For anyone who has ever walked into a diner at three in the morning — possibly coming down from a night of drunken stupor and craving just about anything salty and smothered in goo, then you’re probably familiar with the classic diner dish Disco Fries. These are fries dripping with chicken gravy and garnished with thick slices of mozzarella or provolone.
As a New Jersey native, to be well versed in diner culture is a must. My first plate of Disco Fries served almost as a right of passage to the Garden State. Admittedly, when it comes to diner food I can be a bit of a snob; fries must always be of the Disco sort and nothing less. So needless to say, when I heard that this thing called poutine was taking San Francisco restaurants by storm, I had to see what it was all about.
Poutine, which originated in Quebec, is essentially the Disco Fries of Canada. Doing a little research, I found that Zoe’s Bar and Restaurant in the Mission District is the go-to place for the most authentic plate of poutine at a reasonable price.
Walking into Zoe’s can be a little intimidating at first. What appears to be a typical hole-in-the-wall bar is accessorized with oil paintings, ambient lighting, and what sounds like the entire soundtrack of Dazed and Confused. Naturally, my friend and I entered not really knowing what to expect from the food. Glancing over the menu, we found that the place was host to simple bar food items — like hot wings and burgers.
What does stand out, however, is the “Mushroom Poutine.” My friend, who has never had fries with anything other than a side of ketchup, and I who was still rooting for my beloved Disco Fries, skeptically placed two orders of poutine and expected to soon call it a night.
What eventually appeared before us was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. A steaming porcelain bowl filled to the brim with golden fries soaked in homemade gravy, topped with caramelized mozzarella cheese curds and scallions silenced us for a moment. And then we took a bite. I rarely get poetic about the food that I eat. The very thought of describing what I ate that night at Zoe’s via literary device makes me cringe, but honestly that first bite of poutine erupted in my mouth like a thousand exploding suns. The dish is satisfying for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Hearty mushrooms and salty gravy warm you up the entire time you’re feasting on this bowl of goodness. What seems like something that could be fulfilling enough for three large men came at the decent price of eight dollars — which is usually around the same price I spend for a meal at the Market Café’.
I’m pleased to say that I walked out of Zoe’s Bar and Restaurant wholly satisfied and absent of any skepticism. Sorry New Jersey, but Disco Fries ain’t got nothing on poutine!
Zoe’s Bar and Restaurant
3088 24th St.
(cross street Folsom St.)