The great Toronto poutine challenge: the classic poutine (take 3)
It's day 11 and Oh Boy Burger officially marks my decent back down the mountain. We're past the halfway point and the finish is coming up in the distance.
One surprising aspect of this challenge, that I really hadn't anticipated, is how difficult it can be to predict a good poutine. I suppose that shouldn't have really been a surprise, well-known clichĂŠs about books and covers have taught me that. But perhaps simply because my job is to be critical here, to judge, I always kind of have an assumption in the back of my head - sometimes even a score - when walk through the door.
Occasionally it's correct, but it's just as often flat out wrong, which makes me wonder: what good is design and marketing anyway? Please don't answer that, it was rhetorical. I get it, it's to give you those assumptions - to sell you on these ideas and create those brands.
Oh Boy has done a good job of creating its brand. It's a franchise ready logo and look that suggests a classic kind of burger shop mentality - one that implies the authenticity of days gone by. How accurate is that? Lets investigate by way of poutine:
These are impeccable looking fries, perfectly cut pale interiors with a little brown skin clinging to each end to prove their authenticity, but there's something wrong here. I'm going to wager one of two things: either they are not made on site and have been frozen at some point, or they don't follow the sacred "double fry" preparation method. I'm leaning towards the latter. They were a little firm inside, and lack the crispness expected in a good fry. 2/5
This is a dark, "homemade", coffee coloured beef gravy. It's rich and flavourful, but salty as a bouillon cube. Overall, it's fine I suppose, but there is far too much of it. All but the top third of the fries are completely submerged making them soggy on the outside and hard on the inside. Coincidentally, my waist and arteries can be described the same way. 2/5
While not as fresh as they could be, they were tasty. Soft, a little salty, but most importantly they were plentiful. I appreciate a poutine that doesn't hold back on cheesy cheese curds. What is lost in age is made up for in a stringy spider web of chewy cheese. 3/5
Here's where Oh Boy gets it just right, they don't over do it while still coming in at a good price. Perhaps this category should be called "Value" instead. Of course the question begs, is a good sized, well priced, but mediocre poutine still a good value? 4/5
Final Score: 11/20
Everything about this place feels like it emerged from a focus group or a design textbook. From the faux nostalgic logo, to the down home origin story on the website. It's all a little too cutesy, I feel like I'm being tricked. The branding and design are just too aggressive--I don't want to be sold a back-story; I just want a decent poutine. It seems like all the effort was put into image and presentation and actual flavour got left behind.
Oh, and before I go, I've got one more beef: there are no prices anywhere on the website. In retrospect, that should have been a tip off.
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