Thursday, 13 December 2012

My Staff, My Dinning Hall, My Gratuitous Shots of Wings

Dinning in the caf a week or two ago with some of my staff.

My wings, naked. Dusted, but not yet sauced.

Adding my own stock pile of 3rd Degree sauce.

Nishant chowing down on his wings on the left, Vivian savouring her wings on the right.

Vivian went with a BBQ sauce slash honey garlic mix with curly fries. I'm trying not to hold the honey garlic against her.

Desiree sampling a donated wing from Vivian. Yes, that is meat on a bone.

More gratuitous shot of my wings. Round 2.

Nathan disecting his wings with a knife and fork. Dorothy puts her dinner on display. Nav is taking no prisoners with his wings.

Good wings. Great staff.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


JULY 2012

LJ and I went for BBQ for early lunch, and then spent the rest of the day outlet mall shopping. It was hellish. Not only do I not enjoy shopping, but the temperature was scorching, many of the stores didn't seem to have a/c, and walking the giant area felt like a death march. By the end of the day we were so tired, exhausted and crabby that, well we weren't in good moods. We went back to the hotel, went swimming (also a terrible experience with tons of annoying kids running around, running out of towels and, well kids).

photo courtesy of Google street view

By the time we finally went for dinner, it was late. We had a hard time deciding where to eat and while I had done some research of where to go, nothing seemed to work. We drove up and down Erie street and we finally accepted to go to the chain Outback. LJ had been to Outback before, but I had not, and I had not heard great things. But it was open, and I was starved.

 It was getting close to close to closing time, so the place was dead empty. Outback reminded me of the Canadian chain Montana's, but instead of cabin themed, this was all Australian themed with its boomerangs and didgeridoos. The place had an unpleasant cleaning smell to it, and I was not feeling the place.

Our server was Craig, and he was a good waiter. Friendly, patient and looked after our needs (for me, many many free refills on pop). I appreciated this, as I was not in a great mood. We ended up getting a ton of food to feast on, but I lost momentum for reviewing very early on. So while we had several dishes, here are the few I did actually take photos of.

Complimentary bread (like a pumpernickle?) - it was warm and to two very hungry people, scarfed down quick.

I know Outback for two things: steak and bloomin onions. So we had to get a Bloomin' Onion ($6.99). Crispy onion in a batter with its Bloomin's sauce (mayo/horseradish based). I don't think you can go wrong with this.

We also had our meals, which I didn't photograph. I had a ribeye, but it was boring and I just didn't enjoy it. LJ had  the Alice Chicken with mushrooms, bacon and cheeses and fries. She liked, I again wasn't crazy about anything.

I also had the wings.

"Tossed in a savory blend of secret spices" these wings are then deep fried and tossed in sauce. There were 10 wings in an order.

The wings were medium sized all around. They looked tasty, they looked crispy. They were crispy, but they were also oily/greasy.

They came with a nice big container of blue cheese dip. It was very creamy and chunks of blue cheese, but it was very . . . artificial tasting? Does that make sense? I did not enjoy the dip.

I went with hot as the sauce. I didn't really find it hot, but I wasn't expecting hot. The sauce was very buttery, but as mentioned before very oily. It was too savoury and too salty. I mean there is potential there, but it was too strong a flavour and not enough heat flavour.

FINAL SCORE:  The good things going on with these wings were the crispy dusting, the tenderness of the meat. The downsize was the overpowering oily/buttery hot sauce. The other food was either decent or not decent. Our server was great, but there was nothing about the experience that would want me coming back. 4.5/10

Outback Steakhouse
3112 Erie Boulavard East, Syracuse (Dewitt) NY, USA (and other locations)


July 2012

It's the middle of summer, and LJ and I decided to go on a road trip. To America. Down into New York to Syracuse. The main part of the trip was shopping at outlet malls, but I had an ulterior motive. I wanted BBQ.

I had heard about Dinosaur Bar-B-Que as legendary. Ok maybe not legendary, but people I have spoken with, reviews I had read online all pointed to this being a great spot. Crazy busy, crazy popular. I had heard about the giant line-ups of tourists and locals alike. So off we went.

Lunch seemed to be the logical time to go - less people. Located downtown in a slightly shady part of town, we arrived. We parked and as we walked along the side of the building, noticed barrels with table tops down the street. Not sure why at the time, we found out later that this is for people to eat at when they can't get seating, or for waiting for seating. We thought we might have to wait outside to eat on picnic tables, but we were able to get seating inside.

Inside it was jammed full of people. We were led into a far back room where the main bar was. The place felt like a biker bar, but full of families. Every inch of the place had bar and blues memorabilia everywhere. It was loud, not because of music, but because of how many people were there.

