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.

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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!

HillyBilly Heaven

banner

Smoky. Sweet. Salivating. Seductive. SCRUMPTIOUS SOUTHERN… sfood. This place is located at Upper James and Fennell in Hamilton, where I’ve recently moved. I’d been hearing a lot about Hillbilly Heaven BBQ joint for a while. They’ve been showcased on the Food Network, and the amount of word-of-mouth buzz has been insane. I hear it from everyone that it’s so amazing, so naturally, I had to go give it a shot. Oh lordy lord did I not know what I was getting myself into.

brisket

I ordered the BBQ beef brisket with a side of baked beans, because I am a sucker for baked beans. However, these beans aren’t like those sweet molasses beans you get with breakfast. No, no. These were smoky, filling, slightly spicy, and a hint of tart sweetness from the apples. And then there’s the sandwich. A bread that’s soft and yet doesn’t fall apart. It soaks up the meaty juices without getting soggy. That is a bread deserving of a place called Heaven. The meat is piled high on the bun. It’s soft, juicy, and peppery. Wonderful on it’s own, but they offer 3 kinds of BBQ sauce that to top your sandwich with: mild, medium, and hot. I don’t know how else to describe how amazing this plate was, except for the fact that the plate you see there cost me $8.95. Now do a double take. You saw that right. Under $10 for a sandwich the size of your head and a hog sized bowl of baked beans. Ooooooh mama.
chillay

 

You can expect the same with the pulled pork platter. The sandwich just as big and juicy and comes with a side of thick cut crinkle fries that are wonderfully seasoned and crisp. My cousin upped the ante by turning his side of fries into chili cheese fries for an extra $3.50 and making it into a monster meal.

Hillbilly Heaven is amazing and everyone should eat there. The staff are really friendly, the decor homely, and the food is just to die for.

New York Made Me Famous

So, this is going to be a pretty image-laden post, but bear with me, I only had a partial real day in New York City. By the time we arrived in the city the morning before, we stood in line all day, and immediately after the event, at around 11/12 at night, we went to check into our hotel, because driving all night and standing in the heat all day, and just the excitement of it all, it gets to be pretty tiring.

We stayed at the Belnord Hotel at 209 W 87th, which is really just a few blocks from Central Park. It’s a rather nice area, and it was perfect for what we needed it for. It was just me and my brother, and since it’s illegal to park and sleep in your car, we tried to find a hotel that was reasonably priced as well as being on the island so that we wouldn’t have to travel too far for our tourist day.

The place was gorgeous inside, very posh and swanky. When you walk into the lobby, it’s hard to imagine that it was only 89$ a night. It came up to 101$ after tax, and split between the two of us, it was really only 50$ each, as I’m sure you can do that math. Although, the more expensive part was parking. We parked at an underground place on the next street for about 16 hours and it ran us about 43$ in all, with a few dollars here and there for tips. Now, there’s a reason that this place is so cheap, for its location and whatnot.

This place was tiny and borderline claustrophobic. The pictures don’t really do it much justice. The hallway was wide enough to probably fit two of me in shoulder-to-shoulder, and the two of me’s would be touching the walls at both sides. An obese person would not be able to walk through here without grazing both sides of the wall. The bed was literally a foot away from each wall.

That being said, it was still very very nice inside. For the price, I was expecting motel-standards, but I felt so posh in here. It was exactly what we were looking for, I mean, we were just passing out there for 10 hours, and then off to see the city anyway. We weren’t going to spend copious amounts of time lounging in there. That, and free wi-fi, which is nice. I racked up quite a hefty phone bill due to my addiction to technology, social networking, and staying connected. Always had to tweet, me, and I paid for it. But I digress, it was nice to bunker down for a night and not have to pay with my first born. I was expecting having to pull our 2-300$ to stay a night. Thank goodness for the internet.

We checked out of the hotel at around 10AM to go about doing tourist-y things. For breakfast, we stopped off at Hot and Crusty, a bagel-y cafe-y place on Broadway and W 88th, and we had this chicken fajita panini. It was deliciously crispy and the fries, oh my, the fries. I’m not a fan of fries, but these ones were so golden and crispy on the outside, yet potato-y on the inside. Hot, warm, delicious. I think this ran us about 4$, which was amazing. I had always assumed New York to be so supremely expensive but this was not the case at all.

So, the only reason my brother came to New York City with me was to go shopping. We cabbed down from our hotel to go to Times Square and do some shopping. I wouldn’t say it was overwhelming, or crazy, or anything, but it was exactly what I expected it would be from what I see in pictures and movies and all that world-wide media stuff. It was loud, garish, and crowded.

