Leslieville Pumps is reminiscent of a Northern Ontario truck stop. Faux Muskoka chairs line the window outside under the old-tyme storefront, while inside cottage memorabilia decorates the walls, and a quarter will buy you a gumball from two giant gas pump-shaped dispensers. There are some notable differences however.
First of all, they don't sell live bait, and second of all, the menu doesn't consist of day old wieners, or vacuum sealed sandwiches. You won't find an expiry date on any of the food here.
Instead, everything is made in-house by co-owner Judson Flom who left a career of working in the higher end of the food industry, to pursue his one true love...barbecue. So when the old Country Style at Queen and Carlaw went up for sale, Judson and his brother Greg made a move.
Last Wednesday, I unintentionally skipped breakfast but it was a good thing I did. I met with a friend and her little one for lunch at the Pumps, and I was starving by the time one o'clock rolled around--which explains the following list of menu items we consumed.
While waiting for our food (which also takes longer than your average gas station, but this is a good thing) we busied ourselves with reading the decades-old newspaper clippings that cover the tables along with old photos of the station back when the Shoppers across the street was a Dominion.
Up first were the sandwiches. We split a Hickory Smoked Chicken and a Southern Beef Brisket ($7.74 each), which some are already saying is the best in Toronto. Despite this, my favourite of the two was the chicken. The chicken thigh, topped with arugula and tomatoes, was unbelievably tender and I loved the sauce (a mixture of the Pump's own bbq sauce and sweet chili aioli--it tasted similar to what you might expect of a pulled pork sandwich but with a spicy kick).
The brisket, smoked for 14 hours, is then topped with crispy onions, grainy mustard and once again the Pump's own bbq sauce (top photo). It was smoky and tender, but it didn't do it for me as much as the chicken.
On the side we had the corn fritters ($3.99) and dipped them in a Creole sauce made of a secret blend of herbs and spices from their rooftop garden. They aren't the most attractive dish--almost like old-fashioned timbits punctuated with corn kernels--but they were surprisingly addictive.
And because I've never said no to a deep fried pickle, we had to try the Pump's version ($3.99). The pickles breaded in Panko were fantastic--the coating was crispy and buttery while the pickles maintained their crunch. Definitely the best I've had in a while.
And just to push ourselves over the edge, (neither of us ended up eating dinner that night) we tried the French Toast Fingers. Drizzled with milk chocolate and sprinkled with bacon, they were 50% breakfast, 50% dessert, but 100% delicious. Given the ingredients, this dish was decadent without being cloyingly sweet.
Leslieville Pumps draws a mixed crowd. Devoted first-name-basis regulars of its previous incarnation still show up for their double-double with a side of scratch and win tickets, while others have caught on to what the kitchen is serving up, and some just run in to pay for their gas and head back to their car unaware of the delicious sandwiches they missed out on.
Lunch and dinner isn't the only thing on offer at The Pumps. Open for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the Pumps serves up breakfast sandwiches, and fresh-baked goods including blueberry muffins and butter tarts.
Even when the kitchen closes at 8pm, hungry patrons can still find a meal in slow-cooked authentic Sri Lankan curry made by a staff member using her own recipe. I was told it's a hit with cab drivers around the 3am mark when the shifts are changing and drivers are running on empty.