Poutine is having a moment in Chicago—a long one that doesn’t appear to be waning. Dozens of restaurants offer some amalgamation of fries, cheese curds, and gravy, Poutine Fest celebrated its third anniversary earlier this year, and we’ve seen three restaurants dedicated to poutine appear—and two of them disappear. BadHappy Poutine Shop, which was around for nearly two years before it closed in early 2014, seemed plenty popular; the owner told Eater Chicago at the time that the closing was due to a dispute with his landlord and he was considering reopening in another location. Not long after BadHappy closed, the Big Cheese Poutinerie, a Canadian chain, opened an outpost in Wrigleyville offering 30 varieties of poutine; the restaurant lasted just six months before closing its doors.
Now Logan Square has Q-Tine, which offers barbecue and poutine—its tagline is “Memphis meets Montreal.” Poutine, with its combination of carbs, fat, and salt, is classic drunk food, and Q-Tine appears poised to take full advantage of its proximity to Milwaukee Avenue’s many bars: it’s open until 4 AM Friday and Saturday, 2 AM most other days (they close at midnight Sunday and Monday). For the full experience I probably should have visited in the wee hours of the morning, but not only did I go early on a Saturday evening, I hadn’t even been drinking beforehand. I did have the watermelon margarita slushy, though, which was more welcome for its coldness in the sweltering restaurant than its flavor—which was pleasant enough, but didn’t taste much like either tequila or watermelon.
The menu is mainly made up of meat and fries in various combinations: you can get poutine topped with meat, or house-smoked meat with a side of poutine (the barbecued meats come with beans, coleslaw, and cornbread, but there’s an option to substitute the classic poutine). Or you can get a meat sandwich, which comes with fries. There is one vegetarian, gluten-free option: the Anti-Q, with roasted peppers, onions, and zucchini on top of fries with mushroom gravy; they’ll hold the cheese curds to make it vegan. (I didn’t order the Anti-Q, but asked for a taste of the mushroom gravy, which turned out to be excellent.)
Meat is the main event, though—and it was mostly good, with the exception of the dry, barely smoked ribs. But the brisket was tender and flavorful, and the Montreal smoked meat sandwich (which is a lot like pastrami) featured thick slices of rich, smoky, salty beef between slices of rye bread smeared with mustard.
As for the poutine—now would probably be a good time to note that while I’m not as fervently anti-poutine as my colleague Mike Sula, I’m not a poutine fanatic either. I’ve enjoyed a couple of good renditions, but all the other times I’ve tried it, the gravy has quickly made the fries soggy, at which point I’ve lost interest. Q-Tine’s Q Classic Poutine is slightly better than the average, but not among the best I’ve had: while the cheese curds were fresh and squeaky, the barely-crisp fries couldn’t stand up to the gravy, turning into a pile of mush in the bottom of the paper tray.
The Merguez Banquise is the same as the classic but with the addition of red pepper slices and spicy, garlicky merguez sausage, which improves things quite a bit. But my favorite was the Q “Philly” Steak: crispy fried onion strings topped with shredded beef brisket and a cheese curd sauce made with Revolution beer. With no fries, gravy, or cheese curds (unless the sauce counts), this is almost certainly not poutine. But it is good.
Q-Tine, 2339 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-5100, q-tine.com