Northern comfort

By BRIAN DUFF  |  July 11, 2007

Billy’s also offers some Quebecois specialties. One is poutine — French fries with gravy and cheese. In this case the cheese is a gooey and unassuming farmer’s, and the gravy is beef. Neither had a particularly distinctive flavor, but this dish is more about richness and it had plenty of that. I wish the fries had been a little crisper. Montreal, in particular Schwartz’s Hebrew Deli, has the world’s best smoked brisket, and I was sorry that Uncle Billy’s version was too dry. It was sliced too thin, then perhaps reheated after slicing. It was the biggest disappointment on the menu.

Sides are good, especially an herby mac and cheese with a creamy ricotta texture and a crunchy breading. Beans had a sweet molasses flavor, and a peppery cole slaw was finely diced and pleasantly wet. Desserts are cheap, old school, and pretty good.

Uncle Billy’s should do well in its new location. It is stranger, in a good way, than its neighbor Norm's, and less self-consciously young and hip than the Downtown Lounge. It is welcoming like Ruski’s, but less dingy and with a more interesting menu. It duplicates none of these established West End spots, and should complement them nicely. Of course, appearing to be a good neighbor is what Canadians excel at. Appearances can deceive. We should not let the satiated stupor we achieve at Uncle Billy’s Resto-Bar make us forget the dangers posed by the nefarious libertarians who live to our north.

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