Where to get great BBQ ribs in Toronto for under 20 bucks

If you eat out a lot, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve got a whole buncha smokehouses in The Big Smoke nowadays. And man, I love me some smoked food—pulled pork, beef brisket, real-deal ribs… Sometimes I’ll even order all three at once! And while you’ll never go hungry at a good BBQ joint, all that food is gonna cost ya—and I’m not just talking ‘bout the next morning.

Not so at Smoke Bourbon BBQ, on Harbord Street in The Annex. This funky neighbourhood joint is too legit to quit! Man, this place has everything—smoked PEI mussels, brontosaurus beef ribs, pulled pork nachos… They were even showing a CFL game on TV, and bro, nobody watches the CFL in Toronto unless the Argos are playing—in the Grey Cup.

So this really is my kinda place. But what sealed the deal were the beef ribs.

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Now, how much do you think these beefy beauties cost me? Probably 25-30 bucks, right? Wrong you are, sire! This entire combo was just 19 bucks—and that includes two sides (fries and cornbread).

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And they don’t just give you one little cornbread muffin, either. That’s not two, not three, but four pieces of cornbread on this platter. Again, all of this was only 19 dollars! Dude, Donald Trump gets haircuts that cost more than that!!!

And hey, I gotta say that after scarfing down these ribs with a side of Texas BBQ sauce (all their house-made sauces are served on the side, but they give you little brushes to brush ‘em on the meat), I actually DIDN’T have room for dessert! But that’s probably because I chowed down like a killer clown at Taste of Toronto earlier that day…

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(Hey, it’s my cheat month!)

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I came, I saw, I tasted tons of great Toronto eats!

Last time I was at Fort York was for a War of 1812 re-enactment, presented by the Conservative Party of Canada. (I played General Harper Lee.) But this time was a lot tastier. We’re talking Taste of Toronto, an all-day, four-day foodfest serving up some of the best dishes from all over this city.

Now as soon as I walked in and saw a long-haired dude roasting lamb on a spit, I knew that I was in the right place. They’re serving it up righteous-style with bulgar salad and some freaky tzatziki, dude!

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Now, I don’t always eat salad, but when I do, I make sure it’s got roast pork, crispy pork skin, peanuts and pickles on top. This Indonesian dish brings the heat like Doc Halliday in his prime!

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How do you make ribs even better? Cook ’em in a root beer sauce, toss some corn nuts on top and smother with a nice jalapeno puree. This dish was equal parts crunchy and munchy!

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Speaking of root beer, I’ve wanted to try Mill Street’s boozy version ever since I first heard about it in a back alley behind an A&W. (Don’t ask me what I was doing in a back alley behind an A&W.) And I gotta say, they really nailed it. The carbonation is spot on, nice fizz to it, and while it tastes a lot like root beer, it’s also got a good rummy, boozy, kick. I would smuggle six of these into a youth soccer game…and I don’t even have kids!

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Speaking of cool refreshment, this one goes straight down…to Mexico. Can you say avocado popsicle, bro? Man, this would go great with some frozen nachos!

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Of course, it wouldn’t be a food fest without some winner, winner fried-chicken dinner. This two-piece combo is served Taiwanese style with some red hot chili peppers and two kinds of dipping sauce. Can’t stop me Flea, I’m addicted to this chicken!

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Now, when I was a kid, I ate so much calamari at the Olive Garden that I think they even named an octopus after me. But I never had it inside a bamboo charcoal bun…until today.

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Speaking of burgers, I heard that the Richmond Station serves up a mean one. They stuff it with short rib and serve it medium-rare with beet chutney and aged cheddar on a milk bun. I wouldn’t normally pay 10 bucks for half a slider–pretty sure I could eat 12 of these–but in this case, it was worth every nickel (y’know, cuz we don’t have pennies anymore)!

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Now, most people would probably stop there, but most people don’t have a tattoo of Guy Fieri on their lower back. And you know Guy would go crazy for these real-deal burnt ends, served up on a wafer made out of sticky rice. Dude, this is body by burnt ends on a sticky-rice wafer!

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Now, the first time I went to Kintori Yakitori, they didn’t knock my socks off. But this time, I went with the squid. Cuz whether it’s grilled or deep-fried, you really can’t go wrong with calamari, chico!

