Photo: Kate Bernot

It’s a wonder to me that more fast-food restaurants don’t serve poutine. The vast majority already have fries, and a few others—Culver’s, A&W—also serve cheese curds. (Dairy Queen, notably, serves regular and pulled-pork poutine.) The others are just a quick gravy-ladle away from one of the most indulgent and hangover-curing dishes in the northern hemisphere.

So it was with a hearty “hear, hear” that I pulled through the drive-through at my local combination A&W/KFC to check out A&W’s poutine special. The limited-time offering is available at most franchises nationwide, and should be on offer through March or while supplies last.

Despite my enjoyment of cheese curds and French fries separately, A&W’s combination of the two, held together tenuously by an unremarkable gravy, was a Canadian-sized letdown. I was home, curds in mouth, less than 6 minutes after leaving the drive-through, so it’s not soggy or cold fries that are to blame for the blah.

The most glaring disappointment were the empty cheese curd shells. Empty! No fewer than half my curds contained nothing but air and broken promises. The ones that did contain cheese were wildly inconsistent in size: One curd was the size of my pointer finger, others the size of pennies. Did I just get the dregs of the curd-fry basket? Nary a squeak emitted from any of the nuggets—a telltale sign of curd quality—but if they’d been full of cheese, I would have appreciated the high ratio of curds to fries in the order.

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The gravy-soaked fries were more enjoyable, thankfully. They weren’t crisped to any noticeably crunchy texture, but they also didn’t completely relent under the gravy wave. Most retained their shape and were able to be separated individually from the larger gravy-curd gloop.

As with most middling fast-food creations, the poutine’s predominant flavor was pure salinity. The gravy offered just a minimal level of seasoning, a vague chicken essence that was the only flavor contrast to the fries and curds fried-ness. (I will say that the starch level makes a root beer float taste even better, though.)

As I stared as my empty, gravy-slick cardboard boat, I analyzed methods for improving this utterly mediocre new menu item. The solution is, I believe, to get a bit DIY with my next order: I could snag some gravy from the KFC half of the establishment, then drizzle it over my own fries-and-curd combo from A&W. The shock of the empty curd shells, however, might keep me away from this particular spot until I’ve regained my emotional strength.

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