=Smokin' Bones is now CLOSED - RIP=
Since I left Toronto a few years ago, there seemed to be a bit of a renaissance in comfort food in the city. Wing bars, poutine places, and BBQ joints popping up all over the place. One such place happened to open a few blocks to where I now find my home base since my return. One particular night I had been out adventuring past supper and I was looking for a bite to eat. I felt like something different, and a Southern BBQ place along my travels seemed just right.
In recent times I have become more interested and educated in what makes real BBQ. I haven't had the privilege of touring the South to try real Southern BBQ. When I entered Smokin' Bones, it smelled like what I think of as BBQ. So, it smelled good.
I like the giant stone brick with the red and yellow signs of the building. It also appears that in warmer weather the front window opens up for a bit of a patio feel. Outside on the side wall of the building listed their specialties: ribs, pulled pork, meatloaf . . . well you can see for yourself.
Inside the place is pretty unassuming. Nothing special, just the take-out counter a few tables and chairs that were scrounged up from somewhere. The place was quiet. There were two men each waiting for their orders that each took a while to get. I had time to go over the menu.
They guy behind the counter was very friendly and willing to answer questions. But the whole process took a lot of time for everyone involved. My understanding with BBQ joints that supply can be an issue, so it wasn't surprising to me when he had to check to make sure that things were in stock. Things like forks were not available on this evening.
So many options. What to get, what to get? The daily special - a pulled chicken sandwich with a side and can of pop for $6.99? That's what at least one of the guys waiting got (actually I think that's what both got). Or the Meal combos? What about just dishes on their own? Well, I'm a sucker for a sampler, so I went with the "All to Yourself" Combo:
"Pulled Pork, 1/4 Rack Ribs, One Andouille Sausage, Small Fry, Small Baked Beans, Small Slaw" all for $16.99. It sounded like a lot of food, but when he passed me the bag, it didn't feel like a lot. But it was enough food for one person for sure. I didn't feel like dining beside the older guy, so I had it packed up and brought it home to eat.
These were good. Really good. Fresh cut, crispy but soft inside. Shoestring. Salty. I didn't even put ketchup on these they were so good.
This slaw was mostly creamy, but slightly tangy. Crisp cabbage. Not too shabby.
This came from the front counter in a warming bin. When he spooned it into the container - it was thick and just looked like a great baked beans dish. When I got home, it looked and smelled perfect as a side for a cool evening. Something that would really stick to the ribs and keep you warm. When I stuck my own fork into it, I was surprised to find that it contained pulled pork. This baked bean dish was hitting all the senses. Except one.
It was plain as all heck. No flavour. No seasoning. Nothing. I was really hoping for some sort of BBQ sauce or sweetness. It wasn't even salty. Just blah. Very disappointing.
I assumed for some reason the pulled pork was on a bun, maybe more I was hoping. But it didn't say it was on the menu, so that's my fault in assuming. I was given the choice of two sauces (both for the pulled pork and for the ribs) - the two sauces were Spicy and Very Spicy. For the pulled pork I went with Very Spicy, which was not spicy, but did have a nice flavour.
The pork itself was very tender, but it had no flavour of its own. What I didn't like even more was that more than two thirds of it was sitting in oil. I tried mixing up the pork and BBQ sauce, but the oil overcame the dish and I couldn't eat very much.
For those not familiar with this sausage, it is Cajun (originally French) food that is supposed to be spicy and smoked. This sausage was nicely smoked, but painfully plain. The skin was nice and crispy, the interior a bit dry but texturally it worked. But my flavour receptors were not picking up anything but the pork. It needed to be dunked in sauce.
Baby Back Ribs
The true test, I think, of any BBQ place is the ribs. My combo came with a 1/4 rack, which worked out to be about 4 ribs.
There was definitely a good bark on the ribs. It was crispy, and the meat was a bit chewy from the bone. I'm very confident that they had been sitting around for a while though. The ribs were also mellow on the flavour - with no hint of rub or seasoning. I was counting on the sauce to change that fact.
For the ribs I just went with Spicy. Again not spicy, but this was a bold homemade BBQ sauce. The smell was bold, like the commercial Bullseye sauce. What I would classify as a dark sauce, more savoury than sweet. Peppery, coarse in texture.
I poured a lot of sauce on the ribs and tossed it around in the take-out container. I like my ribs saucy, especially if they can get some time over heat with the sauce on, but for take-out this isn't necessarily the best way to go. The sauce certainly improved my experience with the ribs. I wonder what they would have been like had I eaten them at the store?
Here is my quick breakdown of my combo items:
Baked Beans: Blah
Pulled Pork: Oily
I still want to try a few more items on the menu - the fried chicken, the chili. But most of the big ticket items for me were not to my liking. Maybe it was because it was the end of the night and some had been sitting there. But overall I think the food is not spiced enough, does not drive home a strong enough signature. I liked the service, I like that Smokin' Bones makes everything from scratch. But they need a certain something to make them really stand out.
117 Dundas Street East, Toronto ON