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Category: poutine

Frites

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

FRITES
1011 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z1L5
60-559-0550
frieswithbenefits.com
Frites Granville on Urbanspoon

La Belle Patate

IMG_9997IMG_9982Poutine with a French man.

It’s been a while since we’ve had poutine. Me three months, he three weeks. The benefits of living with a French Canadian is that when he has his weekly poutine craving, you are able to tag along for some of the cheesy and gravy good stuff. As I have previously written, having tried many a poutine; a variety of fries, a gallery of gravies, and a collection of cheeses; all from a multitude of restaurants and bars, this hands down is my favourite. Though a large influence on my declaration comes from the opinion of the “Frenchy” I was dining with and only come here with. This is his choice for the most authentic and the most true to the Québécois spirit.

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It was a modest setting, a mix of bar and community centre. Yellow to orange walls, accented in red. With what you would imagine as traditional and cliche Quebec memorabilia was present. A Canadianens flag, pendants, and signs. Signed and framed GSP pictures and merchandise. And Quebec flags and license plates. Souvenirs the owner brought with him of his old life on the East Coast? There was a lot scattered around in advertisements and signs. It made things feel a little cluttered and kept the place casual. But between a child’s coloured picture and the laminated notes, I am sure it all has meaning.

A few bar stool-ed seats stood before windows facing the side walk, and others sat across from the mirrors that made up a section of the wall. Above them were mounted flat screens showcasing the sports of the day. They were angled for the benefit of those sitting at one of the tall backed booth seats, lining the opposite wall. Having all those seats already taken, we sat ourselves at one of the black tables surrounded by brown chairs in the middle of the room.

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You walk in, if busy drop your stuff to claim a table, then stand a feet away from the counter reading what the chalkboard menu over head has to offer. Your choices are separated by “poutine”, “specialty poutine”, and “hot dogs”. A list of fast food done greasy and satisfying included hot chicken, grilled cheese and smoked meat sandwiches; and sides of onion rings and pogos. Here poutine varied by the addition of one or more ingredients. You can put anything in a poutine and it would taste good. Hamburger steak, bacon, peas, eggs, tomato, green peppers, coleslaw, pasta sauce, and even donair meat. Or take your basic gravy and cheese curd and add in whatever you want to have your own customized poutine.

With your poutine they also offer beer and wine. Though I have never had either here. Instead I grab a bottled soft drink out of the help your self style freezer, and use their wall bolted bottle opener to free the cap to take a chug. There are also cupcakes for sale from a local bakery, this would be your only choice for dessert or something sweet. This little glass pedestal and cloche sit just behind the help yourself bottles of ketchup and the jug of water and lemon ready for the self pouring.

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The employees working tonight were as casual they were dressed. The owner is who we often see, he is a friendly face who knows his regulars by appearance if not name. He is more attentive than the young man working the counter tonight. Today we had some part timers who just could not care less. The cashier kept us waiting to order as he had to finish something on his phone. We watched him text before he leaned on the register and addressed us with his profile. Not once did he look us in the face or meet our attention with his eyes. His bad attitude was evident and ever present from the time we ordered to the time he had to serve. When not engaged he waited for business, chin on palm, elbow on counter.

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“Onion rings”. We are on the eternal search for the best onion rings. To date these are closest to the ones that kindled this love affair on the beach Penticton. Golden brown, the perfect fry without that oily taste. Crispy and best eaten hot. A little too perfect in cut, that I suspect they were purchased frozen.

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“Grilled dog” with mayo and ketchup. I prefer a grilled dog over the steamed variety any day. The grill gives it an extra crisp skin and an additional char. They toast the bun to give things a cohesive warmth. Though as tasty as this was it is just a regular hot dog. No better than the street meat you get from carts on corners.

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After trying a number of their poutines: finding the “Italian” too tomatoey and the “galvaude” cold with frozen peas, I have vowed to stick to the original and one true version of the poutine. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I don’t find any one new ingredient added more beneficial to the winning base. To me you can’t improve on this already perfect late night craving, junk food loving mix. This is their classic: crisp fries, meaty gravy, and squeaky cheese. And when you are craving a poutine nothing satisfies like this one, and there is no heartier a size than the large severe in a tin foiled to go tray. But every time we come we ask for there to be less gravy in our portion, and each time there is still that race to finish things before the crisp fries get soggy and over saturated. What remains is a pool of brown deemed inedible.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As I have already stated this is my favourite spot for poutine. Though there are times in my cravings that make I want a thicker more potato-y fry or a different flavoured gravy all together. But I find that at the end of the day I always come back to “La Belle Patate” and they satisfy majority of my cravings. This is the most authentic Quebec style poutine in Vancouver. Take the word of a French Canadian who has gone out of his way to try it all. Don’t deny your cravings.

LA BELLE PATATE
1215 Davie Street, Vancouver BC
604-569-1215
westcoastpoutine.wix.com/labellepatate
La Belle Patate on Urbanspoon

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