Friday, September 25, 2009


Tonight at dinner, when Paul asked me if I was
going to finish all my poutine -- a Quebecois dish
of French fries, melted cheese curds and gravy --
I said, "Yep. Life is short."
And I thought a second about what I just said
and what I was eating, and added,
"And it may get even shorter after eating this!"

Damn. Everything I've ever read about this dish
has made me want to jump on the nearest plane
to Eastern Canada. (And just for today, let's not
mention arteries/plaque/LDL/etc.) But lo and
behold, at Smith on Capitol Hill (more about this
in a moment), there it was on the bar menu,
and for significantly less than the price of a plane
ticket to St. Hyacinthe, Quebec (where at the age of
14 I spent a week locked up with an elderly great-
aunt-and-uncle and their two maiden middle-aged

But back to the poutine. For six bucks, I feasted
on a dinner-sized plateful of the best, crispy-on-the-edges
fries, heaped with oozing mild white cheese curds
and a light drizzle of dark gravy. Salty, hot, texturally
both crunchy and gooey: sublime. Now, I intend to never
consume these again, for the above-unmentionable
health reasons, but for just this once, because I could,
I indulged. And it was worth every luscious bite.

So on to the issue of the name of the pub: Smith.
Huh? Not Smith's. Not The Smithy. Not K-Smith.
Just the very simple and unadorned Smith.
Earlier in the week, in anticipation of this evening
(a friend's birthday) we speculated about what kind
of eating/drinking establishment Smith would be.
I said that the name suggested über-hip and sleek
lines, lots of black, minimalist decor. P., on the other
hand, said the name suggested something solid, earthy,
grounded. How is it that the two of us came to such
opposing conclusions about the ambiance of a venue
based on a one-word name? (I'm guessing that there
aren't too many people out there who can make a
three-mile-walk conversation based on a one-word
restaurant name. Other than us, I mean.)

And guess what: P. was right. Lots of rough-hewn
dark wood, busts of antelope/elk/deer on the walls
as well as various and assorted stuffed and mounted fowl.
An entire wall of rather badly-done oil portraits, including
one of JFK. No chic, no sleek, anywhere in sight.
And the über-hip? I won't be the one to judge.

I asked our waiter about the origin of the name,
and he guessed that the building which houses Smith
is probably The Smith Building. Huh. Hmm.
(I wonder if that's really how the place got its name --
the waiter said he'd find out for me, but he apparently
forgot.) I was certainly expecting a better story. And,
for the record, I'd be happy to make one up.


  1. That's odd. I would have gone with P's guess, but for the wrong reason. When I read "Smith", I thought of blacksmith, so I would have been expecting lots of antique ironwork.

    I have never tasted poutine. Fortunately, I just don't get excited about chips.(There should be at least one vice that you don't have. This is mine.) So adding cheese and gravy to something that doesn't much appeal -- well -- doesn't much appeal. I'm glad you enjoyed it, though. Next time I'm in Victoria, I'll go have a piece of cheesecake at Pagliacci's. Now there's an artery clogger I would eat every day, if only...

  2. I have been wanting to try poutine, so what's stopping me? Smith is right in my neighborhood. And if it's earthy and solid, the clientele still tends to be pretty damn hip (as in, not me).

  3. If you are unsure about whether the hip-level will suit you at Smith, you can also get Poutine at Skillet, and a vegan version at Squid and Ink.

  4. Em, actually, it was great, just wondered how it happened that I got so old!

    Thanks for the Skillet (which I've yet to visit) and Squid & Ink referrals.