New York is a city with a strong deli tradition. It is therefore quite surprising that Zagat’s highest rated New York deli is a Montreal-themed place named Mile End. I suppose there’s no arguing when comparing a chewy Montreal bagel with its bulky and stiff New York counterpart. Throw in a Wilensky special, smoked meat sandwiches and matzo ball soup and you can’t go wrong. But that’s not what drew me to this restaurant. I wanted to see if the high Zagat rating translated to a perfect poutine.
Right off Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill, Mile End differs from your average Jewish deli. Don’t expect the retro fittings, crammed shelves and noisy service of Schwartz’s or Ben’s (or Katz’s). Instead, you get a cozy-yet-welcoming minimalist Scandinavian atmosphere, white walls and varnished blond wood. A few jars of artfully displayed pickled vegetables in the window provide a nod to more traditional delis.
Two types of poutine are served: the classic ($8)
Fries: The fries are nearly perfect. They are lightly-salted golden-brown home-cut strips with just the right amount of crisp and grease. When I asked if they deserved a perfect score, one of my fellow diners commented that the bits of skin on some fries gave them a slightly earthy taste that was not entirely true to the poutine tradition. 28/30.
Gravy: This place uses a fluffy white mushroom gravy instead of the traditional brown sauce. Thankfully, it doesn’t really taste like mushrooms. The quantity and temperature of the gravy are good. The taste is not too showy or brash. In fact, the taste is probably a little too subtle, lacking the salty sharpness and rich flavour of a good meaty brown sauce. 33/50.
Cheese: We loved the huge chunks and the room-temperature softness of this cheese. However, unlike the cheese curds found in Quebec, these were not as dense or squeaky. They melted too fast. Quantities were fine, but more would have been better, especially considering the high price of the poutine. 13/20.
TOTAL SCORE: 74/100
Verdict: Although it’s not 100% true to Quebec traditions, this is the best poutine I’ve had in the USA. If you can’t make it to Quebec, it’s worth making the trek to this charming little Brooklyn restaurant.
Price: A bit high, but then most things in New York are. It’s to be expected in an upscale deli with a nice atmosphere.
Location:97A Hoyt Street, Brooklyn, NY