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Smoke BBQ House

Posted by Liora Ipsum / Listed on January 21, 2013 / review policy

Smoke BBQ HouseSmoke has brought Southern-style BBQ to a sleepy stretch of Harbord at the corner of Manning. Already the neighbourhood has woken up to take notice and on a recent weekday evening, a steady stream of locals were full of praise for first time restaurant owner Francesco Grandi and chef Tony Gallippi.

I couldn't agree more. Service was on-point and Grandi certainly has the Southern hospitality thing down. He's a copywriter by day but obviously a natural at making people feel welcome and at ease. His design-driven rustic vision for the space was executed by Mahmood Popal of Craft Studio with handcrafted elements like burnt wood paneling and picnic-like communal seating. Table settings come equipped with colourful silicone brushes setting high expectations for a saucy meal.

Smoke BBQ HouseChef Tony Gallippi hails from the respectable BBQ city, Windsor, and delivers the complete package of smokehouse essentials. The Sampler for Two ($35) offers a choice of three mains and two sides, and probably merits it being renamed "The Sampler Platter for Two Plus". From the heaping platter of meat that arrives, I sample the St. Louis Spareribs, Corned Beef Brisket and Pulled Pork. The pork is good and saucy but ultimately outshined by the other two selections. The spareribs are served dry letting you savour the smoky taste on it's own or to sauce at your discretion with squeeze bottles of spicy Texas or lipsmacking South Carolina condiments. The corned beef is better still; served with pickles and horseradish mustard, the thinly sliced, juicy and succulent meat could rival even Montreal's Schwartz's.

Smoke BBQ HouseIncluded with the sampler, we try the side of Collard Greens topped with bacon; and the crisp, puffy Waffle Fries that are made even better with the addition of zesty housemade mayo.

Smoke BBQ HouseThe side Mac 'n' Cheese ($3.50 on its own) could be dinner itself and yet somehow I managed to try it too. Though at this point its all too much, I can recognize a well done classic when I see it. Luckily, Smoke does take-away too so they're prepared to pack it up for you to bring home.

Smoke BBQ House HarbordOn the hooch list, bacon-infused bourbon cocktails like the Smoked Whisky Sour ($11) are the tipple of choice though wines, beers and whiskies are also on offer. Even the singular dessert option (trust me you won't miss pie) is spiked; the Maple Cinnamon Bourbon Gelato ($6) is the product of a marvelous collaboration with Queens Quay's Lick It Gelato.

Smoke BBQ HouseSmoke is not only a great addition to the neighbourhood but also to Toronto's BBQ cred. I totally have plans to return ASAP and often, if only to bring my partner who repeatedly told me how irresistibly smoky I smelled after returning home.

Currently Smoke is open week round from 5:30pm to 11pm, but look forward to the addition of lunch and brunch in the coming months.

Smoke BBQ HousePhotos by Jesse Milns



MSigs / January 21, 2013 at 11:55 am
Had dinner there the second week they were open. It was great. Keep up the good work.
Frank / January 21, 2013 at 01:05 pm
" hails from the respectable BBQ city, Windsor"

Brandon / January 21, 2013 at 01:21 pm
Just had lunch, but I'm hungry again after reading this!
Peter / January 21, 2013 at 01:23 pm
Who wrote this review? Someone on staff at Smoke? Someone who was smoke-ing? I have eaten there as well. It was quite tasty, but that is where it ends. The sampler for two is a fair serving, as it should be for $35. It is by no means a "heaping platter". Perhaps I'm spoiled by having travelled the bbq circuit in the U.S., but this is average value, at best. As for the Mac and Cheese, it was also good, but my dinner companion and I had to order a second because one side was far too small to split; it is not dinner by itself. Finally, to compare the brisket to Schwartz's is laughable. Smoke was nice place and I will go back, but all I'm asking for is a fair review, instead of the standard slavishly-glowing Toronto review of every new spot...
b replying to a comment from Frank / January 21, 2013 at 01:38 pm
I take it you've never been to tunnel BBQ.
Northern / January 21, 2013 at 02:00 pm
Does anyone from BlogTO ever get outside of the Annex or queen/king west? We have a big city ya know.
Jeff replying to a comment from Rich / January 21, 2013 at 02:26 pm
Ha, I thought it was a fake name/made up personality...

Anyway, this place has gotten really bad reviews on Chowhound. Personally I have no interest in going until I hear some positive feedback from a realiable source. The meat pics above don't look that great to me. I hear they take short cuts like leaving the membrane on the ribs.

