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!
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.
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.