Perhaps this, as much as anything, is what plagues Q in non traditional areas. In Memphis you have a certain style and everyone likes it. If you try to do Memphis BBQ in a non traditional area, only Memphians will like it. That can lead to a pretty small demographic. So people tend to generalize their product. Trying to satisfy everyone. Most often, if you try to make everyone happy, you end up pleasing no one.
So it came as a nice surprise in a land of poorly done Q to see Paul Kocukov serving up some real deal smoky goodness. One time insurance salesman Paul’s love for love for Q started over 30 years ago with a pulled pork sandwich in Tennessee. It led him on a journey that would culminate in a small west end Toronto restaurant. Along the way, he and his wife Sandy toured some of the South's great BBQ havens, sold brisket's and shoulders to friends and eventually opened a BBQ sandwich stand at the Orangeville farmers market. This is where Paul really road tested and honed his craft. Playing around with sauces, rubs, woods and cook times all the while perfecting his techniques. In 2010 it was time to open Paul and Sandy’s Real BBQ.
Paul and Sandy’s is a store front operation in the heart of Islington Village. It has a chalet look with wood on the outside whereas inside it’s pretty much a straight up restaurant. Tables, chairs, open kitchen, you know, a restaurant. The Godbrother and I were the first customers in the door and by the time we left, people were snapping up tables as fast as they were being turned over. The word is definitely out about this place.
In the kitchen, Paul and Sandy are doing just about everything themselves. Right down to the salads and fresh cutting the fries. Paul uses fresh cut hickory imported from the states in his smoker. He believes the freshness adds a certain sweetness that aged wood doesn’t. He monitors the fire for the first few hours or so while the smoke ring sets in. Once that happens, the threory is, no amount of wood and smoke will flavour the meat after that. He then lets the thermostat take over from there. This extra attention to detail certainly comes out in the food. So let’s have a look.
Paul makes two sauces in house. Both are surprisingly thinner than I was expecting given his BBQ tendencies. The regular had a good molasses sweetness and some smokiness. The hot wasn’t that much hotter. Or so it seemed. I used some on the pulled pork and when I was done my mouth was all a tingle. It really snuck up on me and will bite you if you’re not a spice lover.
A plate of complementary garlic bread was up first. It was quite nice in that it wasn’t overly garlicky. It had some crushed garlic mixed into a butter and then spread on toast. The bread itself was a nice French stick from a local bakery. Very nice.
Next up was the 2 meat + half rack combo.
The accompanying pickle is imported from stateside and is terrific. Not overly sharp and with a great crunch.
The fries are quite nice too. They were on the more well done side which I really like. A lot of places undercook their fresh cut taters. That said, I’d still like to see them a little crispier. I’m not really here for the fries anyway.
The slaw was straight up, classic BBQ joint slaw. I say that as a complement. It’s not over thunk. It’s simple, creamy, slightly tart with a nice cabbage taste and crunch. The old standard, executed perfectly.
I was totally into the beans. A nice rich broth was punctuated with a good peppery taste. I noticed a few whole peppercorns in the dish so it came as no surprise it’s where it gets it’s personality. Not something I’ve ever had but since I add pepper to just about everything, it was a very good fit for me.
The worst meat on the plate was the pulled pork. Remember how I say that it’s never smoky enough for my taste. Well, not so here. Sure mine is smokier but this had enough, good porkiness and came with only a top dress of sauce. A very nice compliment. The other part that they did well here is the chunks of pork. Not this minced up hash of pigginess drowned in sauce.
The chicken was some of the best I’ve had in TO. A hind quarter, smoked to juicy goodness and again, lightly dressed with sauce.
The ribs were great. A little on the sparse side and being back ribs of course were not as juicy as side ribs. From a taste and texture stand point, these really delivered.
The brisket was outstanding. The heftier bun didn’t get in the way of the bold taste of the brisket. A nice light smokiness punctuated by a phenomenal bark. I’m even pickier about brisket than I am pulled pork and this ranks as some of the best I’ve had. Keep in mind I’ve never been to the big Texas Q meccas.
You can find Paul and Sandy’s Real BBQ at 4925 Dundas Street West.
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You can also find them on the web and facebook.
Well that’s all for now in the Big Smoke. See ya next time.