Yonkers, NY: Yonkers Food Truck’s Poutine Is A Dish Worth A U-turn

Tom Mele, owner of The Poutine King, holds a box of poutine, the Canadian dish of French fries, gravy and cheese curds, outside his food truck on Central Avenue in Yonkers. / Jonathan Forester/For The Journal News

By Jonathan M. Forester  |  Lohud.com

Tom Mele, owner of The Poutine King, holds a box of poutine, the Canadian dish of French fries, gravy and cheese curds, outside his food truck on Central Avenue in Yonkers. / Jonathan Forester/For The Journal News
Tom Mele, owner of The Poutine King, holds a box of poutine, the Canadian dish of French fries, gravy and cheese curds, outside his food truck on Central Avenue in Yonkers. / Jonathan Forester/For The Journal News

If you’ve never heard of poutine, your time has come.

Poutine, a famous and fabulously fattening dish of french fries, gravy and cheese curds, is not easy to come by around here. Until now.

In Yonkers, a brightly decorated food truck parked near Andrus Park on Central Park Avenue is dishing what’s certainly the first servings of poutine in Westchester, both traditional versions and trademarked twists. And that’s heaven to some people’s ears — and tastebuds.

“People think it’s a mirage,” says Tom Mele, who owns the truck with his wife, Cidamaia. “People have been taking double-takes and doing U-turns.”

“A lot of people who have been to Canada know what it is,” he says. “And those who don’t say they’ll never eat regular fries again.”

Once you try it, you’ll know why. Poutine, pronounced POO-teen, is made of twice cooked, hand cut french fries — crispy and deep brown outside, and fluffy and light inside. These are covered with a toss of cheese curds, a fresh, light, soft cheese known to squeak when you bite into it cold. This is then topped with ladlesful of flavorful, brown gravy, boiling hot, which melts the curds and soaks into the luscious fries. The dish originated in rural Quebec, Canada, in the late 1950s, spread across Canada, and is getting a hold in the parts of the U.S.

“When I was a kid, we used to have the disco fries at 5 in the morning after going clubbing all night,” laughs Tom. “But that was just brown gravy on fries.”

This is a whole other ball game. The Poutine King’s gravy is made with one of Cidamaia’s secret family recipes. (She’s of Brazilian descent, and has added Brazilian chicken and beef croquettes to the menu, too.) Also on the menu are chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and another of the Meles’ own creations, a Poutine Dog. This is an extra-large Nathans Famous hot dog, sandwiched in an Italian club roll and topped with poutine. “That’s a killer,” laughs Tom. (Seriously. He laughs a lot.) “You eat that on the way to the hospital.”

You might wonder how Tom, a former body shop worker who lives in the Bronx, ended up in the poutine business. Turns out, he and his family are huge hockey fans. Tom has been skating since he was a boy, and started his sons, Thomas and Stephen, out on skates when they were 2 and 3 years old, respectively.

Both boys went on to play hockey in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, the equivalent of a minor league farm team. They earned scholarships to play in Division 1 college teams in the U.S. Now, Thomas, who has gone pro, plays for the Alaskan Aces, in Anchorage, and Stephen is about to graduate from American International College in Springfield, Mass., where he plays Division 1 for the Yellow Jackets. So yes, this family has tasted some poutine. Tom’s first experience trying it was at a food concession in a hockey rink in Hawkesbury, Ontario, but since then, he’s had it everywhere. “It’s the national dish,” he says.

Following six months of research, buying and prepping a food truck, and fine tuning recipes, the Poutine King has been on the road since the first week of January. The Meles chose the Central Park Avenue location because of the great visibility, and because once spring comes, they can park the truck inside the park. If the number of U-turns are any indication, they made a good decision.

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