Still Cool after all these years
Written by Linda Beaulieu - Providence Monthly
I really did think I had died and gone to heaven when I first went to Stanley’s in little Central Falls. Only one square mile in size, densely populated Central Falls is the smallest community in the nation’s smallest state. I went there in search of the famous fresh beef Stanleyburger. Since 1932, when a Polish immigrant names Stanley Kryla opened his namesake restaurant, the honest and affordable Stanleyburger (today a mere $1.69) has been served up with its trademark grilled onions and pickles on a steamed bun that’s buttered and then lightly grilled. It was all that I expected it to be. What came as a surprise was the menu item listed as Quebec-Style Fries or poutine (pronounced “poo-TEEN”).
I had heard about the artery-clogging fries but had never found them on any American menu. According to the American-French Genealogical Society, poutine was created in the early 1950s, when a customer walked into a restaurant in Warwick, Quebec, and made a special request for a pike of frites with cheese and gravy. The chef remarked, “That’s a real mess,” using the local slang word for mess, which is poutine. Nonetheless, he dished up his first order of poutine, added it to his menu, and to this day is credited with the innovative side order. French Canadians brought the recipe with them when they moved to northern Rhode Island to work in the textile mills.
In Quebec the classic version consists of a leaping pile of golden French fries topped with cheese curd, then smothered with hot beef gravy. The fries are large and freshly made, not the frozen variety, and the cheese curd is called fromage en grain. More of this cheese is dumped on top of the fries, and then the entire “mess” is covered with dark brown beef gravy, preferably homemade and piping hot.
At Stanley’s – a retro lunch and dinner spot that is best described as “the Jetsons meets Art Deco” – the fries are adorned with shredded mozzarella cheese and brown gravy. When I took my first bite, I almost expected my heart to stop beating, but it didn’t, so I kept eating.
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