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.

Decent Eats at Olde Yorke Fish & Chips

Olde York Fish & ChipsLocation: 96 Laird Drive, Toronto
Websitehttps://oldeyorkefishandchips.com/

Everyone loves fish and chips, don’t they?  It’s one of those universally appealing meals that’s hard to truly hate.  I mean, it’s a big old plate of deep fried goodness.

But it’s surprisingly difficult to find a place that does it really well (without a plane ticket to the UK, at least).  It’s such a simple dish, but sometimes the simplest meals are the toughest to pull off.  It’s just fish and batter; if your technique isn’t perfect, there’s nowhere to hide.

Olde York Fish & Chips

I got the haddock and chips from Olde York, and while it was certainly tasty, there were a couple of things holding it back from being much better than okay.

A lot of fish and chips joints tend drop the ball with the batter itself; so many places over-apply it, resulting in a thick and crunchy shell that overwhelms the fish.  And while Olde York isn’t the worst offender in this regard, the batter was definitely too substantial.

Olde York Fish & Chips

It’s also easy to overcook the fish, and alas, that was an issue here as well.  It wasn’t too blatant, but it was dryer than it should have been.

I don’t want to make this a complain-a-thon, because I actually did enjoy it… but the fries could have been crispier and the tartar sauce was way too sweet.

But that’s the thing about fish and chips: even when it’s not perfect, it’s still so satisfying.

Mind-blowing Smoked Meat at SumiLicious

SumiLiciousLocation: 5631 Steeles Avenue East, Scarborough
Websitehttps://sumilicious.ca/

Holy crap, SumiLicious.  Holy.  Crap.

I knew I’d have to check the place out as soon as I read this thread on Chowhound.  A new smoked meat place?  Yes please.  Started by someone who worked at the legendary Schwartz’s in Montreal for 18 years?  You had me at “new smoked meat place,” but now I’m really sold.  And it’s delicious?  Buddy, I’m sold already, you can stop.  I’m there.

SumiLicious

I’m kind of glad this place is such a trek from where I live, because if it were nearby, I’d be there every single day.  It’s smoked meat perfection.

I can’t emphasize this enough: the smoked meat sandwich at SumiLicious is absolutely magnificent.  It’s the best smoked meat sandwich that I’ve had in ages.  Certainly, it’s the best smoked meat in the city, and it stands side-by-side with any sandwich I’ve had in Montreal or New York.  It’s ridiculously good.

SumiLicious

The sandwich is a heaping tower of intensely flavourful, ultra-tender, hand-sliced goodness.  It’s quite fatty, but that fat is so perfectly cooked it’ll make your knees buckle.  It just melts in your mouth like unctuous, luxurious meat butter.

And the meat itself is almost absurdly tender, but retains enough texture that it never feels mushy.  It’s perfect.

SumiLicious

The flavour is really unique, too.  It’s got enough of the classic smoked meat seasoning to be pleasantly familiar, but it’s also got its own thing going on; they’re obviously doing something a little bit different with the spice blend (but don’t ask me specifically what — I’m terrible at identifying spices).

It’s a bit less salty than your typical smoked meat, which lets the beef’s natural flavour shine through more than you’d expect.  It’s something special, that’s for sure.

But I mean, don’t take my word for it.  Just look at this close-up:

SumiLicious

Sexy AF.  Downright NSFW.  And it’s just as good as it looks.

I also tried the coleslaw, which is a tad too sweet, but otherwise has a nice vinegary bite and is a good foil for the heavy sandwich.

Oh, and it’s delightfully affordable, too: it’s nine bucks (not including the coleslaw), and considering the quality and the sheer size of the sandwich, that’s a crazy deal.

SumiLicious

Of course, the question is whether or not they can keep up this insane level of quality.  The last couple of high-profile smoked meat joints in the city — Caplansky’s and Ben & Izzy’s — both started out great and then slowly (or not-so-slowly in the case of Ben & Izzy’s) went downhill.

I’m very, very curious to see if SumiLicious can continue to pump out smoked meat of this calibre in the coming months and years.  I hope they do, but I’d advise you to go there now so that you don’t lose out on basking in its magnificence.

Amazing Fried Chicken at Chica’s Chicken

Chica's ChickenLocation: 2853 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/chicaschicken/

Recently, I had the Nashville hot chicken sandwich from Porchetta and Co. and was thoroughly unimpressed; it was bland, disappointingly mild, and dripping with flavourless grease.  It was a surprisingly mediocre sandwich from an otherwise great restaurant.

Clearly, the problem was not with the dish itself, because I just had the version from Chica’s Chicken, and hot damn it was so good.

The menu here is exceptionally simple; it’s pretty much just bone-in chicken, chicken wings, and a chicken sandwich, along with a variety of sides.  I got the quarter chicken (dark, of course) with a side of coleslaw.

Chica's Chicken

There are three heat options: mild, medium, and hot AF.  I ordered hot, which prompted the woman behind the counter to warn me that it was indeed very hot.  She mentioned Carolina Reaper peppers (currently the hottest pepper in the world) along with another pepper I can’t recall.

It’s so good.  The chicken is perfectly cooked, with an amazingly satisfying level of crispiness on its skin and abundantly juicy chicken.  And the flavour is explosive; aside from the level of heat, their spice blend is outstanding.  It’s some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

Chica's Chicken

As for the heat: it’s hot enough to make you sweat and to clear your sinuses, but not so spicy that it feels like something you should be eating on a dare.  It’s great.

It comes on a plain slice of bread (de rigueur for this style of chicken), which soaks up all of the amazing grease.  It also comes with a side of ranch for dipping, which was a huge upgrade over the typical Hidden Valley; it was creamy, slightly garlicky, and a little bit sweet.  It was a delicious compliment to the intensely spicy chicken.

The creamy coleslaw was great, too; I normally prefer vinegary coleslaw, but versions like this make me second guess myself.