A Taste of Canada in Karlín

A new Canadian restaurant has just opened in Karlín

Contrary to what you may have heard, the greatest Canadian export isn’t hockey players or maple syrup, but a decadent dish of French fries, gravy, and cheese curds known as poutine, which you can now find in Prague if you pay a visit to Křižíkova Street in Karlín.

Originating sometime in the late 1950s in the province of Quebec, where the harsh winters call for heavy comfort food, its exact beginnings are unclear, although there is no shortage of restaurateurs who claim to be the genius behind it.

Ubiquitous in Montreal, where it is served in small “greasy spoon” diners, the dish has become quite infamous in recent years. At one time, you couldn’t find it much outside of Quebec, but now it’s available all over the country – and in some lucky places in the United States too. In an online poll conducted by the CBC in 2007 on the best Canadian inventions, poutine came in tenth place, beating out standard time, the electron microscope, the Blackberry, and basketball, among other things.

Garage, Prague’s first Canadian restaurant, was opened by Michael Kubenk on July 1st – Canada’s birthday. Having grown up just outside of Toronto and then later living in Whistler and Vancouver, Michael knows a thing or two about what a good poutine should taste like.

“Good poutine is a combination of three things,” he told me. “Fresh cheese curds, crispy fries with a soft center, and a great gravy.” To achieve these perfect fries, every batch is fried twice, Belgian-style.

One thing I was curious about was how the dish was being received by Czechs. “The Czech customers are really liking the food. Poutine is not that exotic that it would scare people away – it’s fries, sauce, cheese and meat. So pretty well ingredients that all the Czech people love.

“The customer base consists of Karlín locals, business people from offices around the neighbourhood, and a lot of expats who are familiar with the dish. We've had numerous Canadians through the door and the feedback was very, very positive from all.”

Currently, Garage features four poutines: the Classic (fries with cheese curds and gravy), the Mississippi (with pulled pork and barbeque sauce), the Montreal (with pulled beef), and the Canadian (with bacon). If you’re thirsty, they have Canadian beer and ginger ale. Everything from the sauce to the meat is prepared daily on the premises.

“The ultimate goal is to maintain a high standard of food quality and try some new and exciting items on our menu,” says Michael. “Eventually another location would be great.”

For more information, including opening hours, see Garage’s Facebook page.

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