Poutineville is opening in Mile End next week

We spoke to Poutineville’s cofounder and the co-owner of its first franchise about our national dish and restaurant scene.

Poutineville on Parc

The small poutine chain known for its build-your-own variations on our national dish is expanding with a fifth location on Parc Avenue, occupying the space (near Fairmount) formerly occupied by BBQ chain Bofinger.

Kosta Kariotakis and Camille Fresco opened the flagship Poutineville restaurant on Beaubien in 2011, and grew the business every year, launching locations on Ontario Street and in Longueuil, Quebec City and Toronto. In an effort to keep their chain at its present scale, Kariotakis and Fresco decided to make the new Mile End location Poutineville’s first franchise, passing ownership to John Chionidis, Nick Velenzas and Joey Santamaria, three guys with a wealth of experience in restaurant design, construction, marketing and management.

A Poutineville poutine

With a long list of topping options (a wide range of meats and vegetables) and several varieties of cheese, gravy and fries, there are a whopping 83,000 possible combinations of poutine available at Poutineville, including vegetarian and vegan options, which are extremely limited at other poutine joints. The restaurant also offers  14 suggested combination poutines (including a 15-pound “heart attack” dish) and all the other staple casse-croute dishes. But Kariotakis takes pride in serving quality base ingredients: gravy, cheese and potatoes.

“Our French fries are hand-cut and hand-blanched,” he says. ” When you’re dealing with a raw natural product like potatoes, even the same crop from the same farmer will be different in September from what it was in August. The McDonald’s process is probably the best for consistency, but they use machines and frozen fries — you can’t use frozen fries.”

As with the consistency of their potatoes, Kariotakis  admits that restaurant standards can be hard to maintain across the board when there are a number of locations in play.

“The truth is, the single-unit restaurants are the best ones,” he says. “When I opened the first location with Camille, I took care of everything: I took the orders, I made sure the customers were happy. With our second location, it was still doable, but when we got to three, everything started getting more challenging, with staff, with consistency — all these little problems started happening that we weren’t aware of.

Inside Poutineville Parc
Inside Poutineville Parc

“We really enjoyed taking care of our customers, but we had to take that passion and that fun and learn how to run a business at the same time. Now people want more restaurants — Poutineville is in demand, but Camille and I are in no rush. We don’t need more in life, and this is why we’re trying a new [franchise] venture.

“I still consider ourselves small. Maybe, if we’re lucky, one day we’ll become big. But we’re already blessed. Whether we grow or not, we’ve been very lucky — Montreal has really been good to us.”

Velenzas says that Poutineville on Parc will retain what’s great about the brand and add a Mile End twist. K decribes the new space’s look as distinctly warmer and younger than his other restaurants, not to mention Bofinger, all traces of which have been renovated away. The chef at the Parc location will also bring his own specialties to the supplementary items on the menu, but the focus will obviously remain poutine.

“The food industry is a tough business,” Velenzas says. “All the elements have to key in together to make you successful, and it takes the right people to do it. Poutineville is such a great brand, and it’s been an amalgamation of great people, fantastic food, the service is always good, it’s affordable — everything is on point.” ■

Mile End’s Poutineville location (5145 Parc) opens on Monday, Oct. 17.

For more about Poutineville, go to the restaurant’s website.