Our waitress was Jess, who seemed like a 'cool chick.' She was helpful and was there for us despite being very busy. We decided to do a bunch of sampling because, well there is so much to try.

For a drink, I went with the pint of Saranac Root Beer on Draft ($2.50). This was a good root beer - creamy, vanilla with just a bit of a bite.

I love when the bbq sauce is right at your table. Oh, and hot sauce too. I'm surprised people don't steal these more often (or maybe they do . . .)


Our appetizer platter came out and we dug in:

  • Catfish Strips: perfectly fried, crispy/crunchy breading, tender white peices of fish. Very good.
  • Fried Green Tomatoes: Never had this before - tasted like breaded zuccini - crispy light breading, nicely accented by the shredded romano cheese. 
  • Deviled Eggs: Good. I mean, hard to mess up deviled eggs. Weird as a dish at a restaurant, but good.
  • Wings: (see below)


LJ's dish with 2 meats and two sides:

  • Beef Brisket: Tender, but no real flavour (smoked or otherwise). BBQ sauce helped.
  • Pulled Pork: Also not much flavour - BBQ sauce again helped.
  • Mac & Cheese: (side) - LJ really enjoyed this. Very cheesy.
  • Fries: (side) not bad - crispy, but nothing special
  • Honey Hush Cornbread: Sweet cornbread - a little dry, but still good.

TRES NINOS ($14.50)

My BBQ platter - the smaller version of the "Tres Hombres" - we had so much food already I didn't need a big 3 meat platter.

  • St. Louis Pork Ribs: Very good - great bark, nice smokey flavour, little tug off the bone. These were the BBQ highlights of the restaurant.
  • Pulled Pork: see platter above
  • Beef Brisket: see platter above
  • Cole Slaw: A little creamy, a little tangy. Not too shabby.
  • Bar-B-Que Beans: Runny, but not bad. I'd try something different next time.

Oh, and don't forget the wings from the Small Swag Sampler.

I like that at Dino BBQ you can order wings in orders of 3, 6 or 13 because if you just want a taste, you can just have a taste. Now we didn't order wings on their own, we got them in a sample dish, so I only had 2 wings to try from, but tried I did.

I had two wings: one wing was super meaty and a medium in length (see above). The other wing was just at the medium measurements. The wings are spice rubbed, then pit smoked. When they are ready, they are grilled. The downside is they were tough and the skin wasn't crispy.

The upside is that there was levels of flavour. You have the initial rub, then the smoking. The grilling adds some more and then finished with the sauce you have a plethora of spice and savoriness.

FINAL SCORE: I loved the vibe of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. It's cool, it's friendly and I can see why so many people flock here. I wasn't floored by the BBQ itself, but I wouldn't sneer at it either. I did love the sides. I enjoyed the ribs. The wings were tasty, but I did find them tough and not very tender. Nor were they jumbo as advertised, but my sampling was not huge either. 5/10

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que 
Syracuse New York USA (and other locations)

Thursday, 6 December 2012


-- FarmTeam Cookhouse is NOW CLOSED --

JULY 2012

It was July and still in Ottawa for a visit. It's a Monday, it's lunch time, and I was thinking of going to MVP for lunch since they had good wings and Monday wing special. I checked them out online, but the website didn't load. I kept searching and to my surprise, MVP was out, and a new place, FarmTeam Cookhouse had taken over. Turns out, they had a Monday wing special too. So I figured I'd check them out.

My first thought with the new place looked like a BBQ joint with the wood finishings, but the theme is more Farm (like in the title). Local and fresh is what they are about - wanting a family restaurant feel during the day and pub/drinking hole at night.

The lunch crowd was pretty quiet. I had some senior citizens next to me, some working joes out front on the patio - so it was a happy mix this day. My waitress was ok - she was friendly, but I was not a priority and rarely checked in on.

There were some nice touches to the place - water in a mason jar, Coke in a glass bottle. Rustic but charming.

It took a while, but eventually I did get my wings. 2 orders, thank you wing day.

They call them Rooster wings, but I think they are just being folksy. There were about 8 wings in an order with lots of sauces to choose from. Actually, the wings looked a lot like MVP's wings, so that started off as a  good sign.

I was surprised to get the baby carrots with my wings - when I think local, I don't think baby carrots. The lettuce leaf was pretty, but I didn't eat it. And sour cream. Oh Ottawa, what is it with you and sour cream with wings?

This is one of the few places that says 'jumbo' wings and actually means it. Really meaty wings. Long wings. Then the wings are breaded - you get this crispy breaded wing that is just massive. And the meat was tender. The wings were also wet with sauce (especially the BBQ, which was gloopey and the right level of wetness for this kind of BBQ sauced wing.


