Bairrada is one of those chicken places in Toronto with a bunch of locations and a name that you might glaze over if you're not from certain parts of the world. But if you are from certain places, like, say, College Street, you know that behind Bairrada's bright orange sign and brick exterior lurks some of the city's most famous and popular grilled chicken.
The term churrasqueira simply means grill house , and Bairrada is a particular region, though this restaurant serves specials from various parts of Portugal. Denis Pires tells me his father Carlos Pires opened this original College location in 1989.
The interior is super old school, with a long counter enclosing the kitchen area and a narrow dining hall that extends way back where there's a sort of bar counter service area. Beyond that is their patio , surprisingly great for a pitcher of sangria on a nice day - I feel foolish for only thinking they had great takeout chicken to offer. Try dining in one day if you never have.
Though the chicken is good, we hold off for a second to try something else grilled: the tiger shrimp ($18). It's actually lightly grilled first before being sauteed in a beer butter garlic sauce. We get ours served with the heads on in a little more minimal portion, but you can ask for the heads off and get the full order with two more shrimps.
Let's get to that chicken! A half chicken here will only set you back $6.50, but it's $8 for a small dinner combo with rice and potatoes or $12 for a large.
Their classic recipe involves filleting the chicken open and taking off the extra fat, giving it a little rock salt and their special mild sauce, and cooking it in an award-winning German oven that ensures all the fat drips off the meat.
Another specialty here is the flaming chourico ($12.50), designed to be enjoyed dining in. It's a traditional sausage made with minced pork, salt, pepper, garlic powder and fat, that's placed in a clay casserole filled with moonshine that is then set on fire.
We also go for a little sangria just to feel like we're in Portugal for a minute, and it usually comes in one form, the pitcher. To make it they use natural Portuguese fruit juices, white wine, 7 Up, seasonal fruit, and brandy.
Photos by Jesse Milns