“It’s my birthday month.”

Birthday FreebiesContrary to what others might say about me, I don’t really like being the centre of attention, and as such, I don’t really like throwing a birthday party for myself. If I do have a big party (which I have for the past couple of years), it’s because I want all my friends to have fun. That being said, I use my birthday as an excuse to get anything I want, and I celebrate all month long.

This year, I spent my birthday walking around downtown Toronto to collect all my birthday freebies that different companies offer! Starbucks gives you a big fancy birthday drink, Menchies gives you a free froyo cup (up to $5) and as most girls know, Sephora gives you different birthday gifts every year. Yes, all of these perks come with memberships, but they’re all free to sign up, so why not!

A couple other places that give you free things are Tuckers Marketplace and Wok of Fame (free buffet dinner), Booster Juice (free drink coupon), Pickle Barrel (app/dessert with purchase of entree), What-a-Bagel (free 6 bagels with purchase of 6 bagels), and Spoonful (1/2 price buffet dinner). There are a bunch on this list that I found online.

Lou Dawgs

Lou Dawg’s – 589 King St W., Toronto

So I woke up on the noon of my 24th birthday with a hankering for BBQ. I had been having flashbacks to our outing that had included the Lancaster Smokehouse in Kitchener, so I headed out to the closest place to the condo, Lou Dawg’s BBQ. I’ve seen a few Lou Dawgs around, and the Belly Monsters informed me that they weren’t bad. I had a breakfast birthday beer followed by their two meat platter — pulled pork and brisket — which came with two sides — coleslaw and baked beans, my weakness. I also ordered a cheesy jalapeno cornbread, because really, who can say no to that combination? The platter ($14.99) is a great value and it comes with a bun sliced in half for you to make sandwiches if that’s what your heart desires.

Now, I don’t know why I broke my rule of never ordering pulled pork at a restaurant. It is always disappointing and this one was no different. It tasted like what I can make in my slow cooker. I put it in the bread with my coleslaw, which made it marginally better.

The brisket was a little better. Soft, delicious, but sitting in a pool of grease and fat smothered in barbecue sauce. However, when you drain the fattiness at the bottom from the meat, it is actually quite delicious. They also serve the bbq with two different sauces on the side. The hot sauce is not so hot.

The cornbread was a muffin with pieces of japaleno in it. It was really yummy but disappointingly dry. The cheese on top was crispy and chewy and delicious. I did love the coleslaw and baked beans though. The beans were smokey and perfectly sweet. The coleslaw was the right about of tangy and crunchy. The sides were definitely the highlight of the whole lot, along with the funny and upbeat bartender/waiter.

boston pizza

Boston Pizza – 2915 Eglinton Ave W., Mississauga

Yes, I do not only eat at independent restaurants. We actually eat at chain restaurants quite often when we’re trying to please everyone and just need a quick bite. This night was just some wings and desserts. These Caesars were probably the worst Caesar I’ve ever had. The bacon was bleh. There was too much vodka, and not enough tomato flavour, or any other flavour really.

The big round thing in the middle is what they call a “Doughcano.” It’s their chocolate explosion cake wrapped in pizza dough, baked, then topped with whipped cream. It was chewy, with thick fudge in the middle, and oh man. It was perfect. Chewy, sugary, and a huge hit of chocolate if that’s what you’re craving. my only complaint is that the cheesecake tasted and felt more like marshmallows than cheesecake.

The panookie on the right is always a good bet. A giant chocolate chip cookie that’s pan-fried, then topped with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauce. A nice dose of sugar. The edges are crispy and the inside is chewy.

d hot shoppe

D Hot Shoppe – 4155 Fairview St, Burlington

D Hot Shoppe is a Caribbean/West Indian restaurant that has been recommended to me over and over again by both Dave (@1goatroti) and Justin (@the_Jmoney). On the left is a goat roti drenched in medium gravy and on the right is a doubles, which is a deep fried dough traditionally stuffed with curried chickpeas. They put chutney in it and I asked them to put chicken in it too. They do not look appetizing to someone who’s never had them before but DANG. So good. I’d go eat here twice a week if I were nearby. If you can handle spice, I would still recommend getting the medium. I thought I was soo strong and ordered the hot level the first time I ate at D’s and I regretted it for a few days as it burned through my digestive tract. It was still delicious though.

French ToastPhoenix Chinese Restaurant – 4040 Creditview Rd, Mississauga

A pretty normal Chinese restaurant where you can get your noodles and rice and sweet and sour pork. That beast up there is what they called French toast with peanut butter. It is a pretty dense, sweet bread with peanut butter spread in the middle, deep fried, and then you smother it in more butter and maple syrup. It is deadly. It is delicious.

St Louis

St. Louis Bar & Grill – 6485 Mississauga Rd, Mississauga

My friend Audrey has been obsessed with Caesars lately, and rightly so. They’re delicious. I love it when my caesar comes with a pickled bean. Yum yum.

