Of all the places to make a Stateside debut for your Canadian poutine chain, Berkeley may seem like a weird one: known for its macrobiotic, vegan past, it doesn't seem like the ideal locale for a business whose model is "clogging arteries since 2008." But Smoke's Poutinerie is betting that a hungry (and occasionally inebriated) student crowd will spell success for their U.S. debut.
Founded by entrepreneur Ryan Smolkin, Smoke's is a big hit in its native Great White North, with dozens of locations spanning every Canadian province (yes, even Quebec). Poutine boxes, with fries freshly cut on premises, come in snack, meal, or "wow" sizes (ranging in price from $5-12), and in addition to traditional poutine, with cheese curds and gravy, there are numerous topping combos, like Triple Pork (pulled pork, bacon, sausage), Chicken Inferno (chicken, Sriracha, jalapeño, red pepper), and even a variation with Montreal smoked meat. And yes, there's a veggie gravy (and vegetable toppings) for the non-meat-eaters among us.
While the topping variations are numerous, Smoke's is otherwise a simple operation: a handful of seats (takeout is definitely the main line here), and a selection of Coca-Cola and Jones sodas. The brand's next appearance will be in Hollywood, with a location opening early next year, but if all goes well in Berkeley, expect more Smoke's, with the company saying it could open as many as five NorCal locations. Considering that the place had a line around the block on day one, those future locations look pretty likely, though the insanely accessible hours (11 am-4 am daily) should help quell the crowds somewhat.