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You know I saved the best for last, bro. This had to be the funkiest dish at the festival, and I found it. Say hello to my little friend porchetta pizza, with flor di latte, asparagus, a poached egg yolk and fresh basil:

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Dude, I haven’t eaten this much food since I scarfed down 17 tacos last weekend! And I’ve still got room for BBQ tonight, cuz that’s how I roll…literally. I just tucked my legs in and made like Randy Bachman all the way down to the subway, son!

My CFL drinking guide

(Originally written September 25, 2011)

Because I haven’t met any other die-hard Stamps fans in my now 11 years of living in Toronto, I have to find ways to keep myself amused–and intoxicated–when my team’s on TV.  Thus, I’ve come up with my own CFL drinking game.  The rules are simple: when the opposing team scores a touchdown, I down a beer.  But it can’t be just any old beer–I have associated each team in the league with a particular brand.  Here’s how it breaks down:

WESTERN DIVISION

BC Lions: Kokanee.  “Glacier fresh tasting Kokanee, it’s the beer out here!”  Because as much as a Lions score puts a bad taste in my mouth, I still don’t wanna drink crackhead piss.

Deadmonton Eskishmoes: Big Rock Grasshopper.  Whenever the Stamps meet the Eskies in the Battle of Alberta, I gotta go with the best-tasting Alberta beer that’s available in Toronto.  (Still hafta try that Wild Rose IPA…)

Saskatchewan Roughriders: Old Style Pilsner, what else?

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Labatt Blue.  If I have to explain this one to you, you probably think the sky is clear.

EASTERN DIVISION

Hamilton Tiger-Cats: I used to drink Steelback when the Stamps played the Tabbies, but when they went belly-up last year, I decided not to switch to Steeler, even if it’s advertised at Ivor Wynne.  (You can only buy that stuff in hobo-sized 950 ml cans, anyways.)  Instead, I’ve switched to Tiger Beer, a pale lager from Singapore that’s actually quite tasty.  And yes, I do have a few of these in the fridge for today’s Touchdown Atlantic contest.

Ottawa Redblacks: Dinner Jacket O’Red IPA. Hey, it has an O for Ottawa and the word “red” in its name, and it comes in a black can adorned with the kind of outfit that Gros Jos would wear.

Montreal Alouettes: Molson Dry.  Because you haven’t been Montreal drunk until you’ve double-fisted half-a-dozen two-dollar Molson Drys at Les Foufones Electriques.  When you’re singing along to Bon Jovi, Mononc’ Serge and some French songs you’ve never heard before at 2 am, that’s Montreal drunk.

Toronto Argonauts:  Steamwhistle.  Even though the Argos aren’t very good,  I like to drink the best Toronto beer when they play my team.  Mind you, I only go through one sixer of Steamwhistle a summer, since I tend to attend the Stamps @ Argos game in person–and they don’t even serve it at Rogers Centre, which is right next to their freakin’ brewery!

Looking forward to the start of a new CFL season this year!

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Taco Del Mar puts the Taco in Tuesdays (They’ve got a way with meats!)

OK, so check it out bro. Because I didn’t eat enough tacos last weekend, I’m taking a Tuesday trip to Taco Del Mar, where they’re serving up three of a kind, any kind, for only $6.50. I’m putting a big yum-yum in my future, son!

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It’s hard to pick a favourite among so many great tacos. The steak is tasty, but a little on the small side. The pulled chicken has more texture, but not as much flavour. But where they absolutely kill it is with the pork carnitas. Dude, this pork is super-juicy, mouth-watery, explode-in-your-mouth delicious! Next time, I’ll probably just get three carnitas…

There’s no such thing as too much tacos, bro!

OK, so here’s the deal. We’re hanging out at Tacofest, your all-day destination for all things inside a tortilla. Man, this place has everything: mariachi bands, a hot sauce bar, a mechanical bull shaped like an Old El Paso taco…and more tasty tacos than you can shake a stick of deep-fried butter at. Sadly, deep-fried butter on a stick was not on the menu; I guess I’ll hafta wait until The Ex or the Fried Parade for that one. But honestly bro, I had so many delicious tacos today that I probably didn’t have room for any deep-fried butter, anyways.

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Fried-chicken taco with creamy slaw, corn and tomato salsa and pickled jalapenos, served up by my favourite dirty commie, Fidel Gastro. (I put too much habanero sauce on this one.)

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Southern smoked short rib with baha slaw, pico de gallo, guacamole and house hot sauce. These are a few of my favourite things…

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Albacore tuna ceviche with avocado puree and creamy slaw. They were sold out of sea urchin.