The burger was quite good, but I just needed a second to rave about these sweet potato fries. Ultra yummy with just the right about of crispiness and potatoeyness still in the middle. They even serve it with a spicy mayo — perfect.

MilestonesMilestones – 10 Dundas St. E. (Yonge & Dundas), Toronto

The Tuesday Peach Bellini special at Milestones is great! It’s like a slushie made of Tim Horton’s peach drink, but not as disgustingly sweet. Then it’s topped with a flavoured vodka, and apparently an animal of the deer variety. The boys were feeling too manly to order one for themselves even though they really really wanted one.

The white chocolate cheesecake is BEYOND. Just beyond beyond. Soft, sweet, decadent, light, with some coffee underneath, whipped cream at the top. Smooth. Take-me-home-to-yo-momma delicious. Tuck-me-into-a-bed-of-rose-pedals-and-make-love-to-me delicious.

Couple Photo

And lastly, the dude that made my birthday outings possible by spoiling me.

I hope all your birthday wishes come true around the world! If they don’t, make them happen.

 

 

 

 

Smoque & Bones

Smoque & Bones

869 Queen St. West, Toronto

Smoque ‘n’ Bones opened up last week on Queen West, just across the street from Trinity Bellwoods and the always delicious Nadège. I was invited by Dave (of the Goat Roti Chronicles), along with Chanry and Adrienne, to sample some of their wonderful barbecue (touted as Toronto’s answer to authentic Southern BBQ) and jumped at the chance. I am always down for some meat sweats. I parked on a side street and as I got out of the car, I could instantly smell the smoky barbecue luring me into the restaurant. I was already drooling. As I walked up to the restaurant at 7, I went to take a picture of the sign with my DSLR, only to be greeted with the wonderful message, “No Memory Card Inserted.” So please, enjoy the following post accompanied with photos taken with a drunk potato.

sides

Side Dishes – Coleslaw, Potato Salad, Collard Greens, Mac & Cheese, Baked Beans, Candied Yams – $3.90 each

We started out with their range of side dishes. The two stand-out ones for me were definitely the candied yams – soft and sweet – and the mac and cheese, topped with homemade parmesan breadcrumbs. It was creamy, the noodles had a nice bite to them, and the breadcrumbs were so perfectly seasoned. The baked beans were very ketchup-y but it grew on me as it I ate it. The coleslaw grew on me as well, but there was a very strong dillweed flavour to it. The collard greens were nice and bitter. The potato salad had some pulled pork mixed into it; it was good, but I found it to be a little too dense.

Smoque N Bones Fries

Shoestring Fries, Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Waffle Fries – $3.90 each

These three fry baskets were served with a side of chipotle mayo. I can’t tell you which of them I liked more because I honestly loved all of them. They were all so crispy and delicious. The shoestring fries were delightfully crispy, though still with a potatoey mouth-feel to them despite being so thin. The onion rings were crunchy, without scratching the roof of your mouth, and not over-salted. So delicious. And then the sweet potato waffles, which I’m sure would turn my sweet potato hating boyfriend into a lover. All three of these were done oh-so-right.

pickles

Pickle Jar – $3.90

The pickle jar is a mix of chow chow, watermelon rinds, okra spears, jalapeño, and green beans. I was most excited to try the watermelon rinds, but I found them unremarkable. The okra spears were great. Nice and crunchy with the right amount of sour. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any pickled green beans (my fave!).

pulled pork

Pulled Pork Sandwich – 1/2 pound – $11.90

I have always been of the school of thought that pulled pork sandwiches (and sloppy joes, and “gourmet” burgers) are meant to be messy affairs. Although I didn’t get to eat this, just the look of it promises to be a wrist-wetting adventure. I am told that it was “very good.”

Smoque N Bones Bread Basket

Bread Basket – $3.90

This creative bread basket came with all my favourite things. Cheese straws, corn bread, a biscuit, and hush puppies! The first three because I’d had them before and they’re delicious; the last because puppies. The cheese straws were light, cheesy, and flaky. Great bite without filling up. Because they’re so light, they’re probably like zero calories. The biscuit was crumbly, buttery, soft, warm, and delicious. The hush puppies tasted like they should, like deep-fried cornmeal batter. Unfortunately, the one I was looking forward to the most, the cornbread, did not live up to my imagination. Less like a savoury cornbread, I bit into it and could have sworn I was eating a pound cake. It could have been more savoury, maybe with some cheese and jalapeño inside. Oh man, now I’m drooling.

