Google Trends can be a handy way to track search trends, reflecting what people are curious about and what’s trending at the moment, while also providing historical context for that topic over time. And if the tool is to be believed, Americans’ interest level in poutine is at an all-time high.
Poutine, you say? Yes, poutine, the Canadian-born dish that translates into “hot mess” and is traditionally made of French fries topped with brown gravy and melted cheese curds.
The dish is ubiquitous across Canada -- so common, in fact, that Lay’s has created a Bacon Poutine flavor, available in Canada only as a finalist in the chip company’s 2014 “Do Us a Flavour” contest.
The humble dish may have made it to the big leagues up North, but it is only just beginning to sit at the popular table in America’s restaurants. July 2014 was the all-time highest month of searches on Google in the U.S. for poutine, after steadily growing in popularity over the last few years.
“It’s pretty cool to see it’s really proliferating,” Noah Bernamoff told ABC News. “It’s really taking hold as a Canadian thing, which has been cool.”
Bernamoff, who is Canadian, is the owner of Mile End Deli in New York City, a Jewish delicatessen with Canadian roots that serves the comfort food dish.
“We’ve been serving it for five years now, and for a while we were maybe one of two or three places in New York where it was available,” he said. “Now I’m seeing random places riffing on the concept.”
The innovation is spreading to other cities as well. The Parish in Los Angeles serves a version with fried oysters while The Gorbals in Brooklyn has an Asian adaptation with its banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich) poutine. One online blogger, Josh Scherer of CulinaryBroDown.com, has even created a ramen fries poutine.
In what seems like the most obvious American mash-up, Spritz Burger in Chicago serves a poutine burger where the patty is topped with fries, cheese curds and sage country gravy.
“It’s really popular; it’s probably one of three on the menu that are just powerhouse burgers,” Spritz Burger owner Dan Smith told ABC News. “Customers have to learn about it still. It’s a great story because of the actual translation of the word. I love going up to them and talking to them about it.”
While poutine is established in cities around the country, it’s definitely still a trend on the rise, and it’s poised to really take off for a few reasons, Smith said.
“I think partly because it’s still comfort food, but it’s a kind of bumped up, trendy version of comfort food,” he said. “It’s unfamiliar, but at the same time it’s still fries. So there’s that comfort level to it.”
Bernamoff agreed that poutine's rising popularity can be ascribed to how chefs are playing around with the concept. Despite growing up eating only the traditional version, he has been playing with the dish, too, trying out versions like General Tso’s and Thanksgiving poutines during the restaurant’s hugely successful “Poutine Week.”
“People feel like they own the concept of poutine as a very traditional specialty of French fries, cheese curds and gravy made a certain way. But poutine is meant to be fun and random, and so I think maybe that’s the reason why there’s a broader interest in it,” Bernamoff said. “I think there’s a lot more exposure right now than there used to be. People are eating it in many different contexts with different ingredients and it’s not as straightforward as it used to be, so it’s broadening the appeal of it a little bit.”
We’re calling it now: poutine in all its salty, messy, melty iterations is about to explode, and we are not at all mad about it.