News Home
Quick Bites
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
On AirNewsClassical
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Levin Furniture


Greater Akron Chamber

For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )

Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Social Issues

Poutine, Canada's favorite comfort food, crosses the border
You can get it in downtown Cleveland and now also at University Circle
This story is part of a special series.

Vivian Goodman
Poutine is basically dressed-up french fries, and although they might not be attractively dressed, they taste amazingly good.
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:
UPDATE, OCT. 24 2014:
When our story first aired in February, it included a reference to plans for another location of WRAPZ near Cleveland State University. That site remains under construction.

A new University Circle restaurant with many healthy choices on its menu also features one dish that can frankly be described as a heart attack in a bowl. In today's Quick Bite, WKSU's Vivian Goodman discovers poutine.
LISTEN: A tasty mess

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (5:05)

The lunch rush is starting at WRAPZ, a Mediterranean pita bar that opened in December in Uptown, a new arts and entertainment district just east of Cleveland’s University Circle.

WRAPZ Owner David Jaber calls it the healthiest lunch spot in the neighborhood.

“We use a lot of olive oil in our food, a lot of whole grains, like our falafel is chick peas and fava beans. We use organic chicken, natural fed beef, very healthy, but we do have something here that is very unhealthy as well.”   


It’s a whopping plate of crispy French fries, dotted with fresh cheese curds and smothered in hot, brown gravy.

Cheese curds are the solid parts of curdled milk, best when fresh enough to squeak against your teeth. In some places it’s called “squeaky cheese.”

Canadian comfort food
If you’ve never heard of poutine, you’ve probably never been to Quebec. It’s a classic Canadian snack, favored by late-night revelers in Montreal who claim it prevents hangovers and warms the innards when those north winds blow.

But as close as we are to the border, it’s surprisingly hard to find poutine in Northeast Ohio, and that’s where David Jaber saw an opportunity. 

“I’m pretty shocked that it’s not widely available.” 

It sure is back where he came from.

The gloppy, messy, snack has long been popular at street stands and diners, as well as Wendys, Burger Kings and McDonalds all over Canada, but you’ll also find it gussied up with foie gras, duck confit, truffles or lobster in fancy restaurants.

At La Banquiese in Montreal they serve 28 varieties and hold an annual poutine festival.

At downtown Cleveland’s Greenhouse Tavern, Chef Jonathan Sawyer serves something called “Gravy Frites” that looks like poutine, but instead of pork lard he fries his potatoes in duck fat; he also uses mozzarella cheese, and veal gravy.

At WRAPZ ,David Jaber uses a thick, brown gravy you can stand up a fork in, known in Quebec as “sauce brune.”

 “It’s a mix between a beef, a chicken and a tomato-based gravy, so there’s a lot of different things in that recipe.”  

Do you want authenticity with that?
And he puts only cheddar on his poutine, as they do in his native Canada.

Jaber’s had no culinary training.

 “I don’t consider myself a chef. I’m just a glorified cook.” 

But he’s proud to offer a poutine he calls authentic. And he says the difference is in the cheese.  

“The white cheddar cheese curds, and a lot of people use variants of that. They use mozzarella and I’m using straight, white cheddar cheese curd.” 

David Jaber is a native of Ottawa but concedes that poutine was created in 1957 in Warwick, a small town northeast of Montreal.  

 “In those cold months it’d be minus 35, minus 40 degrees Celsius in Quebec. They needed something to warm up with, and poutine was their answer.”  

Big tasty mess
One of many stories of poutine’s origin says Warwick restaurateur Fernand Lachance made it for a truck driver hauling cheese curds who sprinkled some on his fries and asked for gravy to keep it hot to go. Lachance said in Acadian slang that’ll be a poutine, a big sloppy mess.

It’s an apt description. 

The hot brown gravy melts the cheese curds sending out stringy white strands over the fries. 

It looks really terrible and even Jaber will admit it’s terrible for you unless eaten in moderation. 

 “I don’t think there’s very many health benefits to poutine.”  

But it’s strangely delicious and selling as well as the healthier options at WRAPZ.

College crowd likes the gloppy mess
When it’s busy there, Jaber pitches in at the counter.  

We watch him pile on tomatoes, cucumbers, pepperoncini peppers, and kalamata olives to make a Greek salad for Jim Mitchell, a regular customer who works at University Hospitals.

 “I like this type of food,” says Mitchell, “that Greek, Mediterranean type of food. It’s definitely quick and more quality than fast food. It seems to be pretty healthy as long as you avoid certain things."

Like poutine.

But Jaber says rather than avoiding it, many Case Western Reserve University students seek it out and happily devour it. 

 “I feel it’s more of a diverse crowd and the poutine is accepted by kids because they’ve travelled abroad and they’ve seen it around.”  

And come spring more college students will see more poutine  in Cleveland. Jaber plans to open his second WRAPZ, April 1st near Cleveland State University.

That’s this week’s Quick Bite. Next week, just in time for St. Paddy’s Day, we’ll start a series on locally- made whiskey.

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

Being from Canada myself I was really excited to hear that a restaurant served authentic poutine. So my husband and I travelled from Canton to try Wrapz poutine and it was fantastic. The cheese curds were very fresh and squeaky. The French fries crispy and the gravy was so well seasoned that it kept me wanting more. I will definitely be back again for a poutine. I would also like to mention that the wraps the serve were amazing and service was top notch.

Posted by: Anonymous on May 13, 2014 5:05AM
Wow, this warms my heart!
Being a dutchman i feel connected to the poutine lovers over there. I have to admid, i never heard of poutine before. But we do have a wide range of similar treatments to our frence fries, using mayonaise and other sauces to make it a tasty but calorie heavy snack.
Thx for sharing this and i am looking forward to a chance to trying the real poultine.
Kind regards,

Posted by: Walter Markus (Gouda, the Netherlands) on March 3, 2014 9:03AM
Add Your Comment


E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook

Stories with Recent Comments

Ottawa County Commissioner sworn in as new house member
Congratulations on your new appointment to the Ohio House. I'm certain you will do an outstanding job in your new role representing our district. When you have...

Holden Arboretum opens a new canopy walk and emergent tower
Visited the Holden Arboretum today to witness the incredible work you did constructing the tower and bridges.WOW! Very impressed. Knew the build had to be great...

Local club works to bring back the once-prevalent American elm
I would love to help! Where would I get some of the new Strain so I could plant them?

Four Geauga school districts consider consolidating on the Kent State campus
Berkshire was smart to merge with Ledgemont because it had shrinking enrollment and excess capacity at its high school. Now that Cardinal is dragging its feet ...

Ohio Rep. John Boccieri sworn into office and hopes to look for 'middle ground' with colleagues
Welcome back to the Statehouse, John. You are a terrific representative in the truest sense always representing the people's voice in teh district you serve. ...

Lawmakers call for indefinite freeze on Green Energy standards
It's a shame the Hudson Rep. Chooses to mimic the words of the extreme right senator on his way out to join ALEC when we know the Pope was just here because of...

Youngstown Schools file suit against the Ohio Department of Education to stop the implementation of an academic distress commission
Voters should ask WHY this plan was rushed into law under the cover of darkness. What clues point to the beneficiaries of this plan? Both Patrick O'Donnell of...

More join the battle against Ohio's current forfeiture laws
NOT TRUE IN OHIO! ! My cousin's 8 rental houses were siezed in the early 2000s. He was a decorated Cleveland Police officer and detective (now retired). His dis...

Great Lakes conference considers a range of threats
Your article states "Studies discovered over half of all PAHs found in the Great Lakes region come from a single source: Coal tar sealants.". I'm curious to whi...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University