Smoque N Bones Ribs and Drinks

Pork Side Ribs – 1/2 rack – $16.90 // Lemonade & Sweet Tea

Judy, you went to a barbecue place and it took forever to get to the meat!!! Yes, it did. And it was so worth it. These pork ribs are served “naked” straight from the smoker, and you’re given a tin of the barbecue sauce with a brush to paint on yourself. The sauce was great, and you can make them super saucy if that’s the way you roll. I’m usually a saucy person, but hooooly. These ribs were so good that I couldn’t even bear to stop eating to paint more sauce on them. They are good both with and without! The meat is super tender and has such a nice bite to it, I’m starting to think that “fall off the bone” ribs are overhyped. There was so much lovely flavour in the meat and the barbecue sauce was on point too. Not too tart, not too sweet, but the perfect complimentary smoky flavour. I would have liked to try any of their other meats, but unfortunately this was all we had for their barbecued meats.

Now that I’m done hailing the ribs, let’s talk about the drinks. The lemonade had been all buzz, so we simply had to try their “famous” lemonade. Only open a few days, and their lemonade was already famous, so of course we had to try it. The waitress also recommended we try their sweet tea. The lemonade is made from a smoked lemon mixed in with muddle mint. It was nice and minty, and would go well with some gin. It is a nice, light summer drink. However, let’s get at the sweet tea. It’s made with black tea, (mild) black liquorice liqueur, muddled orange, and orange bitters, and it is beyond anything I’ve ever had before. It blows my mind how delicious this drink was, and I definitely see myself walking down Queen West in the summer, having this refreshing drink, and dying happy.

Smoque N Bones Crepe

Bourbon Cherry Crepe – $6.90

A vanilla crepe filled with marscapone cheese, topped with bourbon cherries and icing sugar. It might be the Montrealer in me, but the crepe was a bit rubbery, and didn’t have the delicious crispy edge. The cherries were great, but the marscapone inside was a little bit lacking. It could have had a bit more substance maybe if there was an orange or lemon or something citrusy to heighten the flavour inside. Maybe some ice cream on top, with the cherries and bourbon drizzled on. Unless something was changed, I wouldn’t order this again.

Smoque N Bones Upside Down Pineapple Spice Cake

Upside Down Pineapple Spice Cake – $6.90

Looking like a witch’s hat, this pumpkin spice cake has pineapples at the bottom, and is drizzled with syrup. The cake was nice, but it went beyond when you finally get a forkful of cake, pineapple, and syrup. The sticky sweet of the syrup makes for a moist cake, and the sweet pineapples gave a wonderfully fruity fresh flavour to it all. A perfect ending to a heavy barbecue meal.

I really would have liked to try the Bourbon Banana Foster ($6.90) as well. It sounded so delicious, with coconut custard and puff pastry.

All in all, Smoque N Bones is a wonderful addition to the vibrant Queen West neighbourhood, and already so busy (be prepared to wait if you’re visiting), they’re sure to have a successful opening summer and beyond. I will definitely be back.

Memphis Fire BBQ

headerIt’s apparently season for BBQ restaurant eatins!

Oh Memphis Fire BBQ. I’d been hearing about this place from everyone. The must try place. The oasis in the wasteland of Steel Town. Located on Queenston Road, 15 minutes east of the Red Hill Valley Parkway was a wonderful wonderful place that I had to bring everyone to. They smoke their chicken, ribs, pork, everything for at least 6 hours. They serve chicken and waffles at the beginning of the week, and it’s amazing. Though, I am happily stuffed after munching on just a few appetizers. Completely worth it.

ribs

First up, entree. Ribs, served Thursday – Sunday. Soft, meaty, huge portions of ribs on ribs on ribs. The sauce was a little too tangy and sour for my liking, but it was good nonetheless. Boyfriend and I shared just one entree together, and we were completely stuffed by the end.

mac

Chili mac and cheese. Um… YUM?! Gooey, soft, ultra-cheesy mac and cheese below a generous helping lovely smokey chili topped with more cheddar and onions. Chili mac and cheese. Why didn’t I think about that? The combination of the two is just lovely. And of course, to up the ante, I went ahead and started mixing my ribs with my mac and cheese. It just pushed it over the top. So damn yommy.

ranch friesThis is what everyone has to has to has to try:

Ranch fries.

Crispy, thick cut french fries, topped with ranch dressing, cheddar, onions, bacon, and more cheddar. It’s like Jesus jizzed on a pile of fries in the best way possible. Honestly, the best pile of fries I’ve ever had. It’s tangy, bacony, cheesy, carby, best things in the world.

pieLastly, they have an impressive selection of pies. A list of at least 10 different ones. I really wanted to try the banana cream pie, but I had a little princess with me who “doesn’t like bananas” or some ridiculous excuse, so we settled on the pecan pie, a princess favourite. The staff here are really extraordinarily nice. I asked for a buttload of extra whipped cream. Really overemphasizing the amount I wanted (a whole can, please) and they gave us a huge pile with an extra plate of whipped cream!

Both times I went to eat here, I left very happy and very satisfied. The prices aren’t exorbitant, and the food is fabulous!