The gauntlet has been thrown down.
"I don’t think there’s anyone in the city that can rival our poutines," Russell Watson, chef at the recently-opened My Restaurant at Sturgeon Creek Village boasted last week.
What most places certainly can’t rival is the concealed condition of My Restaurant. The sign at the corner of Ness Avenue and Sturgeon Road still reads Gizzy’s Restaurant and Lounge, and the restaurant is hidden away behind the 7-11.
A roadside sign with neon letters on Ness points out the geographical relationship to 7-11, as well as the 12 specialty poutines with real cheese curds.
"They’re the rave," owner Lyla Priestley said of her decision to make the $7.95 poutine a feature item.
The secret to a good poutine is hand-cut potatoes and real cheese curds, she said.
Poutine varieties include perogy, oinker, pulled pork, country, chicken chili, Italian chicken, breakfast, cheese steak, Reuben, ground beef, donair, and pulled pork and bacon.
"I had a couple in from Montreal the other day that told me they were on par with (Montreal poutine)," Priestly said.
On March 18, Priestley hit the ground running when she opened My Restaurant. She had a menu already prepared and went shopping over the weekend prior.
After patching, painting, and upgrading minor things like dinnerware, she started serving.
The restaurant was previously Gizzy’s (the neighbouring lounge, owned by her landlord, still goes by that name) and then became The Shore Lunch after the last owner spent some time at a fishing lodge up north, Priestly said.
There was a hoard of bric-a-brac left over and "they had fishing nets hanging off the ceiling and deer heads on the wall."
The fishing nets and deer heads are gone. The remaining bric-a-brac — an antique gas can, washing boards, lantern and signage — is for sale.
She and Watson run it alone, Priestly said, though her fiancé and four daughters appear often.
"They’re the best waitresses I’ve ever seen," she said.
Watson, who joined Priestly about two weeks after the opening, said he’s been cooking for 25 years.
He said "everything is homemade" rather than "out of a bottle or a box" as has often been the case at other restaurants he’s worked at.
Priestly said some of the British fare from Gizzy’s, like bangers and mash and toad in the hole, remains on the menu because "they had a following," but she’s focusing more on "family-type comfort food."
She said customers have told her the prices are reasonable and the food is good.
"They’re ranting about the food, and we tend to get a lot of repeat customers," she said.
"I just want everyone to come give us a try and see what they think."
My Restaurant, located at 3025 Ness Avenue, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.