If you’re walking through downtown Oshawa and need directions, chances are whoever you ask will use Smoke’s Poutinerie as a reference point. The restaurant’s bright red plaid overhang stands out from the other buildings in the heart of Oshawa. The iconic grinning head, known only as “Smoke,” bears some resemblance to the awkward teen in the hit movie Napoleon Dynamite. This face is mysteriously plastered everywhere from Walmart parking lots to the Justice Wing of Durham College, but why? What’s the big deal?
Cascades of gravy poured over hot fries, topped with piles of pulled pork and smoky bacon, capped off with gooey cheese chunks and sweet BBQ sauce mixed with the crunch of rich smoked bacon. That’s the big deal.
The restaurant on the corner of King and Mary has served unique poutine flavours from cheeseburger to veggie for two years. There’s even a special poutine dedicated to Oshawa called the Shwasome, featuring pulled pork, bacon and chicken mixed with smokey BBQ sauce. The Toronto-based chain recently found a new home at Durham College. But how does it compare to the downtown restaurant?
Downtown, the walls are plastered in red plaid and portray images Rubik’s Cubes and retro cars such as DeLoreans, while Highway to Hell howls in the background. Smoke’s Poutinerie plays up the vintage feel as part of the experience. A nostalgic generation of college students can see the appeal.
The taste makes up for the lack of cheerful employees who take orders with as much enthusiasm as students in an advanced algebra class. The food is prepared out of sight in the back and pushed unceremoniously across the counter to each customer.
The restaurant’s dark bar-like seating suggests the clientele is an older crowd but at lunchtime on Saturdays the restaurant is alive with families. It proves that everyone, from zero to 99, can’t resist the pull of poutine.
Inside Durham College’s bustling cafeteria, Smoke’s familiar face can be spotted amongst the pizza trays and pop bottles. A line up stretches out to the pop machines at the new Smoke’s Poutinerie that opened in the cafeteria this year.
Lines may be long but the wait isn’t. In contrast to the downtown location, employees usher students through with expert precision. The cashier smiles as she motions students up and addresses each with a motherly “hun,” as she takes their order. Unlike downtown, the poutine is prepared right in front of you. You can hear the sizzle of fries and watch the gravy being drizzled artistically over each order.
Be aware, meat lovers may be disappointed if they are expecting dump truck loads of bacon. The cafeteria runs on the sparser topping side but the toppings taste just as great. You’ll want to pace yourself so you don’t run out meat and end up with just fries!
The cafeteria does a great job preserving the original delicacy of the downtown location. You won’t get the vintage experience on campus but you do make it to class on time. The cafeteria also serves with a smile. But whether you are downtown or at school, both places offer a mean poutine. Just don’t head to Smoke’s Poutinerie on your diet day. Even the “veggie” poutine won’t do you any favours!