Bad Happy Poutine Shop features Canadian gem

May 4, 2012 (CHICAGO)

This French-Canadian dish has been showing up at a few Chicago restaurants recently. But there's a new place where poutine is the star of the menu.

It is the Holy Grail for the inebriated; the Mecca for hangovers, and if you're from the Canadian Province of Quebec, poutine is as common as barbeque in Kansas City. But until now, the dish has only been spotty around Chicago. That is, until the Bad Happy Poutine Shop opened up on the Near North Side.

"Poutine is basically a French-Canadian dish, consisting of French fries, cheese curds and gravy," said owner Tom Kern.

And a Canadian will tell you they're doing a very capable rendition there. Hand-cut potatoes, fried-to-order then doused in a rich gravy, embedded with Wisconsin cheese curds, just until barely melted.

"Actually we cook down veal stock, pork stock, chicken stock and keep with classic tradition of making our own gravy," he said.

Kern takes liberties with the basic recipe; in some cases, gilding the cholesterol-laden lilly, with a version he calls "The Good, the Bad and the Happy."

"Our house-made gravy, with braised veal cheek, pork belly that we roast in-house, fried egg on top; can't miss that. A little bit of foie gras emulsified in the gravy and some truffled mayo," he said.

There are a few alternatives there as well, like the "smoosh" section..

"What those are, housemade pates; we have a salmon rillete, we have a chicken liver and pork liver mousse that we make," said Kern.

The Aqua Smoosh features that cured salmon, plus a mound of pickled calamari. Kern also has a couple of decadent shakes on the menu, like a fabulous chocolate-peanut butter number. Even vegetarians have an option there: featuring shredded mushrooms on top of the fries, plus a choice of cheese and purple cabbage.

"People can come in and eat, I'm not gonna say it's healthy, but it's vegetarian. And we also have a vegan option with soy cheese," Kern said.

Now in Quebec, poutine is as widely known and beloved as hot dogs are in Chicago. But this French-Canadian staple just might work its way into the hearts of Midwesterners too.

The restaurant is BYOB. And on Fridays and Saturdays, they're open until 2 a.m. They also serve a Sunday brunch.

Bad Happy Poutine Shop
939 N. Orleans St

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