Riding the gravy train: Smoke’s Poutinerie plans new locations and a poutine truck

Riding the gravy train: Smoke’s Poutinerie plans new locations and a poutine truck

Smolkin shows off his triple pork poutine: bacon, pulled pork and sausage atop fries (Photo by Karon Liu)

Fries, curds and gravy—three simple ingredients that, when combined, create a dish as Canadian as hockey. Toronto’s love affair with poutine started years ago with haute incarnations from Jamie Kennedy and in restaurants like Bymark (it’s hard to go wrong when both lobster and fries are involved). When Café du Lac opened in 2008, we swooned for its foie gras–topped version. It was perhaps inevitable, then, that poutine-focused restaurants would soon follow, and the first was thanks to Ryan Smolkin, an ex-advertising exec with no hospitality experience.

In November, Smolkin—with help from consulting firm the Fifteen Group (The Roy, Mercatto, Vertical)—opened Smoke’s Poutinerie at 218 Adelaide Street West and now plans to open two more locations: one at Dundas and Jarvis in the second week of September to specialize in catering, and another at Queen and Bathurst in November. This Labour Day weekend, he’ll launch the Mobile Poutine Truck to offer curbside curds.

“It’s a very simple concept, but we take it very seriously,” says Smolkin. “It’s not gourmet ingredients, but it’s quality ingredients at an economical price point, and it’s comfort food, so that’s why we’ve been doing well in these tough times.”

It might also help that the Adelaide location (open until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays) sits atop another late-night hub, Burrito Boyz. The spot now has a reputation as the Entertainment District’s ultimate drunk-food building. Smoke’s regularly serves about 300 people between 1:30 and 3:30 a.m. on the weekend, club kids looking to fend off a hangover with fries and meal-like toppings of chicken curry, ground beef and a new cardiac arrest–inducing trio of pulled pork, sausage and bacon.

Following the success of Smoke’s Poutinerie was the opening of Poutini’s House of Poutine, but Smolkin shrugs off the competition, saying Poutini’s dishes are more traditional and cater to a different market.

And as for purists who argue that the addition of curry and beef is an abomination of the sacred Québécois dish? “I guess they wouldn’t want to eat here. I get a lot of critics, but, thank God, for every one bad critic you get a thousand happy people,” he says. “You can’t please everybody.” We guess he doesn’t need to: Smolkin will be attending his first franchise fair in October.