty of cheese and the bottom of the box as well as the tip, not just undressed soften fries.
The “pulled pork” poutine was sweetened by the honey barbecue sauce. We felt it needed some additional spice, a kick to make it stand out. Maybe even some onions or fresh herbs to counter act the dominating sweetness.
We agreed that the “Bacon mushroom” was our preferred poutine. The latter were thick slices of cooked button mushrooms, and the former fried and tossed bacon bits. The bits had a texture of stale crumbs. Overall it had a savoury salty flavour, one I found more enjoyable than the sweet poutine above. As a result it also married better with the salty cheese. I still could have used more bacon though, maybe some in chewy chunks as well and the tough sprinkle.
Poutines are generally salty, I needed a drink mid way through. My guest was keen enough to point out the poster she read by the mini fridge. It advertised a free bottle of water or pop if I liked them on Facebook and checked in my location today. That sounded easy enough for free, and here I was about to just pay for a drink. Clearly this was an advertising strategy meant to leverage my social media following. One I was okay to help in for something free. After the clerk confirmed the above on my phone I was allowed to help myself to a free bottle of water.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I am not a big fan of fries, but as a late night, easy to eat and sober up to snack it fairs pretty well. Especially as there is so many ways to make it your own. Overall I found the food good, but the portions associated, on the smaller side. A convenient cuisine, at convenient prices, in an convenient area. An easy win, on a tested dish. Not the best, but one that could definitely hit the spot in a pinch. Don’t deny your cravings.