Sounds wonderful. Anyone been yet?
I read a review (I thought it was here, but apparently not) by someone who said the smoked meat tasted like ham. Augie apparently uses a recipe from Smoked Meat Pete’s, which I’ve never tried. I’ve had smoked meat that tasted like tinned ham (Reuben’s on Ste-Catherines W.) but it’s not nearly as appealing as Schwartz’s, which is the standard (just because it IS).
As far as poutine is concerned, I wouldn’t cross the street for it, and Augie’s is in an inaccessible part of Berkeley (for we the car-free). But throw away the gravy and put the cheese curds on the side (they may be inedible, if they are anything like Spring Hill’s) and I’ll come RUNNING for QC quality frites. Augie’s is said to use “thrice-fried fries” in their poutine, so I’d hope they sell them naked.
Personally, I’ll wait for @Oliverb to weigh in before venturing to the Berkeley flatlands.
I’d like to eventually try it out, but like you, I’m without a car and it’s not in the most accessible of locations. From what I’ve seen online, the smoked meat looks interesting at least. The cheese curds do look odd to me; they’re long and weirdly shaped and appear to be denser than the fresh QC curds which I’m used to. I understand that they use imported canned St-Hubert BBQ sauce for their poutine, which is fine for Berkeley but not something I’d ever consider to be worth seeking out back home. It’d probably serve a bit of nostalgic comfort, if nothing else; although it strikes me as a bit lazy and probably not the most cost efficient model. Surely it’d be cheaper to make their own gravy rather than import from Canada. For those unfamiliar with St-Hubert, it’s the most generic of Quebec style rotisseries chains, and while the taste would be instantly familiar to anyone like myself, it doesn’t exactly set the highest bar. I must admit that the appeal of a place like Auggie’s is pretty limited to me, given that I routinely spend several weeks in Montreal each year. I’m sure that my curiosity will eventually get the better of me though. I don’t imagine that there are too many Montreal expats in the Bay Area, but perhaps this might fill a niche for those of us who are around at times when we’re longing for home…
I was struck by the last line of the Eater article:
"We want to be the hockey bar for the east bay — there’s not really a great place to watch,” he says. Augie’s expects to receive its beer and wine license in about a month, at which point they’ll start selling fine Canadian beer like Molson and Labatt.
“Fine Canadian beer like Molson and Labatt”? This is Berkeley. This is the Bay Area. Why not Unibroue products? But perhaps the banality of the St. Hubert’s chicken gravy, along with the banality of the beers, is deliberate.
I grew up in Massena NY, so close to Canada that as kids we’d ride our bikes to Cornwall ON to buy firecrackers. When you cross the bridge to Cornwall now, the first sign you are in Canada is a St. Hubert’s. Here’s an interesting article on the cultural importance of St.-H’s to Quebecois, and the implications of its takeover by the Swiss Chalet folks.
I’m the one who posted that the smoked meat was as mild as supermarket ham. Others posted on Yelp that it had a welcome “peppery” taste, but I didn’t notice that.
QC quality frites
The frites (and curds) are available as sides. I found them to be overcooked, with the parts that weren’t soggy from the gravy tough and chewy. The curds were like cubes of mild cheddar or jack, and didn’t squeak to me.
I probably won’t be back there, but transit-only people who are ambitious can take BART to MacArthur station, then the free Emery-Go-Round bus to Berkeley Bowl West, a couple of blocks from Augie’s.
I got to try Augie’s this weekend when my car-having husband sent me photos of the menu from the field. We were going to get smoke meat and make our own sandwiches (we had fresh Odessa rye from Semifreddies in the kitchen) but they were only doing sandwiches. We got the basic - brisket on rye, with a pickle and slaw on the side. The pickle was a little too acidic and sweet, and I’m slaw-indifferent.
The good news: The smoke meat I liked. Not as much as Max’s pastrami because that’s just my taste. Augie’s was tender, succulent, and kind of like a lusher, gentler pastrami. Excellent texture. A nice amount of fat. I’m surprised to be saying it needed salt but if I added a little yellow mustard next time, it would probably balance out. I was relieved it wasn’t sour because I don’t like corned beef.
