The search for the original poutine in Quebec
Poutine has become a quintessential Canadian dish. Chefs are spooning out messy iterations of this gravy-curd-fry combination everywhere, and I love it all. I’ve eaten poutine in many forms and many places — like sitting curb-side after a night of drinking in Halifax or with a knife and pork at Bymark in Toronto.
This past spring, I stared writing a column for the Food Bloggers of Canada spotlighting the history of iconic Canadian foods, and first up was the evolution of poutine. After delving into the melting (gravy) pot of history surrounding this gluttonous dish, I knew had to try an original rendition. I spent hours pouring over historical records, now I wanted to pour over a giant bowl of poutine. So, when we began to plan our road trip from Toronto to St. John’s to move home to Newfoundland, I made careful consideration to include a stop for the original poutine in Quebec.
Contrary to popular belief, poutine was not invented in Montreal. Two origin stories took place in rural Quebec eateries; Cafe Ideal which later became Le Lutin Qui Rit in Warwick and Le Roy Jucep in Drummondville. The former lays claim to inventing the dish in 1957 but sadly isn’t open anymore (one less stop on the journey), while Le Roy Jucep’s poutine inception in 1964 is still served today.
Le Roy Jucep
Le Roy Jucep is located on the outskirts of Drummondville, a small town found along the TCH between Montreal and Quebec City. Situated in an industrial park, it wasn’t exactly easy to find, but the signage is anything but discreet. A giant neon orange slice acts as a poutine beacon to hungry motorists. The family-run eatery has been open since 1964, and it felt like we had travelled back in time when we pulled up in the Uhaul after a day of driving. The drive-in parking is still there, and the restaurant has a retro but modern feel. A recent remodel makes Le Roy Jucep look like it did in the good old days.
Bright orange booths, a checkerboard floor and framed black-and-white photos adorning the walls match the exterior’s nostalgic vibe. When we walked in the door around 8pm, the place was empty, save for an elderly couple splitting a club sandwich. My guess is this place is now frequented by lunchers and brunchers.
It didn’t take us very long to order: Deux poutine originales, deux pepsi, s’il vous plait.
The search for the original poutine is over
The gravy was darker than I’m accustomed to, and it was thick — almost pasty — adhering to the fries for maximum flavour coverage. Freaking delicious coverage. The ratio of cheese curds to fries was about one-to-one (the optimal ratio if you ask me) with large chunks of curd rising like a cheese Everest begging me to conquer the summit. Pro-poutine tip: Curds need to have good squeek in poutine; it’s the truest indicators of a well-made dish. Le Roy Jucep’s curds had a great squeak to them, and Adam and I munched in awe as they squealed in our mouths.
At $8.79 for a giant plate like this, I was more than happy with the curd-to-cost ratio as well. By the way, there are 23 other kinds of poutine on the menu at Le Roy Jucep if you’re feeling adventurous. We stuck with original for culinary history’s sake.
While poutine is available all over Canada and now in restaurants around the world, there’s something about eating the original. We loved voyaging to Drummondville to step back in time to eat one of the first poutines now known as an iconic dish. Even moreso because it was AWESOME. How crappy would it have been if those curds weren’t squeaky?
A stop at Le Roy Jucep is a must for any Quebec road trip. After all, a road trip without a greasy meal is like a turkey dinner without gravy. Everyone needs the gravy.
Je t’aime toujours poutine.