Big Butcher Barbeque
Big Butcher Barbeque is an Etobicoke burger joint with a few surprises up its sleeve. Located on Kipling, just south of Bloor, the family-friendly new joint is actually an offshoot of Market Jolly , an Eastern European-centric grocery store near Glencairn station. Little surprise, then, that next to the menu's towering cheeseburgers and BBQ ribs, you'll find Balkan-style pork sausages and traditional Serbian salads.
Though the restaurant's name conjures images of hyper-indulgent Southern feasts, it actually stems from their hands-on approach to their burgers, which they grind in-house and are planning to start selling in a freezer case at the front of the shop. (They also bake their own buns.) Staff members stress that their pork, chicken and beef are antibiotic- and hormone-free.
The atmosphere inside the shop is streamlined and light-filled, with pops of red in the tables and an industrial touch courtesy of white subway tile and metal Navy chairs. In addition to seating for about 50, there's a small rack of grab-and-go European grocery items, including Jaffa cakes and red pepper spread (which is available as an add-on topping, if you're so inclined).
Of their six or so burger options, I sample the Primetime ($8), which comes served - like all their entrees - on a wooden cutting board. At first glance, it's a straight-up bacon cheeseburger, but the burger gets extra oomph from smoked cheddar - melted and just crisped around the edges - and double-smoked bacon from Brandt in Mississauga. The burger's just blushing pink inside - and plenty moist, despite not having a lick of sauce on the whole thing.
The chevaps sandwich ($8) consists of eight finger-sized pork sausages (not dissimilar to a kebab) on one of their chewy, fluffy house-made buns. A sprinkle of chopped white onions adds some zip; the whole thing is topped off with a smear of cream cheese-like kajmak sauce. Even next to a menu of meaty, enticing burgers, this humble little dish, fresh and comforting, manages to be a standout.
The eastern European influence is strong; other cuisines trickle in, too, via a California-style avocado burger, a Greek lamb burger with tzatziki and feta, and a hoisin-glazed pork belly sandwich ($8). The pork belly's caramelized outside gives way to a tender interior, with some extra, extra-gentle heat from their "spicy" mayo, fresh cilantro leaves, and some pickled cabbage to slice through the heaviness. (It's a pity that sweet, briny cabbage slaw isn't a side - I could have happily eaten an entire bowl.)
Ribs ($10) come eight to an order; they're dry-rubbed and slow-roasted for four hours with veggies and some apple juice, which get turned into BBQ sauce. They start falling apart as I try to separate a bone from the pile - a good sign. The housemade sauce lends a tomato-y tang; the edges of the ribs are crisp, while the meat comes right off the bone.
In addition, you'll find salads ($6-7), with optional chicken, salmon, pork belly and chevaps, as well as soups (a daily option and a thematically-appropriate pork hock and bean). To drink, there's soda in glass bottles. The only beer you can get there is non-alcoholic - but they're working on obtaining a liquor license.
Big Butcher is open 11am-8pm Monday through Sunday.
Photos by Morris Lum.