The bad news: The fries were really bad. Very oily and soggy, and with that disconcerting sweetness potatoes get when they’re not stored properly (their starches turn to sugar). But – it could have been because they were scrambling to meet an unexpectedly high demand. My husband said they told him they were completely slammed and were frantically cutting potatoes, etc.
We’ll be back! We’re already planning an evening of eating smoke meat while we rewatch Slapshot.
Watch “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.” You’ll be craving a Wilensky’s Special.
I can wonder why they’re going with Baron Bagels instead of Beauty Bagels, where they used to pop up? Perhaps Baron’s toast better than Beauty’s, which are best appreciate on site.
And didn’t Beauty’s allegedly make Montreal-style bagels? Or did they just copy the name?
I’m guessing it has to do with capacity. When Berkeleyside did a best-bagel article, they described Beauty as having lines out their shop door and said Baron sold to local restaurants, etc. So while Beauty could handle Augie’s pop-ups, they may not have been able to scale up to an ongoing supplier relationship, whereas that’s what Baron is set up to do.
That’s right, Beauty’s make Montreal style bagels. By a long shot I’d put them as the best bagels in the Bay Area—- there’s always a variety warm, straight from the wood oven.
They’re walking distance to MacArthur Bart, and there’s a big queue at peak hours as @Heavysnaxx Pointed out above. On a weekday morning between seven and 830, it’s possible to avoid the lines. The hold up is that most people have complex orders, —-I really wish they would have a separate line dedicated to unsliced bagels. IIRC, St Viateur Sold bagels behind the counter, and if you wanted something like cream cheese you had a bring it to the counter from a refrigerator case
Thanks for the review! My gym and favorite grocery store are nearby, so I’ll check it out soon. Hopefully, the poutine will be better by then.
Who toasts bagels, anyway?
My pleasure! (As all things related to brisket ought to be.)
I’ll be curious to hear about the poutine. Disclosure: I’ve never tried it, anywhere. The part I’'ll be interested in is the “brown gravy” part. From whence does it come? Because if it’s actually a mouthwatering by-product of all that brisket, I’ll be all over that poutine with a quickness. But if it’s moo-less industrial sludge thinned out with a liquid that was shown a picture of a cow once, I’ll pass.
Adults who were once poor, deprived children growing up with Lender’s bagels. The same people who carry a shameful secret: They kind of prefer instant ramen because it just tastes right. (Like Calvin Trillin, who realized the mac-and-cheese of his childhood that he was chasing was not just the blue-box stuff but day-old blue-box stuff.)
To be authentic, it should be chicken gravy. I grew up in the Poutine Sphere of Influence (albeit on the US side of the St. Lawrence) before poutine was “invented” and can tell you putting chicken gravy on your fries was a thing long before poutine. That answers the age-old question (“which came first, the chicken or the cheese curd”).
See, my baseless assumption that a brisket joint = beef gravy just shows how a child can be nearly Canadian-adjacent in Greece, NY and yet turn out to be an utterly poutine-ignorant adult. I love chicken gravy so I can live with this.
You clearly know what you’re talking about because a photo of Augie’s menu board says the poutine includes St. Hubert gravy and The Google took me to the website that has a teeny-tiny chicken icon. But the poutine gravy products are…not anything a typical Berkeley locavore is going to talk way too loudly about on their phone while using public transportation. It’s sort of the antithesis of a “juice cleanse.” Which is fine! All those cleanses have to clean out something, after all.
But do you know if St. Hubert is some sort of hometown nostalgia product for Canadians, that’s kind of crap but you love it because it’s home?
ETA: Good one! re which came first.
Greece NY? Naaaah. I grew up in Massena NY, 85 mi. from Montreal, and about 10 mi. from the ON/QC border.
I bet you and I and @hyperbowler are the only people in this thread who know where Greece NY is.
My other claim to expertise in poutinology is the fact that my grandfather’s cousin, William Henry McCadam Jr., founded the McCadam Cheese company, which makes the best cheese curd in the US, and can be seen in all the photos in this article:
Ha, I not only know where it is but at one point could say it in two languages (courtesy of an American Sign Language class at UofR)