We also walked over to do a little shopping on 5th Ave, I know, typical tourist stuff. I had the unfortunate displeasure of allowing myself to be dragged into the Abercrombie & Fitch store, which I can tell you is like that episode of the Magic School Bus, where Mrs. Frizzle shrinks everyone to go into one of the boys’ bodies while he’s sick to help fight the infection. Except instead of going into a sick boy’s body, we walked into the embodiment of the world’s biggest douchebag. Unss-unss-unss-unss. The music was loud and aggravating, and the moderately good-looking people working there, dressed top to bottom in A&F stomped around the floor in an attempt to stay in beat with the music. No, really, there was this tall blonde girl standing in the corner, saying hi to people coming in, and awkwardly moving herself to the beat. Worst job ever. On top of that, I already had a sore coughy throat, and the heavy scent in the air only aggravated it. Honestly, why would your store need that much douche-musk in the air? It doesn’t drive the girlies wild, boys. That, coupled with the fact that there was absolutely no ventilation in the store probably makes for a huge safety and security risk. I mean, imagine if there was just one spark of a flame, it would catch on all the gasses in the air and BOOM. The whole place would go up in flames, not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. There’s still the online store for all your A&F shopping needs.

/rant

It was rainy, which brought the whole thing down to a less surrealistic level.

Im soo good-looking that the New Yorkers simply HAD to have my face on a billboard. I brought my brother along in my fame lest he feel excluded.

A teeny tiny cop car.

These are simply the best nuts that Ive ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.

A deliciously spicy chicken gyro that my brother got. Had a slight hint of curry powder in it. Very yummy. Me, on the other hand, made the disastrous decision of getting a knish, trying to be all adventurous and ordering something that I didnt recognize. Grosss. It was like a giant perogie, that should have been delicious, but it tasted all stale and rotten. Blargh. Maybe someone will someday change my mind on them by making a good one, but that was a misadventure that cost me 3$.

Whats this? An indoor ferris wheel???

And of course, the Canadian thing to do was to visit Tim Hortons while in the States. No one makes green tea quite like Timmy hos.

Not in Times Square, but still a cool storefront.

Walked past people of all shapes and sizes. ALL shapes and sizes.

I was surprised by the architecture in New York, especially in the residential districts. So fancy fancy. It had a Victorian-Neogothic feel to it, with the intricate moldings and large windows. So I went creep-mode and took pictures of peoples’ homes. If you saw me through your window, I apologize.

Like a scene straight outta Friends or Seinfeld.

So, after touring around New York City, shopping, till about 3 o’clock, we cabbed our way back to the hotel and drove our asses home. Farewell NYC, I will miss your White Castle, however crappy it was, I’ll still crave it. :(

NOMNOMNOM

Biff’s Bistro

4 Front Street, Toronto

A quaint french bistro located downtown Toronto on Front and Yonge, it’s a classy place with a great atmosphere and some seriously delicious food. On warmer days, they offer a terrace that opens to the busy street, but is slightly obscured by some vines and shrubbery to give some privacy to diners and it also serves to absorb some of the street noises for a quieter dining experience. Inside, the restaurant is split between two dining areas: the ‘bar’ room, which includes a bar and more casual atmosphere, and the dining room, which is a classy, multi-leveled sitting area with small booths and tables, lit candles, and perfect for an intimate dinner.

What drew our crowd to this place was the spectacular offer of delicious oysters. After 5pm, they offer small raw oysters for only 1$ a pop. Granted, these are not as large as the giant oysters you’ll find at dim sum, but they are cosy and delicious. Served raw with shredded horseradish, red wine vinaigrette, and a few slices of lemon, you eat them with tiny forks and they’re like aristocratic frenchmen having a luncheon in your mouth, and it’s bangin’. Word of caution though, if you enjoy your oysters with cocktail sauce, it is not particularly delicious here when paired with these oysters.

One of my companions indulged in their specialty, Steak et Frites. The fries here are delightful. Perfectly seasoned and with soft potato texture encased in an exterior that is crisp to a fault. They stay warm and crispy from the beginning to the end of your meal. Easily some of the best french fries I’ve ever had in the technical sense of the word. The steak, which I had a few bites of, was so juicy, thick, and tender. So flavourful that adding a barbecue sauce would just be an act of blasphemy. A slight char on the outside creates a nice texture when biting into the meat, and it is served on a bed of mild rapini.

I, myself, ordered the lamb chops braised with a plum mustard sauce. It came served on top of string beans and gnocchi. The beans themselves were nicely salted and embodied the crunch that I love so much about beans in general. This was the first time I’d ever had gnocchi, and it’s rather safe to say that it will definitely not be the last. It is as if bread and potatoes had a baby. Delicious, delicious babies. And then the baby crawled onto my plate, under the medium rare chops, to be soaked with juice of lamb. They were soft, with a hint of tension on the outside that gave way easily. Wow. So yummy.

The lamb itself was juicy and tender and huge. I know a lot of people are put off by the game-y texture of lamb, but here it is not at all game-y and just has a wonderful lamb taste with a hint of porto. The flavour is pleasantly complimented by the plum and mustard seed paste that clings to the exterior portions. Writing this post is making me want to go back to eat there.

Overall, Biff’s Bistro is a classy place with a classy price. The portions are not huge, but it filled me up just so I was content and no more. I’d recommend that if you’re used to eating gigantic portions without breaking a sweat, you probably won’t be full after a meal here, unless you go for one of their fixed course dinners. It is a tad expensive but a great place to go for a special occasion or a big romantic date.

Happy eating. :)