The Stockyards

On Thursday, GC and I went to The Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder.

Located on St. Clair West and about a 5 minute walk away from two of my sisters’ apartments, this could be trouble. It is so close to home, and my home-away-from-homes that I might develop an unhealthy barbecue addiction.

When we walked into the restaurant it was packed with hungry people crowded around the butcher block cash counter. The Stockyards does take out and dine in so at the dinner rush, it is incredibly busy here. But rest assured, we were seated almost immediately. I think in the future we will probably order take out and go to a nearby park or maybe take over someone’s apartment with a barbecue picnic. I think if you show up at someone’s house with traditional southern barbecue they won’t object to you coming in and sharing with them.

The interior of the restaurant reminded me of the Old South and not in the racist, awkward way but rather the rustic charm and simplicity of the antebellum period. How you would expect to find Paula Deen’s kitchen in the south – utensils that have been around for years, lots of wood counter tops and evidence of grease stains from years of good times and good food.

We sat at the long bar which opened up onto the kitchen – some people don’t like/love open kitchens in restaurants but I love them. I can see why – you see the mess, there is a lot of noise and you don’t always want to know what the kitchen staff is doing to your food. I think for anyone who doesn’t like an open style restaurant kitchen needs to come here. The two chefs who were working truly were kitchen performers. There was no shouting or arguing or dropping anything. They worked effortlessly together and they had such a rhythm together. From their tattooed arms to their cooking ability, everything about the pair was entertaining. Watching how all the various meals were prepared made me want to eat each and everyone that much more. The burgers were pulled out of the fridge, made fresh and formed into little balls and placed on the griddle with a little bit of coarse salt. Then smashed. I could have watched that for hours. Next time I will be ordering a burger.

This time, however, I ordered the Pulled Pork Sammy. I thought since this place specializes in barbecue, I should get something that is traditional barbecue.

Hickory smoked pork shoulder topped with coleslaw, Stockyards BBQ sauce, on a squishy bun served in a cast iron skillet. The pork was tender and sweet with a little hint of heat. The coleslaw was salty and tart and had the perfect hit of fennel, which is a flavour I don’t typically like but it worked so well with the richness of the pork and the tartness of the slaw. I stole GC’s container of slaw from him because I liked it that much. This is officially my favourite coleslaw of all time. All served in a cast iron skillet – this made me feel like I was a cowboy in the wild west eating my dinner over an open flame with tumbleweeds in the background. Perfect and authentic.

GC ordered the Stockyards Fried Chicken Dinner .

4 pieces of Buttermilk marinated chicken served with fries, coleslaw, and hot sauce. The chicken was crispy on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside. The buttermilk tenderized the meat while giving it a hint of sweetness that set off the salty breading and frying. This doesn’t look like it, but it’s a lot of food – GC had leftovers.

Authentic, traditional Southern babeque without the trip to the South. Sounds perfect to me – how about you?

 

BQM Burgershoppe Quality Meats

Last Sunday GC and I tried to go to Pizzeria Libretto for lunch but unfortunately, on Sundays, they do not open until 4 pm. Apparently, people do not want to eat pizza before 4 – I didn’t realize it was strictly an evening food.

Since we were feeling dejected and lazy we looked around the Ossington and Dundas area for an alternative and we discovered BQM Bugershopped Quality Meats. A general note on this neighbourhood – there is a plethora of restaurants on this stretch, starting at Ossington and Dundas and going down a couple of blocks. Restaurants featured on this stretch that I want to try include (but aren’t limited to): Salt, Pizzeria Libretto, Fishbar, Yours Truly, Foxley and so many more. I suffer from something I feel like most Torontonians suffer from – I am mentally restricted and confined to the subway line. This is something I need to break free from, especially since I have access to a car.

I love the interior of this restaurant – the pendant lighting, the art and books on the shelves, the mixture of bench seating and tables. The only reason the restaurant was empty on Sunday at lunch time was because the day was beautiful and everyone was on the patio. The patio was on the side street, off of Ossington and was a great spot to enjoy some beers and burgers on a beautiful March afternoon.

Things I should have read before I ordered. I think next time I will get the brisket burger. The brisket is the cheapest burger meat you can order on their menu so I naturally assumed it was lesser quality. Sirloin is leaner which appeals to most people but I think the marbling of the brisket burger would add delicious, fatty flavour.

The menu explains everything about the meat – where the cattle is raised, where on the cow the cuts of meat come from and the sustainability of the ingredients. The quality of the base ingredients for each burger is emphasized and this comes through in the complete assembly of the burger. Each ingredient compliments the others and creates a perfect burger from top to bottom.

I ordered the Sirloin Hawaiian Burger grilled to Medium-Rare.

Bacon, smoked white cheddar, pineapple and chipotle aioli. The bacon was crispy but not burnt or charred. The smokiness of the cheddar complimented the smokiness of the burger. The pineapple was perfectly grilled and the grilling brought out the sweetness of the pineapple which worked with the smoky flavours from the cheddar, the bacon and the burger. The chipotle aioli added a little, but the right amount of heat to the burger.

I would get the burger done Medium next time – Medium-Rare is perfect for a steak but a bit too bloody for a burger. My burger bun got a bit soggy but everything was still delicious.

The sweet potato fries were hand cut from real sweet potatoes and were crispy on the outside but soft and moist on the inside. All washed down with a pint of Creemore – a perfect alternative to a barbecue in your own backyard..

