Did the Greeks Ruin Poutine?

Restaurant Salonika

“I’m not a racist, but there’s a reason poutine is worse in Montreal than elsewhere in the province,” said my racist friend. “There are too many Greek immigrants running restaurants.”

The Greeks are not only being blamed for ruining the Euro; it seems they also ruined poutine. While I think this is an unfortunate oversimplification, let’s humour my friend for a minute. It is true that many of the Greek-run restaurants I have tried in Montreal use grated cheese rather than superior curd cheese. This may be cultural – I have never been to Greece, but my travels in the surrounding countries have shown that “fries with grated cheese” appears on many bar menus. A little bit of googling confirms that the Greeks are also fond of something similar, though I’ll have to admit that the feta used in this recipe sounds like a better curd-cheese substitute than the bland pizza cheese used in Montreal.

While it is tempting to blame the Greeks for reducing poutine standards in Montreal, we should remember that for every Greek cook using grated cheese there are hundreds of non-Greek Montrealers willing to buy and eat grated-cheese poutine. Most don’t seem to mind. Some people even like it. In short, everyone in Montreal is to blame for putting up with this travesty.

Which brings me to Salonika, a fine example that illustrates this phenomenon, as there was nary a Greek customer in sight and plenty of people eating poutine. This 24hr Plateau eatery whips up everything from souvlaki to Chinese food. The traditional 60s-70s casse-croute booths are still there, though they clearly reupholstered the benches sometime in the early 1990s. Luckily, their taste in fabric was relatively conservative, a rare show of restraint in a period that was perhaps the nadir of upholstery.

Restaurant Salonika

Restaurant Salonika

Fries: They taste like undercooked frozen fries. Crispy-yet-undercooked exterior with a floury-yet-undercooked interior. Not too greasy but quite bland. 16/30.

Gravy: Generic but decent despite the slightly mucosy texture. Good temperature, decent taste, and proper quantity. Slightly sweet BBQ tinge. 36/50.

Cheese: A generous quantity of grated cheese, but the menu does not specify that the so-called poutine is served with inferior cheese. There is no excuse for poutine with grated cheese in a city where cheese curds are so readily available. This is not poutine. Deserves a “0” for cheese but I’ll give a few points because they give you lots of cheese for your buck. 3/20.

TOTAL SCORE:
55/100

Verdict: Avoid the poutine but come see the late-night waitress that looks like an elderly overweight Baby Spice.

Price:Average.

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Location: 5261, Rue Saint Denis, corner Boucher, near Laurier metro.

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6 Comments

Filed under 24 Hour Restaurants, Classic Poutine Reviews, Montreal, Poutine Academy

6 responses to “Did the Greeks Ruin Poutine?

  1. You should visit Greece, taste the food, and then, I am pretty sure that your ll change your whole opinion.
    First of all, you will taste much better foods than… french fries with cheese (is this even considered….cooking?)

    • Greece is on my list of places to visit in the next few years.

      You can get proper Greek cuisine in Montreal, generally at places that don’t serve poutine. It is often fantastic, and this is one of the many benefits of having a city full of Greek immigrants. There’s a whole range, from the upscale (Cava), to the nouveau (Tasso), to casual dives that serves up excellent pikilia platters (Tripolis). It’s much better than the stuff that passes for Greek food in the rest of the province, where there are next to no Greek immigrants (ie: Casa Grecque, reheated industrially-produced frozen souvlaki).

      As for whether “fries with cheese” is cuisine, the whole point of this blog is to challenge the division between high and low cuisine. If the fries are made with quality potatoes, cooked in good oil at the right temperature, properly seasoned, and topped with quality cheese, then I think the cook deserves a round of applause. It’s an art, and you can make those fast food classics right if you slow down, choose your ingredients wisely, and do it with care.

      • I hope you will enjoy your visit to Greece 🙂

        I haven’t visit Montreal or Canada, but in every Greek restaurant abroad that have tried Greek food, I think that is not that good. Not that they are not good chefs, but I think the ingridients used in Greece, are different.I am happy to see that there are still good restaurants.
        Thank you for your answer

  2. skillzflux

    It’s not just the greek! The lebanese are equally debasing this divine dish! I hear some people in Ontario are also ruining it. I love greek food and lebanese food… and greek girls and lebanese girls… but get the poutine right! If poutine isn’t cooking, how come so many people get it wrong? We call it a “desastre culinaire” but it’s one or our own! How can you survive through Quebecois winters without concentrated fat? Nothing a lil mediteranean would know about….

  3. ill

    J’adore la poutine de Salonica

  4. lili

    la poutine de chez Salonica est très bonne. Le fromage est râpé: c’est sa particularité. La sauce est bonne

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