Sunday, May 13, 2012

Citified Southern

In the Summer of 2006 local restaurant vet and bar be que nut Tom Davis posted his manifesto. Tom turned down job security to take a chance. Passing up a regular paycheque, vacation and sick time he decided to open his own place. The working title of the restaurant would be Davis’s Old-time Grill. People were invited along to watch as he perfected dishes and played around with names. “I will take you through the various stages of: Menu development, start up costs, design concept, curing room design, financing, marketing, location, auctions, construction (More financing!!!), staffing, and finally the opening!" Ultimately a restaurant would take shape that was on the one hand what Tom had envisioned but on the other hand not necessarily what he wrote.  The end product: Tom’s take on (for the most part) southern food. BBQ favourites and soul food (and burgers too). A bit of an eclectic menu but what he’s looking to serve is “Slow fast food.” Known in the south as, “Citified Southern.”

Tom’s dream finally became a reality in the spring of 2010 when he opened what he eventually came to call The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder. The small diner on St. Clair West, just east of the old Toronto stockyards area has a nice rustic feel equally matched inside and out. Exposed brick and unfinished wood give the slender place a certain warmth.

Inside there are no tables but plenty of counter space with about 20 stools. My personal favourite is a seat by the open kitchen. Front row center for the action.
In it’s initial days The stockyards had it’s problems. Or perhaps better said, one problem; it was too popular. It wasn’t only not uncommon to run out of items but seemingly SOP. Two years down the road things are much better. It still happens on occasion but that’s true of all places. Such is the price of fame I suppose. It’s also difficult to keep up sometimes when so much of your menu takes hours to prepare. A recent visit saw them out of pulled pork. The only bright spot is the smell of smoke and pig fat hung in the air as they prepared the next batch.

Well this is all very well and good but it’s the food that counts.
First of all, there are a few things to know. They have a regular menu, a Saturday and Sunday brunch menu and 3 times a week at 5pm you can get your hands on some Q. Tom also does some specialty items periodically.

The biscuits are large and flaky with a nice flavour. When I make ‘em at home they have a nice buttery taste which these seem to lack. Not that I’m saying they should just that it’s not my preference. Mrs. Sippi concurred ranking them “Very good” but not certainly not as good as mine.

The Greens shown here are Kale. Cooked to death with bacon like in the south. The big difference is they add garlic which is not typically southern. Part of the “Citified” thing. The bacon has a great smoky flavour and is quite meaty. The garlic is a bit over the top (can’t believe I’m saying that) but a little pepper sauce we had at home helped to balance things out. Kale is also a bit tougher than Collards, Turnip or Mustard greens and we enjoyed the stronger texture. Honestly, I really didn’t think Mrs. Sippi would like them but surprisingly she very much did. Even ordered more the next visit.

The Fried Chicken and Waffles are amazing. Such an odd combination but this soul food dish dates back centuries.
The Fried Chicken itself is fabulous. More along the lines of the Colonel and his secret recipe with loads of herbs mixed into the batter. Nicely crispy and juicy. The waffles weren’t anything special but I really don’t think they were supposed to be. Simple Belgian waffles done well. The Chili, Maple, Citrus glaze was very nice. Sweet from the maple syrup, tangy from chili and nicely tied together with the citrus. My first taste of this dish and it was an instant hit.

The burger is probably my favourite anywhere. It's a tough call with so many good examples out there but I think three things put this at the top of my list. First of all, it's done on a flat top. I'm sure you’ve read me extol the virtues of this culinary dream machine. Second of all, it's just about exactly what I make at home. It's 6oz (I make 3/lb) with American (aka sliced, aka processed) Cheese and a simple "Wonderbread style" bun. Thirdly, the crust created by the flat top. Most places will give you a patty with a nice crust. Here they play chicken with the griddle. Pushing the limits of how far they can go before making a hockey puck. The burger gets a crust that's far thicker than any other I've had. It provides not only additional flavour but a slight crunch to it that was great. It’s not over cooked either. A slight crust on the flip side ensures it’s still juicy on the inside. Simply excellent.

The Porchetta is fabulous as well. The slow roasted pork roast stuffed with rosemary, garlic and other herbs was simply the best I’ve had. Just the right amount of fattiness and crunch from the skin. It was very rich but the addition of steamed rapini (aka broccoli rabe) was just the perfect way to balance the sandwich and provide additional flavour.

They make their own pastrami from time to time. I had the occasion to try it and let me tell ya, if you can get your hands on some of this stuff, you do it. It's simply the best I've had. Very fatty (which is good for deli meat) and had a great flavour profile. It usually gets snapped up quickly. You'd best phone and find out when they're making some and plan accordingly.

As for drinks they make their own own in house. The Limeade has a nice refreshing mint profile. They round out the liquid menu with an array Boylan products. Some of the best bottled Root Beer you'll find on the market is Boylan.

So there you go. A little taste of the south mixed with some city styling in a quaint setting.

You can visit The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder in Toronto’s Wychwood neighbourhood at 699 St. Clair Ave. W.

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You can also visit them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
The Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder on Urbanspoon

Well that’s all for now. See ya next time in the food court.


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