Back in December, I needed to secure a reservation for one of my teams (20 staff in all) for a Christmas lunch. One of my colleagues recommended The Cheese Factory, and it worked out beautifully. Our entire group pre-ordered so our food arrived almost immediately after we were seated. As a result, we were able to enjoy our meal but still return to the office in a timely fashion.
It was at that lunch that I first encountered their poutine. Given the affiliation Mack and I have for cheesy, gravy-strapped fries, I know it is quite inexcusable that we had overlooked The Cheese Factory for so long. That said, after one bite into their delightfully squeaky cheese (I honestly had no idea cheese could actually squeak!), I knew I’d be returning, with Mack in tow.
Four months later, we finally made it back together (and not for lack of trying – this was our forth attempt after being thwarted by their hours, a holiday closure, and an illness…we were almost ready to give up!). Those unable to get to the restaurant during the daytime should note that they only extend service into the evening on Friday and Saturday. But calling ahead is recommended – sporadic and extended holiday closures are not uncommon, as we encountered.
We dined on a Saturday evening, among two other parties already in the restaurant. It was quiet, in a pleasant sort of way, where the space provided by the server made it seem all the more intimate (and really, in our world, poutine is our Lady and the Tramp spaghetti equivalent). Our server was great though – she was friendly, prompt and made us feel like regulars.
We split an order of burek ($7.99), a dish made of phyllo pastry stuffed with spiced ground beef (though a vegetarian feta and spinach version can also be had). I have been told that The Cheese Factory makes their phyllo from scratch, and that attention to quality helps make this a savoury, flaky, perfectly seasoned marvel.
But of course, the main reason for our visit: poutine! The Cheese Factory offers five different kinds, all topped with their fresh, house-made cheese curds (if you come early enough in the day, you can watch the cheesemakers at their craft from behind the glass). The varieties include ground beef, chicken and galvaude (chicken and green peas). We opted to share a small regular poutine ($5.99), and a small Italian poutine ($6.99).
Boy, does The Cheese Factory honour their name – the curds were piled high (with a fry to curd ratio of 2:1), and stood up, in all its squeaky glory, to the poutine sauce. The fries were hot and fried to order too. Mack’s only quibble was a personal preference for a thicker gravy.
The Italian poutine was interesting. We both liked the tomato sauce – not too tart, with a thick, chunky consistency. It was also thick enough that it clung and did not steep into the fries, ensuring every bite to the last was crispy. Still, we did prefer the classic poutine – there’s something about the salt that’s a necessary part of the experience!
On our way out, we saw a couple making a beeline back home with their take-out poutine bounty. I can imagine that might be in the cards for us as well, given it might be a more solid bet than trying to have a sit-down dinner in the restaurant. But next up, in the poutine line of things, will be La Poutine.
The Cheese Factory
8943 82 Avenue
Monday-Thursday 11am-4pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm, closed Sunday