Thursday, 23 October 2008


It's fall, the weather is getting colder, and it was gently raining outside. Perfect weather to go to a chip truck. And Ottawa has no shortage of chip trucks. But this isn't time for plain old chips - it's time for POUTINE!!!! Poutine, pronounced "puh-tien" not "poo-teen" is the French Canadian classic of fresh cut french fries, gravy and cheese curds.

This, like Buffalo Wings, is something that so many places get the name wrong. If you use shredded cheese, mozzarella cheese, Cheeze Whiz, or anything but cheese curds, its not a proper poutine. If you use waffle fries or wedges, it is not a proper poutine. Don't get me wrong, these can be delicious in their own right, but legally they should be mentioned only as variations not specifically as poutine. There are 'legal' variations out there like Italian poutine (with spaghetti sauce) or adding Montreal smoke meat, bacon or even Foie Gros. For me, its classic all the way.

My favourite chip truck (so far in Ottawa) has been JP's Chips. Every time I have gone it has been busy, and this day was no different (6-7 cars in the process of waiting for food or already eating). It is a giant trailer stand (3 axles!) and has a giant menu as well.

There are a ton of things to choose from, including the interesting "Eric's Burger", a beef burger with a chicken burger patty and an onion ring on top. The prices are reasonable and the portions are excellent. People were waiting around in the rain with good reason.

Not only are there a ton of items on the menu, but a lot of condiments for fries and food. They've got your standard salt, ketchup, vinegar and malt vinegar for the fries, mustard and relish and other hot dog/burger toppings, but they also have various containers of 'seasonings' for your fries (Cajun, Greek etc.).

JP's classic move is to stab their plastic fork into the container. I even saw them stick in a sucker for a kids fry!

The poutine, in all its glory. This is a medium, which is a large (or even an extra large) by any real standard. The container was filled to the brim, nearly spilling over.

The best part of this dish is the no skimping on the cheese curd. The container is close to 50-50 in terms of fries and cheese. And lots of gravy too. The cheese curd is fresh, and you can tell by the squeek they make when you eat them. Yes, they actually squeek. The gravy is tasty, but nothing special. I prefer a more heavily spiced gravy, but this is decent.

The fries were not that good on this occasion. Normally they are hot fresh and crispy, but today they got cold quickly. I have no idea why because I saw them come out of the deep fryer. They were also a little well-done. On other visits here, I have not had this issue, so it goes to show that reviewing places require multiple trips to get an idea of what a place is going to be like.

There was so much, I didn't even finish 1/3 of it. In fact, I took it home, LJ had some, I had some more, and still had enough for another meal. For $5.50, you can't go wrong with portions like this.

FINAL VERDICT: This is a mean poutine. Lots of fries, lots of cheese curds, lots of gravy. Normally the fries are top notch but this particular occassion they were off and a bit over done. But the generous curds, friendly service, and large menu makes this a chip truck to check out. Remember, if your curds don't squeek, you shouldn't eat! (it).

Baseline & Clyde (new location opening soon), Ottawa

Note: the stand will be closing for the winter starting November 30, 2008.

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