In Search of Poutine

If you’ve ever been to Montreal or Toronto, you’ve probably been confronted by poutine (pronounced poo-TEEN), a ubiquitous Canadian snack food of French fries covered in gravy, cheese curds, and optional toppings (from mushrooms to bacon to shredded chicken). Recently the tradition found its way to New York, with Manhattan’s first all-poutine restaurant set to open any day, thereby making the dish the first Canadian export that could accurately be labeled “trendy.”

But now, thanks to University City’s brand-new Blockley Pourhouse, you don’t have to travel northward to sample poutine. Chef Ross Essner (formerly of the ill-fated Django) found room for it on the Blockley’s snack menu, which otherwise features Essner’s takes on more standard fare, like wild mushroom potato skins and curried onion rings.

Essner covers his fries — quite yummy on their own — with caramelized onion gravy, slices of short rib, and chunks of Velveeta-colored “squeaky cheese,” so named because it literally (and somewhat disconcertingly) squeaks in your mouth when you bite down on it. The Blockley’s poutine is as good as poutine needs to be. More importantly, it’s $8 for a giant plate of the stuff, which is all the Class of 2012 needs to hear.

The Blockley Pourhouse, 3801 Chestnut Street, 215-222-1234.

UPDATE: A reader tells me that the New Wave Café in Queen Village once had poutine — “Montreal Fries” on the menu — until Craig LaBan tore them up in his review. They were promptly removed.