Camp 31 - Long Review
I went to Camp 31 for lunch today, while en route to Woodstock.
In short, a dang good plate o' bar-b-que.
I ordered the combo plate: 3 choices of meat, plus beans, plus one side. The meat choices are side ribs, pulled pork, smoked sausage, or chicken. I made a mistake, choosing ribs, pulled pork, and sausage. The mistake was I shoulda gone for ribs, pulled pork, and more pulled pork.
Yes, the pulled pork was excellent. The stand-out part of the meal, for sure. It was tender, sweet, and smoky, and even a bit crispy in some places. It had the deep, rich flavour that only comes with smoking meat low and slow. It was lightly sauced. It was quite delicious to say the least.
The side ribs were very good. The best I've had in fact. They were quite dark on the outside (not charred), and hot pink/red in the inside. They did not leave the bone bare and quickly like a parboiled rib; rather, they offered some resistance to the tooth, and then tore gracefully from the bone. Again, I saw the telltale smoke ring inside. Camp 31 proves that side ribs done right need not be fatty at all.
The sausage. Good sausage, but, comparatively, a waste of space on the plate. But, good sausage. Ditto the fries.
The beans were a bit of a disappointment. DiPamo's were better, because they had chunks o' pork within, and their sauce was browner and deeper. My beans today were much like the Heinz baked beans that my 3-year-old enjoys for their mushy sweetness. In Camp 31 beans, there was also a vaguely strange oriental flavour that I could not identify. Not too good.
Another negative: Camp 31's "award winning sauce" was on the table. The two main ingredients: water and high fructose corn syrup. Huh? Who gave awards for that. Now, I must confess that it was quite tasty. But, not that great. Not worthy of bragging or any award.
On the whole: really good, uniquely authentic bbq experience.
Went there for the first time this week as a detour between Niagara Falls and Toronto (in hindsight, local highways took too long; stay w QEW and 403). Camp 31 is worth a trip and really not that far from Toronto, esp if you live in west end. Its simple to find, approx 3 km on Paris Road north of Hwy 403.
Great BBQ. Enjoyed the side ribs (meatier), back ribs, and chicken wings. Both ribs were good but I would choose side ribs as they are meatier - waitress recommended back ribs. Smoked chicken wings were very good although rib + wing combo serving size was small - 1/2 rack side ribs and 4 wings was $18.99 vs. 1/2 rack side ribs is $13.99. Pulled pork was good but a bit dry to our liking. Enjoyed the baked beans and sweet potato fries. Onion chips were okay.
Looking forward to another side trip opportunity.
I really enjoyed Camp 31 when I was there a while ago. Have to make a return trip when the bad weather breaks. I agree that Phil's (I assume similar to Dipamo's) in Toronto has better beans than Camp 31 but can't compete on the ribs (although next time I'll order the ribs with sauce on the side).
The only real negative was the chicken. I wouldn't order it again as it was just ok and certainly not worth a trip to Paris. Other than that, it was certainly worth the trip. I still have to try the pulled pork so I have to go again just for that.
Thanks for posting this. We are also huge Camp 31 fans, and for those who have only experienced them at the Ribfests, you have to go out to their restaurant to get the full experience. The quality is so much better there than at the fests.
As for what to order, usually we'll have the side ribs at the restaurant but order the pulled pork for takeout since that travels and refrigerates well (while ribs would dry out). The pulled pork really is the best value on the menu in terms of quantity for price.
We have 2 shots at Camp31 ribs this summer without making the drive.
If anyone can add to the list, please do so.
There is the 8th Annual Toronto Ribfest running June 29th to July 2nd, 2007.
And also the one in Scarborough From August 3rd to 7th, 2007.
Thanks for the comments on the Ribfest type quality Tex... I was wondering about that.. still though, a way to sample many types without driving all over the place.
You beat me to it... but here we go, I've compiled all the Ribfests in our neck of the woods so you can plan your summer weekends...
2007 Ontario Ribfest Schedule
Niagara Falls June 15-17
Timmins June 30-July 1
Markham July 6-8
Toronto (Etobicoke) June 20-July 2
Mississauga July 20-22
London Aug 2-6
St. Catharines Aug 3-6
Scarborough Aug 3-7
Brockville Aug 10-12
Guelph Aug 24-26
Burlington Aug 31-Sept 3
Oshawa Sept 7-9
For fans of Camp 31's pulled pork sandwiches, I recommend you go early since they often run out each day.
Aside from the fantastic side ribs, one of the things I liked the best the last time we went to Camp 31 was the cornbread. I know people's taste tends to differ widely on cornbread (northern vs. southern style, sweetened vs. not-so-sweet, dense vs. delicate), but for me it was perfect - moist, a bit sweet and almost crispy on the outside edges. The pulled pork was also excellent, but a bit on the sweet side for me.
The one thing that did *not* impress was the 'smoked' riblet appetizer - they were deep fried, chewy, and decidedly not full of smoky goodness.
Well, that's a good point. The majority of their awards are from things like the Burlington ribfest, or the Guelph ribfest... all those Rotary Club ribfests.
They did win a few awards in ribfests in Florida... not sure if that's much more significant than one in Burlington.
Anyhow, the place is still a gem.