BBQ Cook Off at St. Lawrence Mkt here again!
It's that time of year again!
Friday to Sunday
OK. So this is the third thread on this event - but the most recent, so I'll post here.
Fewer participants this year - and the best from last year are back - but not necessarily as good. In fact overall quality seems lower this year. Last year's favourite (by far) was OL' CAMP 31- but not as good this year. Less smoky, more caramelized and sweeter, but no trace of the 'kick' in the finish and the meat seemed tougher. But again, served very hot. Still a good effort - my second favourite.
Also from last year, GATOR seems less exciting. The characteristic molasses tang seems more muted and again the meat was tough.
This year's winner (for me and also AmuseGirl) was BAD WOLF. Definitely smoky and tangy but the portion served seemed to be the smallest.
Again from last year BILLY BONES returned - but this year the meat was tougher (last year it was fall-off-the-bone). This was more Carolina BBQ in style with a pronounced vinegar character and an excellent spice kick at the end. Definitely top three.
Last year I was too full to try UNCLE SAM, so did get to it this year. Don't bother - very fatty meat with a bland sauce.
Also back from last year are BIBB'S - they were easily the worst last year so I skipped this year; and CRABBY'S which I also skipped (last year portion was small and sauce very tomatoey).
Yes, they were all ribs (originally was going to post on the thread headed 'ribs' - but switched to this thread as it was more recent).
As to 'style', I commented particularly on the Billy Bones as being Carolina style as it stood out from the others, which were a mixture of Kansas City (Bad Wolf) and 'Southern' - I hesitate to use Memphis as I'm not sure of the finer distinctions. Unfortunately, ALL of the presentations seemed toned down - nothing really stood out for me. And most had the sauce added towards the end of cooking (although some could also have been sauced during cooking - I suspect both Ol' Camp 31 and Bad Wolf were, and Uncle Sam didn't seem to be).
I didn't detect too much tomato this year (but skipped Crabby's which was the 'most' tomatoey last year).
I usually don't particularly like Carolina style - but the Billy Bones were pretty good flavour and probably the closest to that (but not for a purist).
But the meat everywhere was tough this year - have no idea why.
thanks for the follow-up, estufarian.
i was really curious to attend this years fest, but couldn't unfortunately due to some unexpected circumstances. i'd like to see what ontario has to offer in the way of 'cue, since there does seem to be a bit of culture in certain parts (southwestern?).
not sure exactly how the fest works, but perhaps they just didn't have enough time to smoke those ribs to the point of desired tenderness (and i certainly don't mean "fall off the bone").
i'm certainly going to try these places individually, starting with the Camp since it's closest.
I had the pleasure of atttending yesterday and totally disagree with all negative postings so far. In a city where decent BBQ exists nowhere except for my backyard, the St. Lawrence festiful was all that could be expected. I went with my son (1 year old) and a buddy and his daughter (6 month old). We tried ribs from 4 differnt locations and all were awesome. Some were better than others, some sweeter, some more tender but all were delicious and incredibly fresh. To add to the pleasure was the Craft Beer show which offered small glass sized samples of fresh and distinctive beers for $1.00 once you purchased a glass for $5.00. I've eaten BBQ in the southern U.S.-Was this as good? Maybe-Maybe not. Lets just recap. Major street, closed to traffic loaded with beer and deliciou BBQ. I thought I died and went to heaven. Anyone who can legitmately critisize the event and more importantly the quality of the food needs to have their head, no maybe their tastebuds examined. I will return!!
I totally agree with everyone else and sugest when it is about 10 to 1 that maybe it is you who needs youtase buds examined. I went here based on the anticipation from the posts and had the worst ribs in my life. The frozen Presidents Choice ribs have more taste and are more tender and less greasy then anything I tried at the BBQ. (Or maybe you had a few too many of thise cheap beers). I went Friday at 8pm and every stand was out of pulled pork that my freind wanted and the ribs were so tough that the guy had to take two wacks with the cleaver to separate each rib... I should have walked away at that point but after spending $40 getting nasty ribs and some nasty chicken (forget the name of the place but the one right by the door of the Market building). I will never go back and never recomend it to anyone.
If that is what is considered award winning ribs I will stick to swiss chalet!!!
I have to agree with Steve. I went around 6:30 pm on Friday night. Every stand had a line, except the one where the ribs looked scrawny and dried out. I stood in line with husband and 3 year old for 20 minutes at Camp 31. No pulled pork sandwiches. $19 for a rack of ribs without any sides. Sat on a concrete block amidst the pigeon poop. Ribs were okay, almost fell off the bone, pretty tasty. But I've had Swiss Chalet ribs and they were just as tender, tasty and come with sides for $20.
I considered going to get another rack from another stand, but all the lines were still long. Instead, I went to Harveys, had a burger and a comfy seat.
How come all the stands bring out the food so slowly - they're only cooking ribs and chicken. No one;s suprising them with special orders. Is the creation of the lines just for the hype?
re: db girl
"How come all the stands bring out the food so slowly - they're only cooking ribs and chicken. No one;s suprising them with special orders. Is the creation of the lines just for the hype?"
