Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ottawa's 1st Annual Poutinefest

Sparks Street has really been stepping it up lately with the sheer amount of food festivals being hosted this year.  Most people know about Ribfest, usually held in June, but the organizers also brought many of the same vendors back in October for Ribtoberfest.

Screen shot from Sparks Street Mall.

Poutine Fest is here!

The newest addition to the food festivals on Sparks is Poutine Fest, going on NOW!  Although not completely necessary, I (Lucy) bought a $20 poutine pass that gives you five samples from the participating vendors.  They'll be great for sampling and figuring out which poutine we'd like to dine on, though it will probably mean that we'll be lining six times instead of just one or two.  These passes are sold in a small tent on the east side of Metcalfe and Sparks (block 1).  Otherwise, the vendors are selling the regular sized poutine at regular prices.

Poutine Fest is on now and runs until tomorrow night.  Check it out before it's gone, and make sure to vote for your favourite vendor!

Christine here:
Based on what I've heard, the lines are worse than Ribfest. It's probably because it's the first year for the event. But I think that Sparks Street will be more packed since there are vegetarian options too.

So here's my plan of attack. Depending on how busy it is, I might get the Poutinefest pass where you pay $20 and get five 8oz-small poutines from any of the participants. With that pass, I'll try to get poutine from 5 different places. I'll try to get one regular poutine (cheese curds, gravy, and fries), one with chicken gravy and, finally, a poutine that has unusual toppings. We'll see how that goes. Worse case scenario, we'll just go somewhere else for poutine.

I hear that there's also churros and mini donuts available for dessert too!

For those who have been to Ottawa's Poutinefest, what was it like? Which poutines were among your favourites?

Standing at O'Connor and Sparks St, you could see a very long line to get to the Routine Poutine tent. It was actually one of the longest lines.

According to the Sparks Street Mall website, Routine Poutine was voted the favourite poutine at the Ottawa's first Poutinefest. Congrats!

The line up at Big D's Dog House & Poutine Emporium rivaled Routine Poutine's queue.

Walking up and down Sparks Street, I took a photo of some of the menus of the Poutinefest participants.




The poutine prices varied due to the different toppings. If only we had the patience to wait in line, I would've liked to try the lamb poutine at Fadi's, a poutine from Big D's, and one from Routine Poutine too. The long lines were like magnets. Probably just an asian thing.

Before I met up with KG, JH, JL, GA, I went to the event tent to buy a Poutinefest pass. There were three other people in front of me when the lady said that the passes were sold out. That was around 1pm. Lucy even offered to buy me passes yesterday too. "It's okay, I'll just buy them when I go" I said. Lame.

We decided to join the line up to Green Papaya. We figured, what's the point in coming to this event and getting a regular poutine? Most of the food trucks/trailers are from Ottawa, so why not try a poutine that has a different combination? We ended up waiting in line for an hour. At one point, the line went past the Green Papaya trailer.

Apparently some of the vendors changed their offerings from yesterday. Andrew said that beef bourguignon poutine he had the previous day at Fadi's was good. The beef was super tender but the gravy wasn't hot enough to melt the cheese curds. The wine taste was pleasant and the mushrooms were plump. If the gravy was hot, Andrew would definitely get it again.

I have to give kudos to the people at Smoke's Poutinerie for trying to rile up their crowds with giveaways. Their line up was surprisingly quite long. We kept joking that it would be quicker if the people in their line just walked to their Dalhousie location. Silly people.

Green Papaya had only three poutines available: pad thai poutine, spring rolls poutine, and thai curry poutine. We had no idea what to expect.

We received our poutines in short order once we paid. We added some hot sauce and then ate at the empty table between the trailer and truck.


Our wait was worth it. The pad thai poutine was a little oddly satisfying according to GA. The thai curry poutine was slightly sweet but played well with the chicken and fries. There were cheese curds but didn't add much. Their hot sauce was disappointingly mild. It gave our poutine some warmth though.

Check out JL's sweater. It'll keep your hands free for eating poutine!

Once we finished with our poutines, we walked back up Sparks Street towards the Tiny Tom Donuts truck. The guys were still hungry after their poutine and debated whether or not they should just join a shorter line and buy another. In the end, we just grabbed some mini donuts at Tiny Tom's truck.

I don't know if you can see, but there's a sign that outlines how to order.

Tom's Rules:
1. Only one flavour per dozen.
2. One dozen per bag.
3. Have a great day.


The sweet greasy smells coming from the truck was so satisfying. I picked up two dozen (one each of apple 'n cinnamon and chocolate) to share with everyone and Lucy, who I was going to see later. The apple wasn't very strong, whereas the chocolate hit the spot.

We wandered over towards Elgin Street and peeked inside the funnel cake tent. They topped their funnel cakes with powdered sugar and a variety of syrups. KG was disappointed there wasn't any whipped cream or ice cream like the stuff at Wonderland. Hahaa!

Then on my way to Lucy's and Jimmy's place, I picked up some coffee to chase the mini donuts. It proved to be a great decision. The mini donuts were a little soft from being inside my backpack. But Lucy mentioned that they were perfect for dunking into coffee. The batter was fragrant but I would've liked it the mini donuts weren't as moist. That's just me. We both agreed that the mini donuts at Costco were better.

Keeping in mind that the event is still ironing things out, my friends and I would recommend a few things.

It would be nice to see vendors try different things with their poutine instead of the pulled pork or bacon poutine. The main reason we chose Green Papaya was because it was so unique. I get it though, there are people who want their porky poutine fix. But why not try and make something really different for the event?

There's clearly a high demand for poutine in the City of Ottawa, so why not have the next Poutinefest run for a few more days like the Ribfest? This will help alleviate a little of the foot traffic over the course of the days. That makes it a win-win situation, right?

Speaking of the crazy turnouts, I'm going to throw it out there and say that the crowds won't be as large next year. We didn't get our hands on those Poutinefest passes, but it looked like they had to line up with everyone else. Would you wait over an hour and a half for a tiny poutine sample? If you answered yes, would you do that 4 other times? I'd probably go to two different vendors and just redeem all of my passes from them, though it would be great if you'd be able to try more of them in a reasonable time period.

My friends and I ended up getting our own poutine from one vendor. We were lucky that they didn't run out of the flavours we wanted. Some people who check it out actually ended up leaving empty handed because the lines were simply out of control. Based on comments on Twitter and photos from Instagram, people ended up finding their poutine fixes else where or even ordered pizza instead of waiting in line for hours.

We didn't think it was worth the wait. We'd probably do a poutine crawl when there isn't such an event. You should go check it out tomorrow if you haven't already!

Despite all of this, congrats to the organizers and vendors to a successful event! It's nice to see new events popping up in Ottawa.


  1. Your insights to the first Poutine festval are interesting. We are a food vendor thinking about participating at this event in April. We do baked potatoes, wedges and pasties. Are you planning on going to this one in April? Do you think we would attract many to our truck without French fries? Thanks
    The Hot Potato Co.

    1. Hi Greg,
      My friends and I were a bit disappointed in the inaugural Poutinefest. Although the review wasn't a sparkling one, I personally do think it's worth it if you do participate in the even in April. It would be great if you and your company participated with baked potatoes, wedges and pasties. People in Ottawa love to eat. The more variety, the better!


We'd love to hear your thoughts!


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