bbq in toronto

The top 10 under the radar BBQ restaurants in Toronto

BBQ in Toronto isn't just going down at your typical smokehouse. This is a list of unlikely sources for slow-smoked favourites: upscale restaurants, gas stations, sports bars and sandwich shops, and other places where BBQ is hardly the raison d'etre - though it just happens to be where their menus excel.

Here are my picks for 10 restaurants that do BBQ in Toronto that you might not know about.

Carbon Bar
The whole menu benefits from the wood-fired pit at this swanky Corktown bar, where you'll find burgers dressed with oak-smoked bacon, and pit-fired pork nestled into tacos. Order a la carte options like dry rubbed pork ribs ($19) or beef brisket ($19), or have them both on a Pit Master Platter ($27/person) with the addition of buttermilk fried chicken and pickles.

Universal Grill
This well-kept Hillcrest Village diner turned bistro is home to some unexpectedly good ribs. Opt for the saucy baby backs ($25) or spicy dry-rubbed ribs ($25) - both are served with yam fries on the side and will have you rolling up your sleeves to dig in.

Rally Sports Bar
Thirteen draught beers and the game in view from every angle might be reason enough to love this spot, but it's the menu devoted to slow-smoked, wood-fried meats that makes this sports bar a winning choice. Challenging the status quo of everyday pub grub, this bar does smoked wings ($12), spare ribs ($14), and saucy brisket ($13) and pulled pork sandwiches ($12).

Two Bite Saloon
Specializing in sliders, this Bloorcourt saloon offers the option to mix and match mini-sandwiches ($10/3) piled with pulled pork, Carolina mustard-sauced brisket and even smoked, fried tofu. Also on offer: smoked ribs ($17) and a smoked chicken Southwest salad ($13), plus essential soul food sides ($4-$7) like hush puppies, collard greens, cornbread muffins and buttermilk slaw.

Indie Ale House
This Junction spot is a brewpub first and foremost, though it's earned a solid reputation for house-smoked pulled pork that makes its way into dishes like the mac 'n' cheese, "Three Little Pigs pizza" and even spring rolls. Wednesday evenings (from 5pm on) are devoted to BBQ, with an ever-changing selection of meaty delicacies coming from the smoker.

Leslieville Pumps
It might look like just a gas station but locals know that this unassuming spot is home to some superbly tasty slow-smoked sandwiches. Best bets include the tender hickory smoked chicken ($7.75) and the crispy onion-topped beef brisket ($7.75) loaded onto a soft kaiser.

Locus 144
This Liberty Village lounge self-proclaims it's a southern Italian joint, though the menu, featuring smoked wings ($13), ribs ($19), and sandwiches ($12) stacked with pulled pork and smoked brisket, reveals an affinity for another kind of southern cuisine.

Aft Kitchen & Bar
At this Riverside restaurant and bar you'll find smoke-infused fare like chicken wings and ribs listed as menu staples. On weekends the kitchen embraces Southern specialties and goes all-out smokehouse by offering Texas-style brisket ($15), side ribs ($19), country sausage ($12), pulled pork ($15) and BBQ chicken ($16) with a choice of any two sides like coleslaw, roasted potato salad and cowboy baked beans.

Valdez
At this boisterous Mexican street food spot on King West, there is a dedicated BBQ menu for the the rooftop patio, where the charcoal barbecue turns out smoked and grilled selections. Expect to find beef short ribs ($9) with chimichurri, grilled quail ($6) and swordfish ($10), plus mammoth bone-in ribeye steaks ($75).

The Hogtown Cure
This deli and cafe on Dundas West isn't known for southern-style fare like some of these others, but the smoker in the back supplies the roster of sandwiches with delicious smoke-infused flavours. The BLT, made with house-smoked bacon ($10) is not to be missed - same goes for the pulled pork ($10) and pastrami ($11.50) sandwiches.

Did I miss any? Leave your favourite little-known restaurant and cafe that serves great BBQ dishes in the comments. Photo via Carbon Bar.


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