You have to wait because while the ribs and chicken are mostly cooked in the back in the smoker, they still have to be grilled up front with the sauce for a bit and there is limited grill space. Then when someone places their order, the meat is cut to order then. They do have several sizes of ribs (full, 1/2/, 1/3, 1/4) plus chicken and none can be cut ahead of time or they will dry out and have to be tossed. The lines are caused by this process since generally only 2 people are working the front and the better the food at a particular booth, the longer the line will be. I have tried several and Camp 31 is the best by far and worth the wait.
I moved up here from Alabama and the rib fests are the only time of the year I can get barbeque that lives up to my standards other than if I cook it myself. I have had the ribs at Swiss Chalet and while edible I wouldn't call them "just as tasty" by a long shot.
If you go to the other ribfests later in the summer, they have ample picnic table seating (most are in parks) so you don't have the problem of finding a seat. I was suprised at the lack of any seating (other than in the overcrowded beer garden) at the St. Lawrence event since I had only been to the others where seating was not an issue.
I would say anybody who says Harveys or Swiss Chalet ribs are better than Camp 31 needs to have their head examined :-)
I do agree, for some reason all the booths were serving tough meat; maybe they had to get them from a common supplier from the Market who gave them the dregs? Visit the same vendors at the Rotary Ribfests over the summer months and I expect better quality. Camp 31's product was amazing both at Scarborough and in Oshawa last year (and at their restaurant in Paris) but somehow at the St.L it wasn't up to their usual high standard.
And another analogy for those who passed up on the Ribfest to go to Swiss Chalet or Harvey's. You can get a steak at Golden Griddle, with all the side dishes. You can get a steak at Ruth's Chris, with no side dishes. But ask yourself, can you honestly say the Golden Griddle steak can be compared to Ruth's?
I challenge you to take a Swiss Chalet rack of ribs down to Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Missouri, Florida, or the Carolinas and say "these ribs beat anything your state has to offer". Then see what happens to you.
That's what's wrong with this town. Those of you who know me from tor.eats know what I'm talking about so I won't bore you with the same rant.
I was not talking about ribs from Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Missouri, Florida, or the Carolinas I said the ribs I had at the ribfest were horrible AND those ribs that I had for the price I would have rather had swiss chalet... I do not care it the BBQ is great at other times and locations I went I spent $40 and I threw away half my food because I would not eat it. I will NEVER go back...
If you went to Ruth's Chris and and spent $50 on a steak after waiting 40miniutes in a line up and it was tough tasteless and greasy... would you go back? Even if everyone told you that Steak in the US and other locations is great? NO, but if you went to Golden Griddle at 3am after drinking all night and had a $12 steak that was cooked how you asked you would say Gee that hit the spot!
Got there today after a Dim Sum lunch (scheduled before I knew about this event's date) and decided to bring home 2 racks, one from Ol' Camp 31 (as per recommendations here) and Crabby's (there was an extremely long lineup here). I didn't get to try any of the other ones but remember BIBS from last year.. really not good. I was excited about Camp 31 when I overheard something mentioning that they used to be at the Ex (where I had my best rib experience several years ago).
Correct me if I'm wrong but I wasn't very impressed at all by the texture of the meats, kind of dry for both of them. The Camp 31 sauce was great though, with just the right tang of sweetness & smokiness (I like it a bit sweeter) and a bottle was cheap for $6 - in comparison, Crabby's offered theirs for $12 per bottle.
Based on last year's posts, I headed to Camp 31 on Friday evening. After a 25 minute wait, I got my ribs, beans and slaw.
For my taste, Richard and Estufarian are both being too generous. The ribs were bland and somewhat tough. They lacked both smoke and sufficient char. Overall, average at best.
The beans were cold and too sweet. The slaw was creamy and pretty good.
All in all, a lunchbox let down. Good thing there was a beer garden.
Giant BBQ fan here, but I've always been out of the city on business during the previous years' fests. Decided to hit it this year with a venegance.
I love the idea of the fest, but have to admit that nothing I ate this year knocked me out.
Went with a cohort from work first for lunch on Friday, by 11:45 there was a line of 20 waiting at Camp 31! We shared a rack of ribs and a pulled pork sandwich. Very good sandwich, nice texture and flavour to the meat. Sauce a bit sweet for my taste. (To be honest, almost every sauce I tried lacked sufficient heat and tartness.) Ribs were good and wound up being the best I had, but they lacked the fall-off-the-bone-slightly-crispy-exterior that can make you sigh with delight.
In the evening back with Chowfamily (wife, son, daughter and her boyfriend.)
Arrived 5:45. Not too crowded, but Camp 31 wasn't up and running until nearly 6:30....
Most of my feelings coincide with estufarian's astute (as always) notes:
Gator - a bit dull; not bad meat texture, but a bland sauce. Just a hint of molasses.
Billy Bones - Best sauce (Nice kick and bite), but worst meat (chewy and dry.)
Bibbs - totally pedestrian ribs, ketchupy sauce. but a good chicken breast sandwich.
Uncle Sam - an adequate pulled pork sandwich, but no more. Dullish sauce, slightly fatty meat.
And a return visit to Camp 31 proved they did the best ribs, although they once again didn't hit the heights.
We sampled the obligatory sides at most places and found Camp 31 leading with the tangiest beans and slaw. (Gator's taters were vile.)
Would we go again? Absolutely. But for the fun and fellowship rather than hoping to find superb ribs.
I'm still heading to Phil's next Sunday for Father's Day and checking to see if it's time to reorder a box of Sticky Fingers Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce from down in Charleston again....