GC ordered the Sirloin Riverside Burger grilled to Medium-Rare.

Bacon, mozzarella, BQM BBQ sauce, onion ring and garlic aioli. This burger had the perfect amount of crunch to it. And again, I think a more grilled through burger would have complimented that crunch that much better.

I loved everything about this place. The location, the interior, the general message of the company and of course, the burgers. I think I found my new favourite Toronto burger place.

 

 

Hey Meatball

There has been an emerging trend in Toronto food culture of restaurants popping open that specialize in one things: various grilled cheese restaurants like Cheesewerks or The Grilled Cheese, the specialty sausage restaurant Wrvst and Hey Meatball, which specializes in nothing but, you guessed it, meatballs.

Of course, as someone dating an Italian, we needed to check out this place and compare the meatballs to the ones Nonna makes.

Located in the heart of Little Italy, Hey Meatball has to be good. All the ingredients used are farm sourced from within a 100-mile radius and everything is all natural. All the pasta used is made daily – this kind of quality would be hard to find in most traditional Italian homes.

The restaurant is open concept with a great view of the kitchen. In the kitchen the cooks are dancing, singing and joking – it is like that scene out of The Big Chill. You can see all the meatballs being ground and rolled fresh to order. The tables and chairs are a mismatch of styles and sizes, as if you are sitting down to a huge family dinner at someone’s house and chairs have been grabbed from every room of the house.The walls are lined with a combination of bad paint-by-numbers (clearly ironic), photos of old Italian ladies and scenes from Italy. Looking at the walls you can picture this eclectic combination lining the walls of your Nonna’s house.

The menu is everything you would except – meatballs are the main focus but you are able to get them several different ways. I think my favourite thing about the menu is the fact that you can get 3 meatballs with sauce. This is the perfect amount for a snack, and anytime I have the option to have a dinner option as a snack, I’m there.

You order at the counter, they tell you that the meatballs are a pork and beef blend (for all our Kosher, Halal et al. friends out there) give them your name and then take a seat. They’ll call you when it’s ready. Perfect. Why can’t more place operate like this?

I ordered the Mac & Cheese with Pork/Beef meatballs.

The pasta was tender and was cooked perfectly. It was creamy and so cheesy. When my order came up, they drizzled olive oil over my mac & cheese – so Italian. Adding olive oil on top of something that traditionally does not have olive oil on it is so Italian, in a good way. The meatballs were juicy and flavourful, and this was all because of the quality of meat not because of anything else that was added in.

I polished this bowl off. It was too good not to finish it all.

GC ordered the Rodfather – named after the owner and chef of Hey Meatball, Rodney Bowers.

GC compared the meatballs on this sandwich to the quality that his Nonna makes. Now that is an endorsement. The sauce was a perfect compliment to the flavour of the meatballs and the pesto rounded out the taste of the whole sandwich. The salad was light and had a nice vinegary flavour, it cleansed the flavour of the sandwich perfectly.

Homemade cream sodas to wash everything down. Sweet, rooty, delicious. I love this trend of restaurants now making their own homemade sodas. It kind of make you think that it isn’t quite as bad as having a glass of Coke.

Before we left, we talked to Rod and told him we loved what he was doing here. We gave him the biggest compliment you can give someone who makes meatballs, “These rival Nonna’s.” He told us how an old Italian lady had come into the restaurant to order some meatballs for her son. I’m pretty sure she passed these meatballs off as her own.

Definitely a place to check out as a meat-lover.

 

 

Caplansky’s Smoked Meat

Caplansky’s is a traditional, Jewish deli located on College Street, near Kensington Market. They are known for their smoked meat sandwiches and their newest addition to the team, a food truck called Thunderin’ Thelma.

GC passes Caplansky’s on his way to work every day and therefore, he has been tempted every day for over four years. So we decided to succumb to temptation and go for Sunday brunch.

Caplansky’s is everything a good deli should be – busy, tables full of regulars, a deli counter where you can buy meat and bread, mismatched tables and chairs and checkered floor tiles. I would love to become a regular at this place but I would have to be careful what I order in that this is traditional, Jewish deli food – salty, fatty deliciousness.

I love when my place mat is my menu. I don’t know it’s just something that I get a kick out of. I think it’s because after I have ordered I can still look at the menu and salivate over all the options. I am already thinking of what to have on my next visit. I also love that you can order a side pickle. Sometimes when I go out for food I base my order on the fact that I will get a side pickle. Yes, my background is Eastern European and I love pickled products.

GC got the “Fresser” Smoked Meat sandwich. Fresser is Yiddish for glutton. I do love when Yiddish makes it way into every day conversation/menu and when it can find itself into a pun, The servers were wearing shirts that said something along the lines of being “old schul.” Perfection. Back to the sandwich. When you order your smoked meat sandwich you choose between lean, medium and fatty cuts of meat so you can be a little more sensible or a complete fresser. The meat is flavourful without being too salty, and can be complimented by a range of different mustards. And then topped with a pickle! And a side of sweet, vinegary coleslaw. This could be my new favourite meal. And I didn’t even order it.

This burger was the special that day – the patty is a combination of smoked meat and ground beef topped with a latke, a sunny side up egg, and some smoked meat. Juicy, tender, meaty yums. My only complaint – I wanted more smoked meat. And maybe a whole pickle.

On our way out we ran into a few old friends that I lived with in university. Good food bringing people together. Does it get much better than that on a Sunday morning?