A review from poutine lover and traveller, Jack D'Mestiere -- this time a review from Tennessee.
I'm not a great believer in fate or the supernatural, but given all the energy associated with Memphis--Blues meets BBQ meets Elvis--it seems a little hard to believe that I would end up staying at a hotel with marching ducks, across the street from a restaurant called The Kooky Canuck without some sort of paranormal intervention. So, at lunch time, I inspected the menu to see if there was anything Canadian about the place at all. I was rewarded in maple leaves!
I walked in and saw immediately that the decor was designed to make Tennesseans believe they were in Canada. Note the birch sticks, wood paneling, and animal heads on the wall. Not all of them were real, but still, the feeling was of the north, and I don't mean the north end of the famous Highway 61, the Blues Highway. It was noon and the joint was filling up with hungry Memphisarians.
I slid into a seat at the bar, picked up a menu, and saw I was north of the border, at least in one regard.
Yes, there it was on the menu, poutine, complete with the correct phonetic pronunciation guide! Meghan asked me what mine would be. "Poutine [pronunced just the way Richard taught me--"pooh-tin"]. She looked at me, smiled, placed the order, and came back. "You Canadian?" "Nope, just go there a lot and have friends there." "You pronounce it like a Canadian--like my boss." Ah ha, there was something to this Kooky Canuck! A half curd premium for the pronunciation.
The poutine arrived some minutes later, served by restauranteur Shawn Dansko, formerly of Montréal, now of Memphis. It was piping hot and served on a hard plastic platter--not waxed paper or cardboard, but still, not china. Half a curd premium for presentation.The plate held one of the most generous servings I've seen. The fries were crisp, but not burned, allowing them to hold up to the gravy long into the meal. There were plenty of curds, nicely heated so they were warm-to-hot, but not gooey. The gravy was brown and salty, just the way I like it. Shawn stayed to chat for a while. Hetold me he'd "take his poutine back to Montreal and stand it up against anything..." He was right!
He's a traditionalist--I asked him about his views on non-standard ingredients like goat cheese and you could guess his answer. I asked about whether he adds anything, like sausage, to his poutine. He answered that he was still in the process of winning Memphis over to poutine. He pointed out that Southerners are inclined to try poutine--they like gravy on anything--but when you tell them it's brown gravy instead of chicken gravy, they become cautious and conservative.
Shawn and the Kooky Canuck have a great product at a reasonable price. I'll give the poutine itself a solid 4.5 out of 5 curds. Add in the two half-curd premiums and the decor, and you will be rewarded with a 5+ curd performance! I have confidence that Shawn and the Kooky Canuck will win Memphis over in the end. He has a great opportunity as the KC is not far from the ball park where the Memphis Redbirds play. Ever try those corn chip-and-chez-whiz concoctions that are so popular? One poutine, please!
Kooky Canuck, 97 S 2nd Street, Memphis, TN 38103-3009
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., 7 days a week.
To go to their fun website, click here: Kooky Canuck.com