For a long time, eating north of the 210 near Pasadena meant one of three things: smashing your face into a pastrami sandwich at the Hat, treating yourself to an old-school breakfast at Fox’s (which is across the line in Altadena) or succumbing to a late-night chicken-and-waffles foray at Roscoe’s. In recent years, though, a handful of great new places have opened up in the foothills, including Seed Bakery, Lavender & Honey and, if you’re willing to include nearby Altadena, Lincoln and Pizza of Venice.
Now there’s another fun new restaurant on suddenly-happening Washington – Spudds, a poutine specialist.
Just the words “poutine specialist” are probably enough to get you salivating. The Quebecois combination of french fries, gravy and cheese curds is an easy sell, a dish of base pleasure and indulgence. Which is to say that Spudds doesn’t need to do much to attract attention — if you present even an average version of those three items in a pile together, the odds are very much in your favor. Fortunately for us, Spudds is not merely average.
Because standard poutine is a three-item dish, each component is of critical importance, and Spudds nails them all. The cheese curds are subtly tangy and the right consistency for melting into gooeyness without totally liquefying, the gravy is strikingly salty and rich but not leaden, and the fries are sturdy enough to stay solid under all of that mess. You will find yourself eating and eating and eating well past the point at which you tell yourself to put down the fork.
You may want to consider adding a topping, or at least getting one on the side. Spudds has a wide variety of choices, from the obvious, like jalapeño or avocado, to the very unusual, including Jamaican relish, pineapple and shrimp. The ones that make the most sense are toppings with a bit of bite, some sharp heat or acidity to cut through the intense saltiness and fat of the main dish.
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Spudds also offers its own fully formed poutine-based creations, things like the Rocky — poutine in the style of a Philly cheesesteak — and the carne asada fries–inspired Mexican Fiesta. There are also simpler suggestions, like Porky’s, which adds pulled pork; Ringer, which has onion rings; or Sausage Fest, which, well, you get the idea.
We probably should talk about the portions, too. They are enormous, almost comically so, with a “petit” box of poutine that is more substantial than a large order of fries at most other places. The bigger size, which they call “meal,” could feed a whole squad of cotton-mouthed bros, and that’s before you start piling on fried chicken or carne asada.
As if that wasn’t enough, Spudds also makes burgers, wings and jacket potatoes, so it is possible to have an experience there that more closely resembles a traditional meal. But honestly, when there are fries, gravy and cheese curds at hand, why bother with anything else?
Spudds, 1802 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 486-2800.