As It Happens

Boston is doing 'horrific' things to poutine, warns magazine writer

A Canadian expat has taken to the pages of Boston Magazine to decry what he sees as the city's "poutine problem"
The Gallows serves poutine with chilli and spaghetti, while Boston Chops offers a 'poutine-style' twice-baked potato. (@thegallowsboston, @BostonChops/Instagram )

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A Canadian expat has taken to the pages of Boston Magazine to decry what he sees as the city's "poutine problem."

"It seems like for some reason just as poutine is starting to catch on in Boston, instead of giving Bostonians a lot of really good quality traditional poutine ... restaurants have gone in a really disturbing direction and have given us some really odd versions of this dish that I love so much," Spencer Buell told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"The word has come to mean just a pile of stuff with other stuff on it."

Take, for example, The Gallows, which serves a rotating menu of poutines based on the culinary traditions of each of the 50 states.

The poutine for Ohio features fries topped with chili and spaghetti noodles.

"It's really a problem," Buell said.

Or Boston Chops, which serves "poutine-style" twice-baked potatoes that are "injected" with gravy.

"This one was really bad," Buell said.

"Just because it has gravy injected in it or just because gravy is an ingredient that's included in a dish doesn't make it poutine. I think it's time for someone to set the record straight."

Then there's the tater tot poutine, a trend Buell says is popping up at restaurants around the city.

"I don't understand what the problem is with regular fries," Buell said.

And sometimes, the ingredients are right, but the "execution" is lacking.

"In many cases, the version of poutine that people are presented with is ... just this coagulated goo of gravy and cheese," he said.

"It's just sort of this flat, cheesy mess."

The perfect poutine, according to Buell?

"For my money, a good handcut fry, cooked a little bit darker than usual, with a good quality flavourful gravy and cheese curds so fresh that they squeak when you bite into them. I think that that is the trifecta."

Fries, gravy and cheese curds, take-out made by the Sugar Shack in Williams Lake, B.C. This is what Buell calls 'the trifecta' of a perfect poutine. (Simon Charland/CBC)

And while he's not against experimentation — he admits he enjoys a good butter chicken poutine from time to time  — he says you should really learn the rules before you bend them.

"I've come to love traditional poutine and I just wish that Bostonians would get a chance to appreciate it as much as I do," he said.

"I think people should understand the baseline of what poutine is before they're exposed to some of these horrific alternatives."

Although, he admits, he can't lay the full blame at Boston's feet.

"I should mention that Canadians are not immune to this, taking poutine and doing some unforgivable things to it. So we have our own checkered past as well."


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