Potatoes are so versatile, you’ve likely had them with every savory flavor you can think of. But the Poutine Brothers truck puts its focus on an underrepresented French-Canadian combination: french fries with cheese curds and gravy. And it hits the spot.
Often referred to as Canada’s national dish, poutine is the truck’s marquee meal—not the family name of its founding brothers. The brothers behind the wheel are Chris and Matt Urakami, Bay Area natives who moved to LA after college to work in corporate marketing and finance, respectively. Though neither had a background in the food business, their entrepreneurial optimism and hunger for poutine drove them to redirect their skills to start Poutine Brothers.
“I’ve always had a passion for food and cooking,” Chris said. “We wanted to launch a business by ourselves and try something new. So this was the leap of faith we took.”
In its first year on the streets, Poutine Brothers has been dishing out traditional poutine with its 3 core ingredients, along with several meat and vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free options to cover any appetite. For more particular tastes, you can build your own poutine meal with unconventional swaps like harissa-spiced gravy, or add-ons such as avocado, jalapenos, fried egg, or fried chicken skin (!). You can even go non-traditional with the potatoes if you’d prefer a base of waffle fries or tater tots.
Though Chris and Matt aren’t Canadian themselves, they put effort into making The Classic poutine on the menu taste as authentic as possible. Having traveled through Canada as youth hockey players, they picked up a taste for poutine at an early age. And since it’s been hard to satisfy that craving in the US, their approach to making it themselves has involved plenty of R&D.
Their first challenge was building the dish’s starchy foundation. A pile of large russet Idaho potatoes is always on deck in the truck. Chris and Matt clean and cut the unpeeled potatoes by hand, slicing pieces thick enough to hold up under the gravy. The potatoes then get fried twice in canola oil, so you’ll have a chance to enjoy the crispness of the first bites before the gravy soaks in.
“We do the first fry to cook, and the second fry to get that crunch that everyone likes,” Matt explained. “I think that makes a really big difference in our product.”
Next was the cheese. The brothers hoped to get authentic Canadian cheese curds directly from Montreal, but delays at customs put freshness at risk. So for now, they’ve turned to the next best thing: Wisconsin white cheddar curds. These chunky dairy nuggets perform dutifully, softening when warmed while remaining firm enough to stab with a fork.
“They’re a big factor in our dish. Personally, I think if you don’t have cheese curds, it kind of skews away from true poutine,” Chris said. The vegan preparations necessarily use shredded vegan mozzarella for flavor, with cooked vegetables supplying the chunkiness.
And finally, the brown gravy. The Urakamis went through dozens of recipes to find the taste and consistency they wanted for both the regular and vegan gravies. After hearing from Canadian customers that it’s not unusual in Canada to use a powdered gravy mix, the Poutine Brothers’ homemade gravies became a point of pride. Neither too thick nor too thin, the sauce seeps into the dish and settles into a sloppy, flavorful puddle at the bottom of the bowl, ready to get mopped up by the last of the fries. “That’s basically the knot on the dish that ties it all together,” Chris mentioned. A final garnish of fresh chives adds a pop of green, mostly for looks.
To beef up The Classic, several poutine options add tender meats: braised beef Short Rib, Smoked Pork, or sous-vide Savory Chicken. Chris’ personal favorite, the Chicken Tikka Masala, adds a fusion kick of Indian curry flavors, topped with chopped fried chicken skin and cilantro. “It’s a little more out of the box and adventurous,” Chris said. “It’s got a lot more unique flavor profiles going on and a lot more textures.”
And then there’s the loveable sweet-and-savory misfit of the group, The Hangover. Instead of fries, a base of tater tots is joined by salty cubes of ham, a fried egg, and a drizzle of another Canadian icon: maple syrup. And it’s fittingly named after a familiar condition that customers can relate to, especially at the breweries that often partner with the truck.
On the meatless side of the menu, the Southwest Vegan was the truck’s first foray into a purely plant-based dish, using the vegan mozzarella and vegan homemade gravy, plus sauteed bell peppers and onions.
“We started off with one vegan option. And it was ordered so heavily that, about a month in, we added the second one very quickly,” Chris said, referring to the “Parm” Cauliflower Vegan, a kicker seasoned with nutritional yeast and chili powders.
Occasionally, you might catch limited specials on the menu, such as a Korean-themed poutine with gojuchang (pepper paste) and Thanksgiving poutine with turkey and cranberry sauce. Unable to resist an obvious pun, the brothers plan to develop a new one soon, called the Vladimir Poutine.
“We try to be a little witty and a little smart alec. We like to play on words, try to have as much fun as we can,” Chris said, as evidenced by the truck’s slogan: “Poutine up with your s#*!”
If you’re curious to try just a little or ambitious enough to try multiple dishes, all poutines are also available in a small size. Out of appreciation for their regular customers, the truck also offers a rewards card, where each stamp gets you $1 off a future purchase.
Canadian patrons have been particularly supportive of Poutine Brothers, booking the truck for corporate events and offering valuable feedback that Chris and Matt have worked to incorporate. “They’re passionate about the dish, passionate about the product, and thrilled that they actually see poutine on wheels,” Chris said.
Though Poutine Brothers is still relatively new, the Urakami brothers already have their sights set on a second truck to cover Orange County. “We’re young and growing, trying to gain a following and make a true impact in the Los Angeles market,” said Chris. “So far, business has been great.”