Also, still not sure if this is a "review" or "profile" based on the review policy linked above.
Ken replying to a comment from Jeff / January 21, 2013 at 05:16 pm
Looks to be a profile, based on the header "PROFILED ON JANUARY 21, 2013" on this page and the "Read my profile of Smoke BBQ House in the restaurants section" on the previous linking page:
Jeff replying to a comment from Ken / January 21, 2013 at 05:28 pm
Thanks, yeah, that makes sense. Not sure why I didn't notice that last time around.
Rob / January 21, 2013 at 06:53 pm
There was a comment on Yelp for this place where the waiter told the customer: "We were warned by our server that the food is smoked so comes out a little dry and cold." just crazy! I went the first week they opened and was not impressed. Fatty brisket with no structural integrity and dry tough ribs with no flavor. I will not go back.
jd replying to a comment from Northern / January 21, 2013 at 07:01 pm
They have done reviews for many BBQ spots outside the zones mentioned. But instead of you making a negative comment, why not name names of places you recommend.
Calvin / January 22, 2013 at 09:06 am
"Sampler for two"?? That sounds an awful lot like Barque.
Texan / January 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm
This place is average. Wings were good. Ribs ok. Brisket was blah. There server wasn't very knowledgeable. I probably would not go back until I start to hear more glowing reviews.
Gabe / January 23, 2013 at 12:00 am
Wheat Sheaf is good. Great wings. Great Wing Nights.
Robert / January 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm
I'm astonished I dined at the same place last night. I found the food and overall experience decidedly "meh".

The pulled pork was average. The spareribs were decent. The brisket basically tasted like ordinary roast beef. To top it off, all of the meat was cold-to-lukewarm.

I had high hopes as a nearby resident. Consider me underwhelmed.
Bani / January 23, 2013 at 09:49 pm
Horrible horrible place shitty food, wasted my money
Bani / January 23, 2013 at 09:51 pm
Bad experience, it took them an hour to bring us our food, our food was wrong, don't go there it's really bad, wasted my 75 dollars, I would rather to go Mac
Mike / January 24, 2013 at 10:58 pm
Went there with a friend of mine tonight right after they opened. We were the first, and for a while the only patrons in there, so the waiting time for the food was not an issue. I didn't time it but it was just the waiting time you would expect for this kind of food (I would say 15 to 20 minutes max). We had the half chicken and the texas beef brisket with mac and cheese, coleslaw and waffle fries on the side. The meat was good, definitely nothing I would write home about but good enough. The sides on the other side were great, loved the fries as wall as the mac and cheese, the coleslaw was average. For $15 + tax & tip you definitely get a very good value meal and won't leave the place hungry. The service however is still lacking a little but considering that it's a brand new place I would give them another few months to get comfortable.
Overall, if you are a true meat lover it's probably not the right place for you but if you are looking for a good sized portion and don't want to spend to much money on it, Smoke might just be the right place.
Danae / January 28, 2013 at 11:42 am
Three of us went for dinner last night. The drinks list was long and the service was good. Our cornbread was cold and very dry, bordering on stale. I think it depends on how you approach your barbeque: dry rub or sauce? Sauce on the side? The pulled pork comes with loads of sauce, the brisket and spare ribs are left to be 'sauced' by you.
Unimpressed / February 26, 2013 at 11:57 pm
Group of 4 on a Saturday night.
Unimpressed by the service and unimpressed by the food.
Seem to be struggling with the basics.

Starts with the uncomfortable seating; no back is exhausting after a long day.
Server walked away before last party member finished ordering.
Don't bother ordering a coke, it's those tiny glass bottles, smaller than a can.
Server managed to spill a glass of water all over the table, used napkins on table to wipe up mess, didn't bother to bring new ones to replace them.

Mussels were OK tasting, certainly better bang for your buck at a decent Italian restaurant, they showed up without a side bowl for stacking shells. Nothing to soak up the tomato sauce except the cornbread, which was dry and flavorless.

Mains and side dishes started showing up before group finished appetizers. Obviously not enough room on the table to fit everything, but that didn't stop them from cramming everything in to the point you couldn't grab your own utensils. Some people got their sides first, some people had mains, there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the order in which food was showing up. This lead to the majority of people having cold food.

Macaroni was bland, I've frequently eaten much better from the freezer/microwave. It's pretty hard to mess up french fries, yet the lattices were stuck together in large clumps. Coleslaw was overdressed.

Wooden serving plank for mains is awkward. Kind of hard to sauce up ribs when there's no edge to the plate keeping things from falling on the table and making a mess.

Ribs and pulled pork were fine, although not very hot due to the earlier service problems. Plating of the corned beef was lazy; a stack of long cut brisket folded in half on top of itself, making it very inconvenient to eat from, as there's no room to unfold the entire stack. If your going to fold sliced meat, do it on a per slice basis as it comes off the slicer, that way you can still eat it.

