Smoke’s Poutinere Brings the Canadian Poutine to Berkeley

A Canadian chain brings gravy and fries and other oddities to Berkeley.


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First try traditional poutine then graduate to the Philly cheese steak, left, or country style.

Photo by Lori Eanes

 

Poutines are loaded fries, but loaded fries are not poutines. And while the East Bay is loaded with loaded fries, Canada’s signature offering is relatively hard to come by. Until now, with the arrival of Smoke’s Poutinerie in Berkeley.

The Canadian chain makes its first move into America wisely choosing a spot near UC Berkeley. Catering to college students with piles of carbs and protein and midnight or later closings, the small shop off Telegraph Avenue has fewer seats than oversized wall graphics of early tech decor. It’s an odd choice, but there are worse dinner companions than a 4-foot Casio calculator watch.

With close to 30 riffs on the classic poutine ingredients—all arriving crammed into a to-go box to chip away at while wandering campus or elsewhere—guests can make their own creation or choose from popular options such as bacon cheeseburger poutine or double pork poutine, which marries chipotle pulled pork and crumbled bacon with the fries. Other nontraditional toppings include Sriracha sauce, dill pickles, Italian sausage, and vegetarian options. The toppings are slightly restrained, though plentiful enough to engulf 80 percent of the fries—leaving a small portion of fries dry and crispy to give a little crunch to the soon-to-be soggy pile that even in its smallest size is a full meal.

However, chicken fajita poutine bears more of a resemblance to loaded fries than poutine, so to truly understand what the East Bay’s been lacking, the traditional poutine is a must. A simple brown gravy and Québec cheese curds pump up the fries. Stray a little bit from the traditional, and the country-style poutine adds chicken, mushrooms, onions, and peas in a nice balance that adds up to a country inn dinner stuffed in a box.

The draw of Smoke’s Poutinerie may rest in late hours and crazy combinations—pierogi topping, anyone?—but tradition is traditional for a reason. Resist the temptation to go wild, and you’ll discover that not all loaded fries are created equal.

Smoke’s Poutinerie, 2518 Durant Ave., Unit A, Berkeley, www.SmokesPoutinerie.com

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