Sep. 22, 2009

The Stockyards Review: The Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder

The Stockyards is a new kid on the block that's surprisingly been voted Toronto's Best Barbecue by NOW Magazine, scoring a perfect 5 out of 5 n's. When you hear about new barbecue's your first thought is to be wary. I'm no different especially as I make great barbecues myself. Cluck, Grunt n' Low at Bloor and Walmer had the greatest southern food and barbecue I've ever sampled, and they're out of business, while some of the pulled pork offerings I've had lately tasted like sawdust coated in sauce. Poor quality barbecues seems to be normal in these places. Coating a thick smokey, sweet sauce over anything can hide the worst cooks mishaps. So I'm already a doubter, but definitely up for some good greasy meat, when I seize three friends and head to the Stockyards.

We go to St Clair West subway station and take the bus west, just following the stop that lets you off at the Artscape Wychwood Barns - a multi-purpose enterprise combining artists' lofts with a greenhouse, historical museum and gallery space, typical of the upswing of this area. The neighborhood is a bit destitute at the moment, but a Starbucks on the corner demonstrates that the St Clair strip is up and coming.

The place is very busy and we are squished tightly next to people consuming barbecue from paper-lined cast iron pans. The noise of a busy restaurant is awesome. The telephone never seems to stop ringing, customers talking, the cooks shouting orders and instructions to each other. The amount of people waiting to eat, eating, waiting to pay is outstanding. As there were four of us, none of us thought our chances of getting seats together were likely until a woman sitting at the counter grasps hold of me.

It is a friend of mine whom I haven't seen in years called Gail. "All the people I work together swear by this place," she says. I notice that she hasn't any food to which she answers that she is a vegetarian. Vegetarian choices are only available as side orders on the menu. Gail says she won't consume the chips because they are prepared in lard. Another thing that is not vegetarian accommodating is the rib night which is done three times a week. It's good to have an adviser because the restaurant has a frenzied feel, though there's method to the madness as the staff brown-box boundless take out orders to accommodate the herds.

When a vacant space opens up at the massive counter, directly across from the cooks, we nab it and put in our orders, then go to the front to pay. Stockyards has a wait-service and takeout which is re-mindful of a large burger chain. As it was busy I have to admit we overlooked the need to tip. We get our own drinks from the fridge; my friend has a homemade lime-ade infused with mint that she pronounces 'delicious' ($2.75) Fortunately none of us are drinkers, as The Stockyards doesn't yet have a liquor license four months into opening.

"Is it always this lively, even from day one?" My friend asked a man. The man introduces himself as Tom Davis, the proprietor. He is a very solicitous, energetic and frank kind of person, who said that it had.

For the rest of the Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder review, please visit our main website.

Photo source: Sifu Renka

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