Got the bill, waited a while for server to come around with the machine. No toothpicks to be found, instead 4 business cards; subsequently used as toothpicks, and thrown in the trash.
Gerig / March 4, 2013 at 12:10 am
Group of 4 on a Saturday night.

Service: speedy, welcoming, knowledgeable

Food: arrived promptly and was hot. Portions were very large, even the samplers. Eating off the planks was not a problem. The baby back ribs were fuller, more tender and juicier than the St. Louis ribs. Both were better than the typical ribs you get at a sports bar, but Stockyards ribs still rule. The smoked chicken wings, pulled pork and corned beef (which was nicely sliced, not folded) were excellent. The waffle fries were the most addictive and unique side dish; our group enjoyed the potato salad and mac and cheese as well. I like how they went in a different direction with waffle fries instead of normal shoestring fries. The best thing about this place is the choice of 4 sauces which enhanced the meal. Unlike some places where you can only choose 1 or 2 sauces and pay extra for more, Smoke places 4 different types of sauces on the table for you to sample to your heart's content.

Toothpicks: available.

Give this place a chance.
Brad / March 5, 2013 at 05:02 pm
To be avoided. The meat was fatty and bland, the coleslaw was disgusting, the service was only adequate. Drinks are good. Would not return.

For the real deal, try Barque.
Brandon / March 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm
Just tweeted that they're closing and moving to a new location with a new chef eventually, but didn't provide explanation:

Jamie / March 12, 2013 at 08:32 pm
I just called their number and they said that they closed down for a few days due to a water leak but will be open tomorrow at 5pm. Either they were hacked or there was a splitting up of partners with the chef getting the restaurant and the ad agency guy getting the twitter account!
Andrew Lopes / March 12, 2013 at 08:37 pm
They actually didn't move. They're in the same place. And the food is just out of this world. This place is the best smokehouse in the whole country!!
John / March 12, 2013 at 11:46 pm
They are definitely closed. I walked by there on the weekend and all the cool tables were gone.
chad stevens / March 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm
Wow Andrew, seriously? I can think of 2 better bbq spots within a 10 minute walk! Shill much?
Jer / March 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm
Latest update posted on PostCity:

Original "chef" is taking over that space, rebranding to Smoke Bourbon Bar B Q House
Brandon replying to a comment from Jer / March 22, 2013 at 03:30 pm
Great news, Jer! I can deal with the owner/manager leaving since the chef is the important one after all. Looking forward to the menu updates.
Wine Bar Greensboro / May 4, 2013 at 08:48 am
Great place... Food and staff was amazing... Drinks were strong and fair priced at New Orleans Bar & grill.
shab / June 13, 2013 at 04:18 pm
This place is a joke. I can make better ribs buying my ribs from No Frills with Heinz BBQ sauce. I will even bring my own portable bbq. What a waste of real state, waste of human labor and food. Stick to Marketing or what ever you do during the day.
Street replying to a comment from shab / November 27, 2013 at 06:40 pm
stick to being a fucking asshole - you're really good at it.
Law / December 2, 2013 at 05:21 pm
Went with a party of 7.
The server was friendly, and knew her bourbon.
She also talked us out of ordering as much as we did (and was right to do so, there was a lot of food!).

We got two family platters, which pretty much gave us 80% of the menu, all of which I tasted.

I had my favorites, but overall the food was good.
Not absolutely show-stopping. I've had better. But certainly good.

The price point, coupled with the (huge) portions, give the customer value that you don't find at many other BBQ joints.

I'd go back to this place/recommend it to friends.
Art Wilson / March 27, 2014 at 02:39 pm
Really crappy experience at Smoke Bourbon BBQ house on Harbord last night. Started with owner parking his big benz S-class with all 4 wheels on the sidewalk in front of the place (to bad for you if you're in a wheelchair and need to get by). 1/2 BBQ chicken (which we had to pay extra for to get with a combo platter) was super dry - would have been better served with a supermarket BBQ bird at 1/4 the price. AND they only have little side plates for you to eat your dinner off of - they're called 'dinner plates' for a reason guys! We'd had ok take-out before but we're done with this place for good now.
Pete / June 9, 2014 at 02:25 pm
Horrible service. Took over an hour and a half to get food. Ribs were over-smoked and brisket was dry. Mediocre would be an overstatement. There are many better BBQ options in the city.
Anna / August 27, 2014 at 01:40 am
SO GOOD. Best BBQ in the city and at the best price! Love this place!

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