Best Bets: Nanaimo Bar, Poutine

If Canadian bacon is the only thing that pops in your mind when someone mentions Canadian food, check out the Nanaimo Bar and Poutine at Kooky Canuck.

I tried Nanaimo (pronounced "Nuh-NAME-oh," but you won't remember it) at charity events. I checked online and discovered they sell it at the restaurant.

  Nanaimo (top) and Poutin (bottom)  are personal favorites of Kooky Canuck's Canadian owner, Shawn Danko, so he included them on the restaurant's menu.

Photo by Michael Donahue, Photos by Michael Donahue/The Commercial Appeal

Nanaimo (top) and Poutin (bottom) are personal favorites of Kooky Canuck's Canadian owner, Shawn Danko, so he included them on the restaurant's menu.

They serve Nanaimo in 1-by-1-inch bites at charity events, said Terry Terim, Kooky Canuck general manager. It has captured Best Dessert awards at some of these events, including at Taste of Germantown, Oscar Night America and Taste of the Town in Collierville.

The three-layer dessert, named for a town in Quebec, includes chocolate, graham crackers, vanilla, coconut and walnuts. They pour melted Hershey bars over it and serve it with whipped cream on the side, Terim said.

Poutine, which Terim described as a "mainstay" in Canada, is an appetizer, but it's a hearty appetizer; I couldn't even eat all of mine. I had to take it back to the office. It's a mixture of curd cheese and hand-cut French fries with a specially blended gravy poured over it. Man, it's good.

So, why does Kooky Canuck serve these Canadian dishes? Shawn Danko, Kooky Canuck president, is from Canada. "'Canuck' is slang for 'Canadian,'" he said. "So, 'Yankee' is to an American as "Canuck" to a Canadian.

"Poutine is definitely a Montreal dish, definitely a Quebec dish. Nanaimo, which we grew up with, originated in British Columbia.

"They're personal favorites of mine. Poutine is my all-time comfort food. And the Nanaimo bar is such a uniquely Canadian dessert not to have it on the menu would be a travesty."

Both items do well at Kooky Canuck, Danko said. "Poutine has definitely picked up some Southern fans."

Hark Athwal, account executive/ticket sales for the Memphis Grizzlies, was at a nearby table with Tony Barone Jr., director of scouting for the Memphis Grizzlies, and Chris Conroy, head trainer for the Memphis Redbirds. Their running joke when they eat at Kooky Canuck is "Let's get the Poutine," Barone said.

"I order it all the time," said Athwal, who is from Vancouver. He remembered it being served at Burger King when he was little. They served it in little bowls and threw gravy and cheese over the fries, he said.

It's more popular in the Eastern part of Canada, said Athwall, who is from the Western part, which is "more multi-cultural."

Barone, who is from Chicago, was buying lunch that day because he lost a bet to Athwal -- Vancouver beat Chicago in game seven of the Stanley Cup hockey playoffs.

"If you want to know about deep dish pizza. ...," Barone said.

So, what did Athwal order for lunch? "BBQ egg rolls," he said. "Ten years in Memphis."

Kooky Canuck is at 97 South Second; 578-9800.

Michael Donahue: 529-2797; donahue@commercialappeal.com

© 2011 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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