Owner Danny Rodriguez first decided that he wanted to open up a Berkeley franchise of the well-known Canadian establishment while shooting a film in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After a long day of filming “Strings,” a title later changed to “Bravetown,” Rodriguez found immediate comfort in a steaming box of french fries, gravy and cheese curds from Smoke’s Poutinerie. The fearless albeit heart attack-inducing combination of crispy fried potatoes, smooth and savory gravy, tangy cheese curds and whatever else you dare to pile on top captured the film producer-turned-poutine-entrepreneur’s interest.
In a matter of months following the loss of his poutinnocence, Rodriguez along with partners Robert Parada, Kenneth Vudmaska and Greg Gastelum came together under their joint brand: Transcendent Restaurant Group, which had already signed a deal with Smoke’s to open up a northern California franchise, making them the first American executives of the Canadian chain. Rodriguez owes his artful self-promotion and natural marketability to his experience in Hollywood, admitting he used his background in film marketing and Hollywood connections to market poutine. His first line of action – educating us Americans to the life-changing Canadian comfort staple that we’ve been unfortunate enough to live without. Rodriguez has extensively used social media to promote his new franchise, creating a Berkeley Smoke’s Facebook and Twitter to better reach his youthful clientele. He even held the now-infamous FREE POUTINE DAY, when on its opening day, Smoke’s handed out free poutine to the few hundred customers lining up and down Durant Avenue (an event to be repeated once Berkeley’s Smoke’s Poutinerie reaches 1,000 Yelp reviews).
Pictured below is Rodriguez’s favorite offering of Smoke’s: double pork poutine. He claims the sweetness of the pork combined with the salty crunch of bacon really sets this dish apart. After trying it ourselves, we have to agree with him.
When he isn’t surrounding himself with extravagant helpings of perhaps the most interesting invention to come from Canada, Danny Rodriguez still busies himself with film production. He elaborated on one of his proudest upcoming projects, a film adaptation of the story of Madeleine Truel. This “Peruvian Schindler” risked her life to join the French Resistance, saving hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust. A native Peruvian himself, Rodriguez looks forward to the opportunity to share with the world this inspiring and relatively unknown story.
Back to poutine —the Transcendent Restaurant Group also plans to open (you guessed it) more Smoke’s Poutineries. Right now the goal is to open a total of ten, including locations in Davis, San Jose and Sacramento.
If you could eat poutine anywhere in the world, where would it be?
“Berkeley! Anywhere else would be uncivilized.” – Danny Rodriguez
So there you have it, it’s time to break your Friday Thai-day, to interrupt traditional pizza Sunday and head down the street to Smoke’s Poutinerie!
Contact Christina Fossum at [email protected].