Solid Texas BBQ at Adamson Barbecue

Adamson BarbecueLocation: 15195 Yonge Street, Aurora
Website: https://adamsonbarbecue.com/

Though restaurants serving Texas-style BBQ have become a dime a dozen in the GTA, Adamson was among the first in that trend, and if you ask pretty much anybody, they’re the best.

I tried it once a couple of years ago, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t convinced.  I found the food to be tasty enough, but it was hampered by some fairly serious issues (most pressingly: a complete lack of smoky flavour, improperly sliced brisket, and mediocre pulled pork).

Well, I just tried their new Aurora location, and it was (mostly) a much, much better experience.

Adamson Barbecue

I will say that ordering take-out is probably not the best way to go (though it is, for obvious reasons, the only way to go right now).  When you pre-order on their website, all the meats come tightly wrapped in butcher paper, and the whole thing is sealed in a foil take-out container.  You also can’t specify a pick-up time other than before or after 4:00 PM.  This means that the meat effectively continues to cook in the tray, and is a bit more dry than it should be by the time you eat it.

Even still, it was quite tasty.  I tried basically everything on the menu: beef brisket, spare ribs, turkey breast, pulled pork, and a couple of sausages (bratwurst and jalapeno cheddar).

The brisket is their claim to fame, and yeah, it’s very good.  It could have been more tender (see: the aforementioned take-out issue), but it was otherwise top-shelf brisket.  It was quite smoky, it had a good amount of tender fat (the fat wasn’t quite as well rendered as you’d like, but that’s a minor complaint — it was mostly very creamy), and the bark was really tasty.  Texas-style barbecue is traditionally seasoned with just salt and pepper, and while it tasted like there might have been a bit more going on here, it was quite good.

Adamson Barbecue

Everything else was (mostly) really tasty.  The turkey was smoky and tender, the ribs had a great texture and more of that delightful smoke flavour (though they did taste a bit over-brined), and both sausages were top-notch, particularly the jalapeno cheddar.

The pulled pork was even worse than I remembered it, however.  It was incredibly dry, it had zero smoky flavour, and it had that underlying gaminess that you only get from pork that’s been reheated one time too many.  I’d be absolutely shocked if it was cooked the same day I ate it.

I also tried the baked beans and the coleslaw, and while neither was anything to get too excited about (the baked beans tasted more like some kind of bean stew than like traditional baked beans), but they were both tasty enough.

Horrifying BBQ at Hungry Hollow Smokehouse and Grille

Hungry Hollow Smokehouse & GrilleLocation: 134 Guelph Street, Georgetown
Websitehttp://www.hungryhollow.ca/

I try to be a “glass half full” type of guy whenever I can, because it’s always good to have a positive outlook on life.  So, glass half full: Hungry Hollow Smokehouse and Grille gives me a much better appreciation for the disappointing BBQ joints across the GTA.

Places like Adamson Barbecue and Hogtown Smoke might not be as smoky as I’d like, but at least what they’re serving tastes good.  Hungry Hollow, on the other hand…

Hungry Hollow Smokehouse & Grille

I tried the brisket and the pulled pork, along with the fries and coleslaw.

The brisket was, no contest, the worst barbecue brisket I’ve ever had (and probably the worst brisket I’ve ever had, period).  It was atrociously bad.

Hungry Hollow Smokehouse & Grille

There’s no sugar-coating it; this particular glass is completely empty.  The brisket was dry, it had zero smoky flavour, and worst of all, it was the leftoveriest piece of leftover meat in the history of the world.  It had a sharply gamy flavour that immediately let you know something was amiss.  It was outright inedible.

The pork was much better.  It wasn’t particularly good, mind you, but I was able to eat it.

Hungry Hollow Smokehouse & Grille

The texture was complete mush, and like the beef, it wasn’t even remotely smoky — but the flavour was otherwise okay.  It was about on par with the vacuum-sealed pulled pork you can get at the supermarket, and it was clearly fresh.  Under any other circumstances it would have seemed much worse, but after that questionable beef, something with no off flavours was quite delightful.

The sides, at least, were unambiguously tasty.  The fries were fresh and perfectly cooked, and the coleslaw was nice and creamy, with a good level of acidity.

Decent BBQ at Beauty Barbecue & Smokehouse

Beauty BBQ & SmokehouseLocation: 2901 Bayview Avenue, North York
Websitehttps://www.beautybbq.com/

Judging by Toronto’s restaurants, really great barbecue must be the toughest thing to get right.  Because there are a lot of BBQ joints in the GTA, and very, very few of them are much better than okay.

