Last weekend I went to Joliette, a small city 50 km northeast of Montreal. Founded in the 1820s under the evocative name “L’Industrie,” the city still has a large tire factory and “the biggest gravel quarry in the region.” The central area is a strange mix of charming heritage buildings and horrendously tacky 1980s postmodern crap. One of the ugliest buildings in town houses what may be the best small art museum in the province. This surprising museum would be enough to justify a visit, but there’s also Restaurant Henri (AKA Chez Henri).
Chez Henri is a local legend. This 24-hour restaurant draws people from surrounding towns for its famous fries. Located on Joliette’s main fast food strip, Chez Henri was the only restaurant with nary a place to park. The mascot is an adorable large one-armed orange “H” with a crown (available as a stuffed toy for only $10). I first heard about Chez Henri in this cheesy 1991 CBC-TV feature about poutine, an interesting period piece from the days before poutine became legendary and English Canadians appropriated it as their own creation.
Founded in 1957 as a classic roadside “shack à patates,” don’t miss the original Chez Henri trailer in the parking lot. But let’s go inside and see what the poutine is all about…
Fries: Greasy, but in the best possible way. These skinless home-cut fries are crispy and tasty. I can see how they made the restaurant famous. A little less grease might be better, but then again maybe not. 27/30.
Gravy: This lightly peppered sauce blends well with the tasty fries. It’s generic but tasty, with a nice consistency. The temperature could be a bit warmer. 40/50.
Cheese: Generous portions, but unfortunately most chunks are too small. The cheese is room-temperature fresh, but the squeaks were a little too discrete. I didn’t hear anything but my girlfriend swore she heard some minor squeaking. 13/20.
Verdict: A respectable poutine worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Price: $4.25 for the “poutinette” sampler, which is a bit small for the price, but the regular poutine is decently priced.
Opening Hours: 24h
Location: 30, rue de la Visitation, Joliette, QC.