Hot was a standard cayenne hot sauce. Not really hot, but tasty. The buttery sauce eventually turned the breading to a bit of a mush though by the end.


Oh, I liked these. The sauce is smokey, mostly savoury but a nice level of sweetness. It's thick and gooey. But somehow these wings stayed crispy.


On the side, this sauce had some kick. It was peppery. It was ok, but not a sauce I utilized much on my plate.

FINAL SCORE: I liked the concept and the decor of the place. The service was . . . not great. But the wings were good. Jumbo, crispy with some tasty sauces. I liked the glass bottle Coke (but I'm cheap and would prefer refillible fountain pop for $3.50). It took a while for me to get my bill and to pay and leave, but when I left, I was very very full and wing satisfied. 8/10

FarmTeam Cookhouse & Bar
683 Bank Street, Ottawa ON


-NOTE - SMOQUE SHACK has since closed their York Street location & their Clarence Street Locations & are now housed at Beyond The Pale Brewery

JUNE 2012

Back in Ottawa and visiting LJ. Going out for dinner I wanted to keep exploring the explosion of BBQ places opening up there. The Smoque Shack is one of them, and I had heard good things. 

Actually, the location (in The Market) used to be a Chinese restaurant that I liked - they did AYCE, but instead of a buffet, it was order dish after dish so everything was fresh.

But that is the past, and now the place is 'que. But not traditional BBQ. As their website states:

"Forget everything you thought you knew about BBQ. The Smoque Shack brings you the sauce-dripping, meat-sliding, bone-gnawing taste you thought you couldn't get north of the 49th. You don't need a special occasion to visit the SmoQue Shack. But you do need to be hungry."

We had to wait a little bit as the place was packed. It was a diverse group of people from families, business types, hipsters, old people.

There are two levels to the restaurant. The lower section when you enter where the bar is located and some seats. The upper level is the main dining room where we were sat.

We did some sampling of the menu, wanting to try a bunch of things. Our little bounty consisted of Wings, Rib Tips, Jamaican Jerk Pork, and cornbread.

Fries (a side for the pork), these were fresh cut, a little mushy, but nicely seasoned.

Cornbread ($2.50 for personal serving) were tasty, bite-size, but nothing special. Just well made cornbread.

The Jamaican Jerk Pork ($8 for 1 1/2 lb) is "Spice Rubbed Shoulder, Hand Chopped , Crusty Outside , tender juicy inside." This was tasty, and while it is not traditional American BBQ, it is still BBQ, right? Just from the Caribean. It had a very smokey taste - but campfire smokey, not BBQ smokey.

The Rib Tips ($12) are "Marinated and fried up crisp, served dusted in our special seasoning or tossed in one of our signature sauces." These were tasty little bites. I was expecting riblettes for some reason, but I loved the fried-crispy texture with the flavourful smokey meat. Hard to eat due to the bones. And they went very well with the sauces.

And then there were the wings.

Wings are "Mesquite seasoned, double dusted served by the pound, tossed or sauce on the side." We went sauce on the side to try the different sauces.

The wings were medium in both length and meatiness. The wingettes also still had their tips still on. The double dusting is very crispy and gives a nice texture. The meat itself was a bit tough though.  The dusting had no real flavour of it's own, but the chicken meat was smokey. But then that's why there's sauce . . .


Memphis BBQ sauce is tomato based, but focuses more on vinegar. In Smoque Shack's case, they used what I'm assuming is red wine vinegar. A unique take, but for me this really soured the sauce and thus, soured my liking to this flavour.


OK not actually a sauce but for dipping, this worked well as a sauce. This was not a creamy sauce but very runny. Ranch was good, and the chopped up dill pickle made for a great dill flavour. I love dill.


The hot sauce was, well I think we might have had a mix up. It was like a Thai sweet chili sauce. It was sticky and had chilis and as LJ said "tasted like sweet potato." But on the menu is also a Sweet Chili sauce. So my guess it was a little mix up. Good sauce though, but very sweet.


Ok the above picture is not of a wing but a rib tip. I didn't take a photo of wings with the Pirri Pirri sauce, sorry. This sauce . . . this was a crazy hot sauce. It was creamy, and you take some and you are all "well this is good, but it's not very ho . . . ." and then it kicks in and burns the mouth. Then it lingers. And it stays and it burns. You want to eat more because it is good, but it's very very hot. I loved it. So did LJ. 

FINAL SCORE:  LJ really enjoyed the jerk pork and the sauces. The rib tips were crispy. Sides not bad. The wings were ok. Probably not worth getting again, but I would love to keep sampling this menu. And thumbs up for the Dill-Ranch and the Pirri Pirri. 5/10

The Smoque Shack
129 York Street, Ottawa ON