ZAP Bites: The Comprehensive History of Poutine & Where to Find It in Chicago
Once upon a time, way back in the 1950’s, there was a young, husky Quebecker boy with a fondness for French fries. One day in a particularly cold winter, the young man decided he wanted more – his French fries as they were, were no longer enough. So he topped his French fries with some cheese curds and then added a warm layer of molasses-like gravy that would forever be a game changer in the world we live in today. Between the warmth of the fries and gravy, his creation turned into a savory delicious melted heaven. As the young Quebecker stuffed his face, his mother asked in dismay “QU'EST-CE QUE VOUS MANGEZ?” (“WHAT ARE YOU EATING?!” in English) and with his mouth full he tried to say “Poutiness” which means a dish made of potatoes, but all his mother heard was “POUTINE!”. Seriously, try it. Say Poutiness in your best French accent with your mouth stuffed full of fries and tell us it doesn’t sound like poutine. The boy’s mother tried the glorious dish and agreed it was heaven on earth and so the name stuck and ever since then our friends up North have been enjoying all the goodness that is poutine. Lucky for us, poutine made its way to Chicago.
The lights are up, the snow is falling and with it being prime poutine eating season, I’ve compiled five Chicago spots in different neighborhoods so you can get your poutine fix to warm (and fatten) you up right in time for the holidays. Because, why not?! We can’t live in sweatpants and chunky sweaters all year long – might as well take advantage of these layers while we can! You can thank me later.
*Please note, this history of poutine is complete false, but it would be pretty great. A lot of people claim they created poutine, but what we do know is that it probably happened in Quebec in the 1905’s. Also, this list isn’t based on the best poutine, it’s strictly based on your location so you can find poutine at a location near you (and there are barely any poutine vendors South of Division).
- Badger Bro Poutine: Will’s Northwoods Inn (Lakeview)
Bringing the wooded-Wisconsin feel straight to Chicago, Will’s knows how to deliver cheese curds. And with that, their poutine has often been described as “cheese curd poutine goey deliciousness.” It’s a technical term.
- Speakeasy Poutine: Barrelhouse Flat (Lincoln Park)
Go upstairs. Now enjoy the dimly lit speakeasy while playing pool and the magical marriage that is poutine. Feeling wild? Start and/or finish your evening with Zombie cocktails and shots of Tequila 7 Leguas. You will not be disappointed…until you wake up the next morning.
- Squeaky Poutine: The Bad Apple (Really Far North)
Touted as Chicago’s most Canadian poutine (by a Canadian), The Bad Apple is known for their equal parts cheese curds and fries. Not sold? The cheese curds are so authentic, they squeak and there are 50+ beer options.
- Kinda Fancy Tourist Poutine: The Gage (The Loop)
You had me at jalapenos. And braised pork shoulder, pickled red onion, cheese curds topped with flavorful gravy. Just steps away from Millennium Park, The Gage is definitely a tourist spot, but the poutine is out of this world. It’s almost worth facing those horrendous crowds.
- New Poutine: Barley & Brass (Wicker Park)
An old-school cocktail bar with kegged cocktails, 15 beers on tap and short rib, malted barley risotto poutine. Amiright?
- Sophia Bly, Senior Publicist