Top 10 of 2010: The Burger/Poutine Wars

Over the next two weeks, Kingstonist will be counting down our top 10 posts from 2010. The list includes a diverse mix of topics that are near and dear to the hear’s of our volunteer contributors. Rest assured, we’re already working on some interesting stories for 2011, but we’re suckers for retrospective top ten lists. First up is a piece from yours truly regarding the pending takeover of downtown Kingston by a new class of burger and poutine restos. “The Burger Poutine Wars” received 132 votes from our hungry readers, and it has maintained relevance with numerous reviews of Smokes, Harpers and Five Guys. While many of us would like to think that 2010 is characterized by more pressing issues, it’s clear that a lot of Kingstonians still have cheese curds and gravy on their minds.
Best of 2010, Kingston, Ontario

Weekly Poll: The Burger/Poutine Wars

The vacancies along Princess Street seem to be clearing up lately, and so goes the ebb and flow of prosperity for small businesses. Within the restaurant sector, the past few years have been dominated by a flurry of new sushi spots. From Sushi Ya to Asha, Sima, Ta-ke and all the rest, downtown Kingston is flush with fresh sashimi and sushi. While many of these places have managed to survive thus far, the local restaurant scene is about to receive four new competitors, all of which specialize in either burgers or poutine. Smoke’s Poutinerie (181 Division), the Poutine Place (343 Princess), Five Guys Burgers and Fries (185 Princess) and Harper’s (98 Princess) are all making final preparations to open up shop and go fork to fork for poutine and burger supremacy in the Limestone City. Accordingly, this week’s poll question asks:

[poll id=”20″]

To be honest, I know very little about any of these new places, save for what I’ve gleaned from friends in other cities, and folks within the restaurant biz here in Kingston. Smoke’s boasts over 20 varieties of poutine and they’ve established a bit of a cult following thanks to locations in Toronto, Ottawa and Tremblant. The sign in the window at the Poutine Place advertises a strange mix of organic burgers, poutine and fruit smoothies. From what I can tell, Five Guys Burgers and Fries is a relatively large chain, with numerous locations throughout the US, and some newer locations springing up throughout Canada. Last but not least, Harper’s is brought to you by the same minds who opened up Le Chien Noir and Atomica, while it is expected to offer gourmet burgers and premium draught.

Thanks to Sifu Renka for today’s photo.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

12 thoughts on “Top 10 of 2010: The Burger/Poutine Wars

  • Off the record – the Grad Club has the best poutine in town, provided their fries are crispy, which isn't alway the case, but still. And you didn't hear this from me…

  • Update for the post is that Asha has closed its doors. One less Sushi place. Less than 2 weeks after 5 Guys opened next door too.

    • That location has apparently already been leased again, and a place called “Monkey Bar” will be opening there.

      I question the decision to open a bar in such an isolated location, marooned between the hub and the bottom of princess, but you never know I guess. Be fun to have a place that does an 80’s night again, I miss when AJ’s used to do that.

  • Will make for a nice stop between toucan and mybar on pub crawl nights

  • First, for me poutine was a treat thatI used to have in Fort-Coulonge, or Glengarry. I distinctly recall having shredded mozzarella cheese and a lighter coloured gravey in Fort-Coulonge, Quebec, and I actually prefer it this way. In Glengarry, Ontario, the poutine comes with cheese curds and darker gravy we see here.

    I stopped by Smokes on the day it opened, and I wasn't impressed. I admit that despite the strange cleaning fluid like taste, I did eat the small basic poutine which came with a free pop, cream soda. I was fairly hungry.

    So what do I mean by cleaning fluid like taste? I'm not sure, but the fries had a strange taste, perhaps the oil wasn't clean or had some packaging in it. I tend to attribute a cleaning fluid flavour to greasy spoon coffee such as Morrison's.

    I do like poutine, but I don't think I will go back. In general, like many posters on this site, I prefer small locally run operations, and I am not a fan chain restaurants who in my opinion spend more time branding their image than preparing food.

    • I agree with you entirely and it's nice to finally see someone else who doesn't like Smoke's. The flavour of the gravy is really gross, I think it tastes like stove top stuffing. I'll take Bubba's over it any day.

    • To judge a place solely upon a single visit on their opening day would be unfair. In a perfect world, we would all get it right on the first try, but it just isn't the reality. They have been open for a while now, and I would suggest trying them out again before casting final judgement, since any kinks will have certainly been worked out at this point.

      As far as supporting local, I am of the same mind, but I wouldn't overlook the fact that Smokes is a franchise, and as such, is locally owned. I am not sure a place such as Bubba's has anything of merit over Smokes. Sure they were started locally and aren't a franchise, but Bubba's menu certainly doesn't strike me as having more of a connection to Kingston, given that everything on the menu is bought frozen wholesale.

      Truly local restaurants, to me, are ones that support local growers and farms. Olivia, Chien Noir, Atomica, Chez Piggy, etc.

      Not sure where Poutine Place gets its supplies, but they do serve a lot of organic items, which might indicate a more local source.

      • In defense of my remarks, I've been there several times now, trying a few different types of poutine and I still really don't like it. Local or not, when I want poutine, Bubba's has the best. Heck, even Burger King's is better than Smoke's. It's all about the gravy (and the amount of alcohol consumed prior to tasting).

        • Have you tried the peppercorn gravy? It has a little more flavour than the regular. I agree, though, I have been to Smoke's several times now, and I'm not that impressed. I still need to try the Poutine Place.

          I find Bubba's way too salty. Their gravy is too gloppy and their fries are mediocre.

  • As it's "all about the gravy", can anybody explain why that "Dipping Sauce" in Swiss Chalet is so popular? It tastes more like old washing-up water.

  • I went to Harper's for the second time tonight, and it didn't disappoint. I tired the spicy one with the fried egg, and while my cholesterol levels are probably spiking, it was tasty.

    I tried Five Guys, and while the fries are really good (though the "pour a whole bunch of fries into the bag" thing is weird,) the burgers don't seem all that much better than you'd get at A&W.

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