The first thing you notice when you walk into Smoke’s Poutinerie is the red and black plaid that wallpapers the restaurant.
Then, the portrait of its founder, Ryan Smolkin, who beams from the restaurant’s takeout boxes, wallpaper, and menus. Legend has it that the Canadian concocts each menu item from his cabin on the Quebec border.
The menu is as quirky as the decor: fries are not only topped with the classic gravy and cheese curds, but also with unexpected ingredients like Sriracha and peas. Located on the equally weird and wonderful South Street, Smoke’s Poutinerie brings poutine with personality to Philadelphia.
The chain’s goal is “global domination.” It’s an ambitious goal, what with healthy fads like pressed juice and poké sweeping the nation. But Smoke’s Poutinerie is uncompromising in its mission, advertising poutine—a mix of French fries, gravy, and cheese curds—with banners emblazoned with “Clogging Arteries Since 2009!” Manager Lonnie Glickman tells me that “as long as you don’t eat, like, four poutines, you should be fine.”
I’m more than fine, two poutines later. It’s Canadian comfort in a takeout box, and more than sates my craving for grease.
Lonnie, a gracious host, recommends the Korean poutine and pierogi poutine. While Sriracha on poutine may seem daunting, the Korean Poutine is Korean barbecue with a Canadian flair. Coated with rich gravy and melted–just–right cheese curds, topped with Korean style flat iron steak, green onions, and dressed with sambal (a traditional chili paste) and pools of Sriracha sauce, it’s fusion food done right. The spicy Asian flavors don’t overpower the poutine underneath; it tastes like Koreana and McDonald’s had a love child.
The pierogi poutine is richer than I’ll ever be. Bacon bits lay atop a line of pierogies and sour cream. And of course, gravy, cheese curds, and fries (you know the drill). It’s (but Canadian). The pierogi poutine is more subdued than the Korean Poutine, umami instead of fiery. Taking a bite of a pierogi is like feeling a Polish grandmother wrap you in her arms, all warm and cheesy and wholly pleasant. Cholesterol never tasted so good.
Smoke’s Poutinerie disregards traditional ideas of poutine and even ideas about chain restaurants. With dishes bursting with originality and flavor, Smoke’s Poutinerie may conquer the world through saturated fats just yet. You can’t help but root for them, eh?