Poutine Review: Paul Patates (and Spruce Beer)

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Some people refer to this classic 1950s diner as “poutine heaven,” and it frequently comes up in discussions about the best poutine in Montreal. It sits in an off-the-beaten-track corner of the working-class neighbourhood of Pointe Saint-Charles. I made the trek out here a few times but it was always closed, being one of those rare casse-croutes that shutters up at 7PM.

Paul Patates is also famous for its starring tole in Quebec TV show Taxi 0-22, which I have never seen given that I don’t own a television.

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Last but not least, the place is also known because it makes its own home-brewed spruce beer using traditional methods. When Emile Bertrand’s restaurant closed down a few years back after more than a century in business, they took over his spruce beer business. The recipe dates back to 1898. Hops are combined with spruce needles and sugar. The concoction is lightly fermented, but the final product does not contain any alcohol. This was a fairly common beverage several centuries back, rumoured to have been used by explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew in the 1500s as a cure for scurvy. Spruce beer continued to be prominent throughout the nineteenth century but fell out of favour in the twentieth. There’s a reason for this. It tastes awful and smells even worse, like sweetened Pine Sol diluted in carbonated water (though some consider it a poor-man’s champagne). Nevertheless, this is the only place in the city that makes authentic spruce beer, so it’s worth a try if only for the heritage value.

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And now for the poutine…

Fries: Dark, wrinkled, overcooked, not very crispy, and too sweet – probably made with red potatoes in old cooking oil that needs to be changed. 20/30

Gravy: This is not a bad gravy, but not a particularly distinctive one either. Tastes like your average brown sauce with a hint of BBQ flavour. Temperature is perfect. 30/50

Cheese: The chunks are too small, don’t have that same-day squeaky freshness, but the quantity is reasonable. 12/20

TOTAL SCORE:
62/100

Verdict: Overrated.

Price: Close to ten bucks for a poutine and spruce beer, which seems a bit steep for this neighbourhood.

Location: Paul Patates, 760 rue Charlevoix, Montréal, QC (6 minute walk from Charlevoix Metro)

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Filed under Classic Poutine Reviews, Montreal

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