Tagged: Toronto

BIG CROW | ***

Skip the 4+ hour trek to your campsite and mosey on down to Big Crow instead. You’re guaranteed to return home with fond memories and smells of some solid wood-fired camp BBQ…without having to deal with bug bites, annoying neighbours, and a sore back.

BBQ | Dupont & Davenport
Dinner for two ~$118 incl. tax + tip.

We kicked off the evening with a root beer & bourbon and a coke & box red wine. We will definitely be recreating these simple and delicious cocktails at our next cookout.

Tymek’s new pickle and sour pickle appetizer hit the spot, and would come in handy later to clear our palate throughout the meal (and we discovered while writing this review that the pickle is made by these guys). A unique touch to this appetizer were the pickled sunchokes.

The jw bird arrived first, straight off the grill.  The chicken was crispy on the outside, juicy as fuck on the inside, booming with flavour, and topped with a tangy salsa verde. You could tell this bird had been brined long and proper. As we finished the last few pieces of chicken and soaked up all the juices with a slice of thuet French bread, the rest of our feast arrived, as if on cue. Our 1lb bbq flank steak, served pre-sliced, medium rare, with a nice coating of ancho-mezcal sauce, a heap of fresh guacamole and sautéed chilli peppers, was unfortunately on the room-temperature side (still better than anything we tried at another BBQ joint). Let’s just say we weren’t fighting over who got to eat the last slice of steak.

The sides stole the second half of the show:  perfectly charred and salted grilled potato with house blue cheese dressing and green onion, ezells sweet coleslaw with loads of runny-mayo goodness (and more green onion), a bag of “covered bridge” ketchup chips (we were a little surprised that “covered bridge” was a reference to these guys and not some old-school cooking technique, but you can chalk that up to our fobby upbringing, eating No Name chips; tasty nonetheless)…and then there were the pork and beans. This dirty hobo staple was rich and deep with layers of gorgeous flavour. Beans are fickle and often hard to cook, but these were tender and perfect. The meaty, saline chunks of kabanosy (smoked Polish sausage) took it over the top.

By this point, we were both quite full.  It wasn’t wise, but what camping trip is complete without some cowboy coffee and Nanaimo bar?  They were both excellent.

Big Crow staff were courteous, hospitable and beamed with that Northern Ontario warmth. Not much to say, as the best service is often the service you don’t notice.

As you walk down the gray-birch-logs-inserted-in-cinder-blocks-covered-in-a sting-of-lights lined path leading you to the Big Crow log cabin behind the Rose and Son’s restaurant, you are instantly transported to a happy place.  Opening the door to a dimly lit, cozy Canadiana cabin , memories of campfires past absorb you.  The wooden benches are lined with army blankets that are surprisingly comfortable. The open kitchen at the back is dusted with soot from the flaring wood-fueled BBQ. The music was at a respectable volume, playing everything from synthpop to Frank Ocean.

Special note: as we left, an intoxicating scent of warm chocolate immersed us, billowing out of a vent from the adjacent Rose and Son’s. We didn’t know whether it was from baking brownies (also on the menu) or melted chocolate for the Nanaimo bars. My lord, what an exit.

Our bill was up there, but we could have done without the bag of chips, coffee and dessert. Even still, we’ll be saving up some skrill before we return for our next meal. Return, we definitely shall.

Wide mix represented.  A couple of university kids sat next to us.  Two suits in the corner, a young family just finishing up dinner. An after-work table was celebrating a 40th birthday behind us. Yes, Big Crow brought out the sparklers.

It felt like walking through an old hunting cabin, down a narrow, cement lined stairwell, adorned with rustic artwork and a mounted buck’s head. Cool stand up, wooden-framed mirror, too.

Mark Pupo, #7 on Toronto Life’s Best New Restaurants 2014
Liora Ipsum, BlogTO: 3.5/5 stars
Joanne Kates, Post City: #57 on Kates’ 100, 2014
Yelp: 3.5 stars (at time of writing)
Rose and Sons Big Crow on Urbanspoon


Barque serves up juicy, exquisitely cooked meats, delivering subtle and harmonious flavours with a bias towards the sweet.  A decidedly safe combination for a BBQ joint, but when’s the last time you craved safe BBQ?

BBQ | Roncesvalles
Dinner for two ~$90 incl. tax + tip.

We were greeted with a small pail of (somewhat stale) spiced popcorn once seated.  Our smoked Maker’s Mark bourbon arrived in individual carafes nestled inside our respective ice-filled glasses — Barque had our attention. Unfortunately, a general sense of “meh-ness” would turn out to be the theme of the night.

We were very pleased with our 2-bite Beef Cheek Tacos. Tender and tasty with delicate, contrasting notes, it was appropriately good…but not great. Our beautiful Sampler for Two arrived, with an adequately-sized pile of three separate meats of our choosing. Everything was cooked almost perfectly (the ribs were on the dry side; and yes, we realize competition ribs are not supposed to fall off the bone) but nothing really blew us away.  The Brisket was soft, moist, and delicious, but a little too sweet where we would have preferred bold (and the brush-on BBQ sauces only added to the sugar content). The in-house smoked Italian Sausage consisted of an evenly crisp layer of skin, encasing a lovely fennel and spice blend. We wouldn’t have been surprised to find such quality hanging in Nonno’s cantina; and yet, we doubt Nonna would brag to her friends about it. The Sweet-Heat Ribs briefly shifted the flavour game to a more intense and spicy venue, but the slight dryness required us to paint on those signature sauces, which quickly took away its bite.

The sides complimented the mains nicely, with a crunchy Root Vegetable Slaw, encircled by a moat of pureed parsley root and cream sauce, being the highlight. The Penne Rigate was savory and creamy, and the Fries were simple and spiced to our liking.

After waiting an hour for a table on a Tuesday evening (we did not have a reservation), we were reminded by our punctually cognizant hostess that we had returned 5 minutes early (oops).  Apart from this, the servers made us feel right at home, lending to the laid back environment that Barque strives for.  One of the servers even offered to replace our entire heaped plate of meats because his pinky accidentally brushed up on the ribs.  Of course, we kept the food, but any germaphobes keeping score can add a brownie point to his or her scorecard.

An inviting, smokey smell greets you as you enter into a nice, warm, good ol’ laid back BBQ joint. Unlike some popular try-too-hard-to-be-hip Toronto spots, this place didn’t blast loud music and made it easy to hold a conversation. For a Tuesday evening, the place was packed.

Good value, as we definitely did not feel gypped (but we also didn’t feel like we got a fabulous deal, either).

Although there was a slight waft of that “hipster-vibe” billowing in the atmosphere, the situation is under control; in fact, we didn’t spot any old tyme moustaches (but plenty of plaid).

Spacious and personal his/hers washrooms are secured with large, wooden, make-you-smile sliding barn doors, sealed by large, black bolt-locks that make a satisfying latch-y sound when fastened. As well, an added communal hand wash station is clean and smart, especially after the ribs.

Anonymous, Toronto Life: 2/5 Stars
Ryan Spencer, BlogTO: 4.3/5 Stars
Joanne Kates, Post City: #49 on Kates’ 100, 2013
Yelp: 4 Stars (at time of writing)
Barque Smokehouse on Urbanspoon