I’m getting desperate. Bad weather and schedule forced us to skip out on the most important mission here in Montreal – tasting the world famous poutine. For those of us that are uncultured, poutine is a Quebec dish, made with the humble French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy. The only thing people who have visited Montreal have in common is their obsession with poutine. As an outsider, I couldn’t comprehend the craze; but having been in Montreal, I have to be able to say I had tried it. In hindsight, how great can French fries with sauce be? (I do love cheese fries, so yes they can be great!) Is Montreal that disappointing that it is known for a simple side dish? We laugh at Idaho by labeling them as potatoes. Not wanting to leave this city without having an opinion on poutine, is on the hunt for a good one. Rotten luck locks me the recommended joints, and I don’t want to bow down to Tim Horton’s, so I search on my phone for something. A nearby restaurant is known for its Quebec cuisine, and you guess it, serves poutine. This is it, welcome to La Belle Province.
Nothing scares me more than going to a random fast food chain. I don’t look down on cheap eats; in fact, I love them. Tacky fast food joints, on the other hand, are usually tourist trap – Sbarro in Madison Square Garden is a really good example. La Belle Province looks like a typical failing 80s fast food chain. Bright red and blue cushion booth with see through front windows, and large cutout food pictures taken when USSR was a thing. Everything is yellowing, including the crumbly menu on each booth. We are famished so we don’t have a choice. I would probably not step in here if I were by myself and had more time. The menu might look big but the options are very limited, and we pretty much order everything on the menu. Hot dogs, hamburgers and poutine. Even though this is a fast food chain, I stand in line while they prepare my order. Relish on your hot dog? (Yes) Mustard on the burger? (No) Customizable menu item, coming to you from Montreal decades before McDonald’s. I bet they do it because Quebecois are picky.
Technically, there is no wait. The line gets longer and shorter over the course of the meal, with the food is serve at the end of the line once cash exchanged hands. The huge order is cheaper than the 2 burgers we got at A&W, so one of them is priced very wrong. Hot dogs here come from a Canadian supplier that I have not heard before; they aren’t as snappy as Vienna, but still delicious. The same can be said about the burgers, good, but nothing special. With that said, I would gladly eat this over the usual chains. The highlight is the poutine – it is huge! Nobody should eat this as a side, so either share it with someone or as get it as the main course. Unlike French fries at most American restaurants, the ones used are much thicker, less salty, more potato-y and softer. Crispy French fries probably don’t go well with the brown gravy, and would be hard to eat with a fork. Poutine is special for using cheese curds rather than loaded/melted cheese, so there is no cheesiness to it. I can’t say I like this better than the American way, as the melted American cheese gives the fries extra flavors that cheese curds just doesn’t cut it. It is a novelty, but I really don’t see the craze over it.
The restaurant itself, on the other hand, is a sight. Walking in, I assumed this is a run-down cheap eat that college kids head to after a long night. Except the line never stops, and customers are mostly well dressed office workers. None of them stay, but all of them left with a huge bag of food. We couldn’t spot another tourist. The evidence shows that this is for locals, which is the silver lining for not going to the more famous poutine places. I guess Quebecois like to eat junk food as much as us Americans, just a little less refine in terms of flavors.
Visited: July 6th, 2018 at 12pm for lunch.
Address: 1216 Peel St, Montreal