Barbecue Meets Pizza at Conspiracy Pizza

Conspiracy Pizza
Location
: 858 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://www.conspiracypizza.ca/

Though Conspiracy Pizza started out as a pop-up inside of the infamous (and defunct) Adamson Barbecue, they’ve since cut ties and have their own space (which they share with Churnt Up, an ice cream shop, and Phamily Eats, which sells patties).

They’ve still got a bit of a barbecue theme, however — their namesake pie, the Conspiracy, comes topped with “white sauce, emmental cheese, brisket, red onion, jalapeno, barbecue sauce.”

Conspiracy Pizza

It’s an odd pizza, but it absolutely works.  In particular, the chunks of brisket are shockingly good — they’re nice and tender, and they’ve got a distinctly smoky flavour.  It makes me wish they served a sandwich, because it’s top-notch BBQ brisket.

Conspiracy Pizza

But then the whole pizza is pretty great, with pops of heat from the jalapenos, a satisfying richness from the white sauce and the cheese, and with the barbecue sauce bringing it a nice zippy sweetness to cut through the meat and cheese.  The crust is quite good too, with a super crispy exterior and a fluffy interior.

I also tried the Government Cheese, which comes topped with “mozza, cheddar, emmental, provolone, manchego, oregano.”

Conspiracy Pizza

It takes a lot for me to say that a pizza is too cheesy, but… this one was too cheesy.  It’s overwhelming.  It also kinda reminded me of a Costco pizza (the cheddar, maybe?).  It’s not bad — a huge pile of gooey cheese is never going to be all bad — but I can’t say I’d ever order it again.

Decent Ribs at Brickyard BBQ

Brickyard BBQLocation: 120 North Queen Street, Etobicoke
Website: https://www.brickyardbbq.ca/

Brickyard BBQ is a ribfest vendor with a permanent location (or semi-permanent at least — I can’t imagine they’ll still be around once winter hits), so if you’re in the mood for a mini ribfest experience, it should hit the spot.  There’s even a Tiny Tom’s truck parked across from it, but alas, it was closed when I visited.

They have the usual assortment of ribs, pulled pork, and chicken, though ribs are obviously their specialty (they have a huge sign boasting about their “legendary ‘double-smoked’ ribs”).  I ordered a third rack with coleslaw and baked beans on the side (rice and peas is also a choice).

Brickyard BBQ

It was fine.  I’ve never had ribs from a ribfest that particularly blew me away, and these were far from the best ribfest ribs I’ve had (how many times can I say ribs in a sentence??  Ribs ribs ribs).  They weren’t smoky at all, and they had a mildly leftovery flavour, but mostly they were decent enough.  The texture was okay, with a nice bite that wasn’t overly tough.

The most noteworthy thing about them was the sauce they had slathered them in — the spicing was quite unique, with a really distinctive flavour that was unlike any BBQ sauce I’ve had before.  It’s different enough to be off-putting at first, though it mostly grew on me.

Brickyard BBQ

As for the sides, the baked beans had the same distinctive flavour as the sauce, but were otherwise quite good — hearty and not too sweet.  And the coleslaw, oddly enough, was the highlight.  It’s a pretty by-the-numbers creamy coleslaw, but it’s well executed and tasty (hey, not every dish needs to reinvent the wheel).

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.