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How far would you drive for a mouth full of ooey, gooey, cheese, warm meaty gravy on top of some hot fresh fries?
How far would I drive? Well apparently, all 4.5 hours of the way to the motherland of gravy, curds and fries – Quebec.
Poutine has become increasingly popular in Toronto in recent years with the welcome landing of Smoke’s Poutinerie, Poutini’s and the food truck craze. Many restaurants now offer some variation of poutine as part of their menu including Caplansky’s, Great Burger Kitchen, BQM Diner, and of course, the common staple, New York Fries.
|La Belle Province
2941, boul de la Concorde E.
Laval, QC, H7E3N2
I’ve always been a huge fan of poutine, so every time I drop by Montreal (which is every 1 or 2 years or so), I try to grab some gooey goodness. I’ve noticed though, that the one major differentiation between Toronto poutine and Montreal poutine is that the Montreal fries are sweet.
Yup, you heard me right, sweet.
Now depending on where you go of course, the sweetness varies. Walking through Old Montreal, I remember dropping by a quaint little hole-in-the-wall place to try their poutine and wondering (due to my really awful French) whether or not I had accidentally ordered the sweet potato fries poutine. I didn’t FYI, it was really that sweet!
This time, I asked my aunt and cousin to point me to a poutine place on our way back. They suggested I try Resto la Banquise, in the Plateau, and La Belle Province, a Quebec-wide chain. We settled on La Belle Province since it was more convenient on our route back to Toronto.
The original La Belle Province was opened on Sherbrooke Street East in 1970. Today there are 100 something La Belle Province Restaurants in existence, most of which are loosely run within the family.
The restaurants themselves are pretty simple, understated family hang outs with some major 80s (70s?!) vibe – neon lights, full wall spray paintings of cars and lightning, gumball machines and bench seating. Yup, it looks like they’ve kept the same decor since the day that they opened (which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your tastes).
The menu was a pretty standard diner fair – hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, pogos, gyros (ok, maybe not so typical, it’s run by a Greek family), and poutines. There were several variations of poutine – regular, chicken, smoked meat, Italian… there may have been more.
Since we were in Montreal (and since we didn’t have time to drop by Schwartz), my boyfriend and I had no choice but to order the ultimate Montreal experience – smoked meat poutine… large. The smoked meat was supplied by a company called Lesters. We also ordered a cheeseburger and a regular drink on the side.
Now I have to say, when we ordered a large, we had no idea HOW LARGE it was actually going to be. The plate, piled high with fries, hot gravy, and lean, tender, smoked meat, was the size of pretty much our whole tray. That must have been about 6000 calories worth of heart-stopping goodness. Coming from a background in nutrition, I think I almost had a heart attack just looking at it.
How did it taste? It was good. The fries were freshly fried, not soggy, not too crispy, and slightly sweet. The cheese wasn’t too melty, but definitely was hot enough. The smoked meat was lean and not too salty and overall, in terms of flavour, I thought it was a good balance.
My sister and her boyfriend ordered a chicken poutine. I found the chicken a bit dry and generally tasteless. I probably wouldn’t recommend this one.
The burger was moist and fresh. It was a pretty typical American style burger. You can choose your own toppings. I liked how juicy and simple it was.
I have to report that as hard as we tried, through sweat and tears, to finish that monster tray of poutine, we couldn’t. I don’t think we even got half way. It was actually quite hilarious when we looked around and saw families sharing a “small”. It must have been pretty obvious we weren’t local when we ordered…
Overall, would I recommend this place? Try this place if you want take a stab at the long-standing good ol Canadian tradition of poutine. If you like no-fuss, super casual diner style stuff, then give this place a try. For a very decent price, you get a good poutine (enough to feed 2 families), a burger and all you can drink soda. However, if you’re into hypster decor, excellent service, and delicate, light food, then this may not be the place for you. Oh, and if you’re going there alone or with a friend, I would highly recommend that you order the “small” size…
The Damage: $14 after tax