Cherry Street Bar-B-Que
Cherry Street Bar-B-Que takes a reverential approach to this famous Southern-style food. A short jaunt from Cherry Beach, the Docks drive-in and Cabana Pool Bar in the Port Lands, the restaurant offers walk-up service where you place your order at the counter and order drinks from the bar inside or on the patio.
It's practically empty inside when I visit on a recent weeknight, but the patio is positively bustling. Because the restaurant doesn't have neighbours, the outdoor DJ is spinning tunes at max volume and it feels like a party as local sports teams take advantage of the late-setting sun.
The daily smoked margarita ($9) is popular at the bar.
I get a variation featuring sour cherries with fresh ginger and habaneros amp up the tartness, while smoked honey adds sweetness and depth to the refreshing drink.
The food menu, scrawled on butcher's paper, bills selections like brisket ($13/half pound), sausage ($6.50/link), pulled pork ($9/half pound), side ribs ($10/pound) and chicken ($14.50/half chicken).
The range of sides ($4.50 each) includes classics like coleslaw, potato salad, bunt end studded beans and mac 'n cheese along with some unexpectedly healthy-sounding options like smoked broccoli and quinoa salad (which go totally ignored next to the Velveeta smothered macaroni).
Whatever you choose, the meat and sides come arranged on a tray with sliced white bread, pickles and onions in an effort to emulate the most notable smokehouses in the states.
Owner and pit master Lawrence Lapiante doesn't adhere to a single regional style, but has a variety of influences. He has cooked alongside some of the greats and considers first class pit master Mike Mills among his mentors.
His brisket, seasoned simply with salt and pepper, doesn't boast that pink ring that so many aspire to, but it's moist and incredibly tender.
The sausages, produced by the St. Jamestown butcher in Cabbagetown, are seasoned with pepper and taste kind of like pepperoni. Meanwhile, meaty St. Louis cut ribs come glazed in vinegar and butter.
Pulled pork boasts unexpectedly sweet flavours thanks to the addition of fruit juice.
The chicken is perhaps my favourite. It's brined then smoked until the flesh is juicy and moist. It gets kissed on the grill and gently brushed with sweet BBQ sauce before it's served.
The griddle smashed Double Stack Cheesy Mac ($11) is wonderful as well. It's essentially a deluxe Big Mac built on a potato bun, only here the patty is made from brisket trimmings ground fresh every morning.
Brunch served on weekends is especially indulgent. Find options like avocado and eggs over slow-smoked beans accompanied by Caesars garnished with a smoked rib.
Photos by Jesse Milns