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The hot mess that is poutine—traditionally a plate of french fries tossed with cheese curds and covered with a brown gravy—has been turning up on bar menus and high-end tables all over the city. Which leads us to the question: Is this a joke? “It’s a great joke,” says Craig Fass, owner of the Bad Apple. “It’s so sinful, it should be wrong.” Fass spent a week in Montreal where he discovered poutine (which translates literally as mess, bad stew or I’d never eat this sober) and fell in love with it. Paramount Room’s Stephen Dunne, who serves his poutine (pictured above) with pulled pork shoulder and melted cheddar, also found the concept easy to embrace : “Braised meat, fried potatoes and gooey cheese? How can it get any better than that?” For Dirk Flanigan of the Gage, his upscale riff on the dish (it boasts an elk ragout instead of gravy) was requested by owner Billy Lawless’s wife. “The way everyone explains it is that it’s something you eat when you’re hungover or when you’re already drunk. I was kind of like, ‘I don’t know if I want to put this on the menu.’” He did anyway, and now, between his version and the version at Nightwood (where poutine comes with duck confit and a poached duck egg), the dish has been elevated above drunken sustenance. But it’s still junk food—just foreign junk food. Nightwood’s chef de cuisine Jason Vincent puts it best: “Americans, a lot of us don’t stray anywhere from ketchup when it comes to fries. It’s the people that use the metric system that really know how to treat fried potatoes.”
Bad Apple 4300 N Lincoln Ave (773-360-8406)
The Gage 24 S Michigan Ave (312-372-4243)
Paramount Room 415 N Milwaukee Ave (312-829-6300)
Nightwood 2119 S Halsted St (312-526-3385)