American bars have slung loaded fries for decades, but there's a new gut-buster in town — the Montreal concoction of french fries, brown gravy and cheese curds known as poutine. "At the end of the day, it's Canadian drunk food," says Chris DiLisi, chef and owner of The Willeyville, who notes that Cleveland and our friends up north share the same cold weather and thirst for imbibing. "It makes perfect sense that it matriculated down here." Try one of these three local spins on what will surely become a Cleveland classic.
The Willeyville's Proper Poutine ($12.50)
True to the restaurant's everything-from-scratch philosophy, Chris DiLisi starts with fresh-cut fries coated in a Montreal seasoning — salt and pepper, rosemary, garlic, onion, red pepper flake and turbinado sugar — dehydrated and mixed in-house. "It's kind of the backbone," he says. "It creates what the chef-y people like to call depth of flavor." Then it's topped with an Italian sausage gravy, house-made ricotta curds, crispy bits of bacon and a Fresno chile hot sauce. "It's not fat-free, but it's delicious," DiLisi laughs. 1051 W. 10th St., Cleveland, 216-862-6422, thewilleyville.com
Jack Flaps Luncheonette's Chicken Poutine ($5)
Although this dish is only available for happy hour, poutine and a potent drink are a natural pairing. The version at chef and owner Randy Carter's new 5th Street Arcades diner is loaded with roasted chicken gravy, shredded chicken, grated manchego cheese and an apple vinaigrette made from crab apples to cut the richness. "Everybody's doing the brown gravy style. [But this one's] got a tartness and acidity from the apple cider," he says. "It's flavored with a little bit of thyme, which goes well with the chicken." 530 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-303-9175, jack-flaps.com
Pub Frato's Braised Lamb Poutine ($12)
"A lot of Canadians bash us here in the States because we try to put all sorts of crazy twists on poutine," says Nick Frate, chef of the family-owned Pub Frato in Concord. "But it's in right now." His oversized version tastes like a deconstructed gyro with tender lamb shoulder, pickled red onions, goat cheese, a curried tzatziki sauce and veal demi glace over skinny hand-cut fries. "It's rich for fall," he explains. "The goat cheese and pickled onions cut the richness, and then you have the cooling tzatziki." 7548 Fredle Drive, Concord, 440-867-2441, pubfrato.com