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Oyster and button mushrooms with guajillo chili. Still waiting for those mushrooms to work their magic…

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Cardinal Club taco with smoked chicken, double-smoked bacon, tomato, cheddar and a raspberry aioli. I give this one two arteries clogged up!

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Fried Chihuahua cheese with tofu salsita and habaneros. Yo quiero more of this!

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Jerk duck confit taco with pickled red onion, radish and apple slaw, parsley, crispy shallot and ramp aioli. And pickles too, apparently.

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Tuna sashimi taco topped with mango pineapple and greens. This one’s so outta bounds that I ate it upside down!

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This one’s the real-deal, outta-bounds, winner, winner taco dinner right here. Mac ‘n cheese taco with jalapeno Cheetos and Dr. Pepper pulled pork in a Jolly Rancher BBQ sauce. I’ve already called the number on the back of that card and told him to do what you want with my body!

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Deep-fried king fish taco served with cabbage, carrots, pineapple, in-house tamarind and garlic sauce. Tamarind and garlic sauce, tamarind and garlic sauce, tamarind and garlic sauce for meeeeee!

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Crispy cauliflower topped with avocado aioli and pico de gallo. Because I had to have at least one serving of vegetables today.

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Cochinita pibil taco, which is Mexican for a whole pound o’ pork, hombre!

Now, you know me, even after eating all these tacos, I’ve still got room for dessert. Cuz you can’t have tacos without churros, yo!

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And wait, there’s more…

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Blueberry mojito ice pop with real blueberries frozen inside!

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That’s right, I even had a dessert taco. This waffle was topped with cheesecake buttercream, crushed Golden and regular Oreos, with Nutella drizzle and a Swedish berry jalapeno sauce. And yes, you fold it in half and eat it like a taco, bro. No forks allowed!

After going toe-to-toe with so many tacos, I almost had to be airlifted outta there, but I made it home in one piece. I can’t wait to Feel the Bern tomorrow!!!

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(I don’t even know which bands these are.)

I definitely wouldn’t trade these HotBunzz for a duvet, dude!

So apparently, there’s this new site called Bunz, where you can trade a king-sized duvet for a happy ending, or 18 cinder blocks for your virginity. I just offered to trade a kidney for a bacon double cheeseburger, but when it comes to these HotBunzz, I wouldn’t trade them for anything:

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So, here’s the deal. Front Street Foods, a street food fest that’s dealing out righteous grub in a courtyard on Adelaide, has this funky food stand serving up Asian-style buns stuffed with ingredients from all over this country. And they’re just three for 10 bucks, bro! Let’s zoom in for a closer look:

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What we’ve got here is the Seoul City Beef Short Rib, with kimchi and Korean BBQ sauce on top. Beef is super tender, kimchi adds a nice kick, and the sauce brings it all together. I could eat this one off a flip-flop!

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What’s 10 times better than a pulled pork sandwich at Harvey’s? Pulled pork inside a steamed bun, son! The pork is super fall-aparty, the coleslaw is rich and creamy, and the sauce is boss, hoss!

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Don’t tell my Meat Club (first rule of Meat Club: Don’t talk about Meat Club), but I totally went vegan with this one. They call it The Pharoah’s Falafel, and it’s about as legit as anything you’d get at Ali Baba’s or Lebanon Express. Texture is on point, nicely seasoned and a nice tahini on top. Shut the back door!

If you’re keeping track at home, that’s three delish dishes inside half a cardboard box. Man, I really pounded these buns, and still had room for a dessert one…but I didn’t see any on the menu. I think I could go for The Spiced Granny though!

This is the real-deal, Bomb.ca, winner, winner chicken dinner!

Now, you won’t normally find me up in Forest Hill on a Tuesday, unless I’m pounding back the cold ones at Starbucks. But I heard there’s this funky little BBQ joint on St. Clair West that’s serving up real-deal chicken ‘n ribs on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays in the evenings—but only until they run out. The place is called Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder, so you know my lardass will be right at home!

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What you see here is a hardwood-smoked chicken, whole buncha French fries and sauce on the side—all for $11.50 plus tax, son! The chicken falls off the bone, the sauce is sweet ‘n tangy, and the fries lay the smackdown on Swiss Chalet. They’re nice and thin, super-cripsy, with just the right amount of salt. Know who’s not super-thin, bro? Me—after I finish this dish:

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And hey, even on Tuesday they were all outta chicken by 7:30, so you’d better get there early!