salut mes amis! i’m sorry i did not post sooner. a bunch of unexpected things came up- like a surprise party, busy days at work, a lack of sleep, and a late night trip out with anna. but honestly, this post has been on my mind, and i’m so glad that i can share it with you guys!
as you know, i recently returned from visiting montreal, where i will probably end up for school in a year and a half (so soon!!). i was lucky enough to stay with one of my favorite girlfriends, lily, who like me, loves food. so it goes without saying, that she was almost as excited as i was to take a food tour of montreal. but i should rewind a little bit, and bring your attention back to a post entitled, oh canada, which was posted the night before i left for my visit. i believe i mentioned that i’d be looking for some of the best poutine in the region, and i might as well tell you now, that i did, in fact, find it.
Patati Patata is Montreal’s version of Portland’s Silly’s. For those of you who haven’t visited Silly’s you can’t call yourself a local until you do. (click here for review) And if you have been to Silly’s you know that it can get pretty tight for space, but we should be thankful, because at Patati Patata, there are only 13 seats available. That’s smaller than Bresca which is known for it’s “intimacy” because it only has 19 seats. While for some, Patati Patata at its best is just another Montreal dive, it doubles as THE mecca for poutine connoisseurs. Pardon me for assuming that you all know what poutine is. I’ll provide you with a few definitions that might shed some light on this possible mystery for those who are currently in the dark.
Pronunciation: Peut-zhyn (never P00-teen -that would be the poor excuse for real Poutine, often served in Ontario)
A meal originating in the Eastern Townships of Quebec in the mid 20th century. Poutine tastes best when made from hand-cut potato fries, fresh Quebec curd cheese, and barbeque gravy.
The best goddamn mixture of potatoes, gravy, and cheesy goodness the world has ever come to know. Then again, it’s only PQ that knows what real poutine is.
So with a little help from our friends over at Urban Dictionary, I hope I was able to paint you a nice picture of what exactly poutine is. For french-fry lovers, poutine is pure ecstasy. Who can think of a better combination than fried potatoes, cheese curd (ahhhh so good in montreal), and gravy? Maybe you can, but for me this dish encompasses three of my most beloved ingredients, and also, if you’re feeling over-indulgent (oh wait, you probably already are feeling over indulgent if you’re eating poutine…), then I suggest getting some bacon on the side! No, this isn’t an instant heart-attack. Well, maybe it is.
So back to Patati Patata. The inside is cramped, but what can you expect? I admire the owner’s thoughtfulness to remain in the original location, regardless of how popular the joint has become. In addition to being cramped, quirky light fixtures, cluttered walls, mismatched barstools, and rainbow color paint set the stage for a relaxed and fun eating environment. The kitchen is right behind the counter, so if you’re eating with the locals, you can watch the chef (a woman!) create your orders right in front of you. In addition, I must tell you perhaps the biggest reason why Patati Patata is so wonderful is because it’s so affordable! $4 for an order of Poutine Classique, and $1.75 for a boeuf bourgeois. Where else can you get a bowl of poutine, and a hamburger for under $6? Nowhere in the United States, that’s for sure.
When Lily and I ventured into Patati Patata around 8pm on a Tuesday evening, we were met with a line, which another patron later told me was quite common. We waited for about 15 minutes for another friend to arrive, and then we were seated, although we weren’t together. I let Lily and her friend Erika (quite the coincidence that we have the same name) take a table by a window, and I settled for a counter seat next to a gentlemen with a scraggly beard, and eyes that sparkled with a story. While we waited, I had enough time to scour the menu, thus I had already decided on the Bouef Bourgeois avec bacon, laitue, mayonnaise, mustard, et tomate, and poutine classique. I ordered quickly in French, and perhaps not even a minute later, was engaged in conversation with the man next to me. He first spoke to me in French, asking for the salt, pepper, and ketchup, but soon afterward, he switched to English, and began asking me about the United States and about Montreal.
I guess I was really taken aback by how friendly he was, because after I left, I couldn’t help but gush to Lily that the people of Montreal were considerably nicer than those of Maine. For close to an hour, I discussed politics, university, food, culture, the state of the world, and family with my fellow patron, and left with a greater sense of who I am as a person, and what the world has to offer. He implored me to move to Canada, because as he said, “minds like yours shouldn’t go to waste in the USA,”. I agree whole-heartedly, though I don’t think my mind is much different from the next, but regardless, this is perhaps one of the best compliments I’ve received in quite sometime.
When my poutine and burgeois arrived, my eyes probably popped out of my head. The french-fries were glistening with gravy and spotted with cheese curd, waiting to be devoured. The burger was mini and pressed to about 1/6 of an inch, but it remained the focal point between the bun, the bacon, the lettuce and the tomato. I looked at my new friend, and all he said was, “Welcome to Montreal,”. Upon the first bite, I realized that this was the best welcome to any new city that I could possibly imagine. The gravy isn’t just any gravy, it’s a red wine chicken stock reduction- rich, deep, and warm. Gourmet at its best usage, some might argue. The cheese curd was still intact, refreshing, and offered a smooth, milky texture which contrasted the slightly crunch/slightly soggy texture that the fries boasted. Garnished with a black olive, mayonnaise, and ketchup, the poutine lacked nothing, and instead was in its entirety.
The burgeois also offered numerous textures and flavours to please the palate. I can’t even begin to describe how the meat tasted. It was seasoned well with herbs and other savory goodies, and was so tender, which honestly bewildered me. How could the chef be able to cook the meat so perfectly when it was only about 1/6 of an inch thick? The bun was made in house, and it was warm and crispy. The bacon was perfectly cooked, not too much fat, but chewy opposed to tough, and the lettuce and tomato served as counter flavors to the protein sections of the dish, because they were crisp, fresh, and light. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better burger (besides one at Sonny’s) in my entire life. The price-tag too is just a cherry on top.
Establishments like Patati Patata make me incredibly happy for a multitude of reasons. The first tends to be the staff- because they all are real people willing to share their life-stories on a moment’s notice, the second tends to be the environment, because they can’t be replicated and bottled up and embedded into chains- instead they’re completely unique, and the third is because of the food. It’s quality, it’s inexpensive, and oftentimes its a bonding experience for everyone in your party. Patati Patata reminded me that not all restaurants have to follow to mold of sit-down service, culinary “ingenious”, and $$$ price-tags. Instead, restaurants are temples that house different stories and different interpretations of comfort, passion, and life, and don’t necessarily need to follow any standard or precedent that might be set by another.
If I do end up in Montreal, I’m 100% certain that Patati Patata will be my place to go for a midnight snack quite frequently.