Review: Elgin Street Diner

Poutine Elgin Street Diner ESD

I went to Ottawa last week. Since I love taking gratuitous swipes at Canada’s capital, I was looking forward to trying out the Elgin Street Diner’s renowned poutine in order to thoroughly demolish it and the city it comes from.

Ottawa feels half-arsed. Aside from a few monumental government buildings, most of the city looks like it was pieced together with building scraps around the same time as our federation, a late-Victorian boomtown peopled by dull bureaucrats. And there are too many Canadian flags – the tacky streets scream out THIS IS CANADA from all directions (with some token French occasionally thrown in to keep us Quebec whiners in check). A public bus rumbles by with a 12 foot tall red maple leaf plastered to its exterior. CANADA, EH! Inside the Elgin Street Diner are more maple leaves, with an advertisement for their “PROUDLY PATRIOTIC POUTINE” and a message extolling “MY CANADA INCLUDES POUTINE.” So what next? Hmmm… let’s appropriate one of Quebec’s national dishes and call it Canadian!

Elgin Street Diner

Unfortunately, despite my misgivings, I have to grudgingly admit that they’ve done a good job with the poutine. What’s more, with the Elgin open 24 hours, you can get a better poutine at 3AM in Ottawa, the proverbial “city that never wakes,” than in Montreal. This is utterly baffling to me. Ottawa wins this battle, but the size of these poutines is enough to make all their troops bloat up or pass out.

Elgin Street Diner

Fries: Small crispy and airy home-cut julienned fries with the skin still on, a bit greasy but nothing to get too worried about. More stringy than your usual fries, but somehow it works. They are tastier than the Patati Patata variety. 26/30.

Gravy: Yes, the gravy really is a purplish dark brown. It’s a good thing I don’t take off points for visual appearance, because this poutine would lose out instantly. Don’t let appearances fool you – this gravy tastes much better than it looks. It has a nice rich peppery taste with a slight tinge of sweetness. It’s quite original. The temperature is just right but the texture may be a tad bit too thick, and it does get old after a while. 44/50.

Cheese: These are Ontarian cheese curds. They’re good, but the chunks are too small, and they’re a bit too soft. They’re not unlike the cheese curds you find in Montreal and all points west, lacking the squeak found in some of the cheeses produced in eastern Quebec. Portions could be a bit more generous. 11/20.

TOTAL SCORE: 81/100

Verdict: There may be hope for Ottawa after all.

Value: Poor – $8.99. Nine bucks + tax for a poutine is too much, but I suppose prices for everything are higher in Ottawa. This poutine is enormous and could easily be shared between two people.

Location: 374 Elgin Street. Within walking distance to most things in Ottawa.

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5 Comments

Filed under 24 Hour Restaurants, Classic Poutine Reviews, Ottawa

5 responses to “Review: Elgin Street Diner

  1. Simon-Pierre Harvey

    So I take it you disagree with this Washington Post article about Ottawa?
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2010/07/09/ST2010070902338.html?sid=ST2010070902338

    hahaha!

    Thanks for the review, I enjoyed.

  2. Virginia Roe

    You must have been really really hungry.
    If you haven’t already, you really need to try the poutine in Ste-Famille, Île-d’Orléans, Chez Mac. New owners but same great taste.
    Thanks for the interesting reviews.

  3. skillzflux

    Comments on the whole Pierre Poutine Ordeal?

  4. thomas g

    another poutine review that, to me, misses the mark on what poutine should be.

    The gravy is thick and pasty, the cheese is awful. the fries are alright but not poutine grade or shaped to be integrated. the entire thing is like a satire to what poutine is, done by people who were given a 15 minute brief before walking to the local grocery store with a half baked idea of what they would do. how is it that the curds are so lack luster? or that the sauce covers the cheese making it distinguishable? the sauce is so thick it could be a jelly. the cheese is small and cheezy… it seems to me that they were made after the fact, like someone ordered curds after they were already processed into bricks.

    • billco

      This.

      I have never liked ESD poutine. I’ve tried it several times, as my palate has changed over the years. Nope, everything about this place is wrong. The fries are too thin and greasy, the gravy tastes a thousand times too salty and peppery, and they really cheap out on cheese.

      Cross over to Gatineau, go to Patio Vidal instead. I know of at least two locations that are 24/7, one at Greber/St-René and another at the Alonzo bridge. At least their poutines look and taste like proper Quebec comfort food. It bears some similarity to Montreal’s “La Belle Province” chain. A bit ghetto, but if you’re craving proper junk food, they nail it. Try the Patio Poutine if you’re not a coward: it has chopped up hot dogs, chicken fingers, and a huge mound of cole slaw on top. It’s bizarre and somehow awesome – whoever invented it was no stranger to intoxicated munchies.

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