Gino Doucet, the owner (with his partner, Tammy Daniels) of Deep South Cheese & Grill came from Canada. That’s why poutine is the star of the menu in this happy little roadside cafe in Dearing, Georgia.
Poutine is a dish created in Quebec in the mid-20th century, now popular at casse-croutes (snack bars) throughout the province. Mostly, it’s a simple affair: French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. If the fries are good and crisp, which they tend to be in Quebec; if the cheese curds are so fresh that they literally squeak when bitten; if the gravy sounds a beefy baritone note, then poutine can be a transcendent plate of food — simple perfection. On the other hand, squishy fries or canned gravy ruin it; and too-old cheese curds, which can be dry and flavorless, make it a culinary bad joke.
Monsieur Doucet’s cheese curds are made every day. They are squeaky, indeed. They have a subtle milky flavor, their extreme freshness a quiet triumph of the dairy world. Combined with excellent French fries and vigorously seasoned gravy, they form a magic mouthful — the gravy warm enough to soften but not melt the curds, viscous enough that it turns some fries into virtual mashed potato logs, leaving ends and edges crisp.
Plain poutine, at its best, is unimprovable; but there are very interesting variations on the Deep South Cheese Menu: Italian poutine, which includes marinara sauce; smoked sausage poutine; and Dearing Favorite poutine, which adds smoked sausage, grilled onions, and crumbled bacon to the curds and gravy.
Speaking of smoked sausage, spicy links are available hot dog-style, in buns, topped with all sorts of goodies from cheese curds or pimento cheese to bacon and hot sauce. I can’t resist the wickedly indulgent Dearing Dog, for which the smoky link is ribboned with Duke’s mayonnaise and accompanied in its toasted bun by a hefty strip of bacon and a scattering of grilled onions.
Regular hamburgers and cheeseburgers are available, as is a signature Deep South Burger. That’s a couple of crusty grilled ground steak patties sandwiching a layer of cheese curds, piled atop a slice of red onion and hot BBQ sauce. It’s a beautiful package and a clever idea, but my taste buds simply don’t have the range to simultaneously appreciate the ragged, highly seasoned beef at the same time they are caressing that elegant cheese. Next visit, I am getting a Tammy Burger (with pimento cheese and bacon) and an order of poutine on the side.
Open since October, 2018, Deep South is a welcoming place that has become a favorite among locals and travelers along the Augusta Highway. Many call ahead for take-out orders. If you dine in, do be aware that this is not fast food. Meals are prepared with skill that suffers no hurrying.
Note that Military and Emergency Services employees get a 10% discount.