“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.
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.
Verdict: Avoid the poutine but come see the late-night waitress that looks like an elderly overweight Baby Spice.
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Location: 5261, Rue Saint Denis, corner Boucher, near Laurier metro.