You can add Beauty Barbecue & Smokehouse to the “okay” list.  It’s fine.  I didn’t dislike eating there.  It’s certainly not great, but I’ve had worse barbecue in the city.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

I tried three things and a couple of sides: smoked + roasted pork shoulder, Torontreal smoked meat, and baby back ribs, along with grilled cornbread and kale coleslaw.  I was really hoping to try the brisket; alas, it was sold out.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

The pork shoulder was the oddest of the bunch.  It didn’t even vaguely resemble the pulled pork you might be expecting from a barbecue joint.  Instead, it was thinly sliced and tasted more like porchetta than something you’d find in the American south, with an overwhelmingly herby, rosemary-tinged flavour.  I suspect it hadn’t seen a smoker in many hours (if not days) as it had zero smokiness and a mildly gamy reheated pork flavour.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

The Torontreal smoked meat was a definite upgrade over the pork.  Though it can’t compete with the best smoked meat in the city, it was nicely spiced and had a surprisingly smoky flavour.  But the meat was tough and the fat was vaguely rubbery.  Despite the fact that it was sliced very thinly, it was disconcertingly difficult to cut with a plastic knife.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

The ribs were the best of the bunch.  They had a good level of smoke and a nice texture — tender, but with a bit of bite.  Something about them wasn’t quite clicking (I think maybe the rub?), but the vinegary-sweet sauce was tasty, and it was overall a quality rack of ribs.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

As for the two sides, they were both solid.  Neither particularly stood out, but the coleslaw was nice and zingy, and the cornbread was sweet, buttery, and satisfying.

Mediocre Barbecue at the Beach Hill Smokehouse

Beach Hill SmokehouseLocation: 172 Main Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.beachhillsmokehouse.com/

I mentioned, in my post about Hanabusa Cafe, that Toronto churns through food trends with an almost alarming fervor.  If anyone is keeping track of such things, Texas-style barbecue needs to be added to the list; something like a dozen restaurants have opened up in the last few years serving that very specific style of American barbecue cookery.

And yet no one seems to be able to consistently get it right.  Even the much-lauded Adamson falls short.  It’s tasty enough, but it lacks the deep smoky flavour that you’ll find in real-deal southern ‘cue.

Beach Hill Smokehouse

I had heard good things about the Beach Hill Smokehouse, but alas: the search continues.  These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

I got the Austin sandwich, which is a no-frills brisket sandwich with barbecue sauce, served on a bun.  It comes with one pork rib as a bonus.

I probably should have ordered the brisket on its own.  The pictures I’ve seen of the Beach Hill’s brisket have featured big, impressively picturesque slices of glistening, fatty beef.

Beach Hill Smokehouse

The sandwich on the hand…  I have a strong suspicion that the sandwich is how they get rid of all of the little dried up bits that aren’t good enough to be served on their own.  The brisket scraps in my sandwich were vaguely smokey, but incredibly dry. Zero fat, zero moisture — just chewy and tough.  Even the generous amount of sauce (which was sweet, spicy, and tasty) couldn’t quite overcome the extreme dryness.

The bun was fine, but it was big and bready, and only served to further compound the dryness problem.

Beach Hill Smokehouse

The rib was a bit better than the brisket.  It was peppery and intensely sweet, with an almost ham-like cured flavour that reminded me of jerky.  The texture was nice, however — tender but not mushy, with a little bit of a meaty bite.  The flavour was a bit unusual, but it wasn’t altogether unappealing.

I got the loaded baked beans on the side, which was the clear highlight.  They had a really great flavour, with a pleasant kick and a generous amount of pork and sausage chunks.  They were some of the best baked beans I’ve had in a long time; they’re outstanding.

Lamb Shoulder at Cherry Street Bar-B-Que

Cherry Street Bar-B-QueAssembly Chef’s Hall is Toronto’s first food hall — it’s basically like a food court, if food courts were amazing.

There’s a bunch of interesting restaurants here, though I was homing in on the burger from Resto Boemo, which I wanted to review for my burger blog.  But then I saw that Cherry Street Bar-B-Que was serving lamb shoulder as part of a St. Patrick’s Day special, and it was game over.  I love southern-style barbecue, and I love lamb.  Barbecued lamb?  Hell yes.

Cherry Street Bar-B-Que

It comes served on chunky mashed potatoes, and is topped with a generous amount of their Murphy’s Stout BBQ sauce, which was amazing.  It was extremely untraditional — it wasn’t nearly as sweet or as acidic as you’d expect, with a rich, tomatoey flavour that’s rounded out by the stout, which adds notes of chocolate and coffee.  It sounds odd, but it worked incredibly well with the lamb.  I should have asked if I could buy a bottle.

And that lamb was quite tasty, though like pretty much every barbecue place in the GTA, it had almost zero smokey flavour.  But in this case I didn’t even particularly mind — the amazing flavour of the lamb was front-and-centre, and it’s hard to complain too much about that.  It was tender while still retaining some texture, with some really tasty bark, and just enough fat to keep things interesting, but not enough to overwhelm.