Countries, cities and regions are frequently linked to their famous foodstuffs. When you travel to that place, or go to a restaurant serving that particular cuisine, there’s always a local delicacy that you have to try; otherwise, did you really visit that location and eat what the locals eat?

Thus it is with Montreal. While the city is also famous for its French cuisine, bakeries, and smoked meat, in my humble option, poutine reigns supreme above all other local foods. I’ve had the chance to visit the city several times, and no visit is complete without one (or two, or three…) meals featuring poutine. Therefore, on my last visit this spring, even though I had already eaten poutine and a smoked meat sandwich for lunch, after a full dinner I needed to make a stop for one last fix at Montreal’s most famous poutinerie: McDonald’s.

I knew McDonald’s in Montreal had poutine, little did I know I arrive soon after the release of their Three Cheese and Bacon Poutine, also known as a Poutine au bacon et 3 fromages to the locals. Their regular poutine contains gravy and cheese curds over their regular fries, but this edition also contained bacon pieces and a shredded cheese blend. The price for this delicacy was 5.24 CAD, and after adding a medium soda and tax, the total was 7.74 CAD which is $6.39 USD as of this writing.

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One potential flaw in my plan for this snack: I purchased the food then walked back to my hotel before eating it. I hustled back, but it was still in the bag for 5ish minutes. While I held the bag open to reduce moisture and forestall sogginess, some sog was inevitable.

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Of course, the presentation of the poutine didn’t help keep it crispy. It was served in a box with a lid. I understand wanting to keep the whole mess contained so there was no leakage in the bag, but closing the box only created more humidity. The other issue is that the poutine took up all the space in the container, so it was difficult to pick around to choose my bites. If I’d eaten at the restaurant, I probably would have dumped it on my tray, and I think it would have been a better eating experience.

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Anyway, onto the actual eating experience. Upon taking the poutine out of the bag, I was greeted with a cheesy and bacon aroma. It was loaded with cheese, but I didn’t notice the traditional cheese curds. Instead the three cheese blend looked like it came from a bag of shredded cheese that you can get in a market. This doesn’t make it automatically bad, but without the curds, this isn’t really poutine. It’s more akin to disco fries. Of course, after some digging, I did find cheese curds buried underneath the initial layer of cheese, so they made sure to cover all their bases.

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I tried a bacon piece before I dove into the full experience. To their credit, the bacon wasn’t just bacon bits from a plastic container. It looked like McDonald’s actual bacon chopped up into good sized chunks. They were smoky and salty, and generally maintained their crispness as I ate.

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The layer of triple cheese on top, by now fully melted and solid posed as a real obstacle to digging down and getting some fries. It was thick, and the plastic fork may not been have been the best utensil for the task. I did sneak a plain fry on the side, and not much needs to be said about it: fresh McDonald’s fries are delicious.

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The poutine was really salty. I kept reaching for my drink as I ate. The bacon was a nice touch to break up the flavor, but of course added to the saltiness. As mentioned above, I was surprised we got whole curds. Not because they don’t belong, but because in McDonald’s interpretation of poutine, I figured the three-cheese blend would be enough. I can’t pretend to be an expert in cheese curds (I’ve only eaten them on poutine), but these met my standards in terms of cheesy flavor and squeakiness.

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Taking all of the components together, cheese was the biggest flavor, as the curds and cheese blend were the star of the dish. The next strongest flavors were unsurprisingly the salt and smokiness of the bacon. The fries were in the background, mainly as a vehicle for the more assertive toppings and the gravy as well had a slight beefy oniony flavor, but I really only  tasted that when it was isolated with the fries. The poutine was so cheese forward that I’m not sure that extra layer of cheese was necessary, or at least if McDonald’s wanted that cheese to make this their dish, then a smaller amount could have been used. It was hard to pick around the cheese to get non-cheese bites.

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As I continued to eat, I ran into the inevitable poutine problem (exacerbated by the walk to the hotel): eating poutine is a race against the clock. The fries are only getting soggier as they soak up the gravy and the gravy combines with the cheese to create humidity which saps crispness. The box also didn’t help, as the pouting filled the confines, so there really was no access to outside air. By the end, this was a soggy mess, with congealed gravy, which made some of those last bites undesirable. There were some untouched, fries that somehow stayed crisp on the bottom, and they were a nice reprieve.

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The Bacon and Three Cheese Poutine was a large portion of food, which I consumed after eating a full meal. Is it something I’d eat all the time if it was available in the U.S.? No, probably not. It’s a large, heavy side dish to add to a meal, plus poutine is something you want to eat immediately, and I usually save my fries for the end. However, if you really want to indulge and can handle being stuffed to the gills, then it’s worth it. Sure, this isn’t a traditional poutine, and if you have one chance to eat it in Montreal, you’re probably not stopping at McDonald’s, but if you find yourself in a McDonald’s in La belle province, treat yourself to something you can’t get back home.

 

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