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Ribfests- opinions?

My SO and I are huge rib fans. However we have not been to any ribfests in the GTA due to the lack of car. But now we have a car, we would like to know which ones you think are the best so far and which vendor?!


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  1. It's a fun time out, I go more for the social aspect than the actual quality of the ribs. Ribs are decent, but nothing that is incredible. Camp 31 tends to get the most kudos, depending on the year, others have outdone them. Still they are probably the most consistent of the stands.

    Etobicoke is probably the most convenient (or rather least of all evils) for downtowners. If you go to more than one, you'll see most of the same vendors making the rounds. You will also grossly overpay for things like corn on the cob and drinks.

    The biggest one is generally Burlington, which is along the waterfront. Much better atmosphere than Etobicoke, which I find gets dusty at times.

    1. I think Etobicoke is best, I didn't know Burlington is bigger... Biggest one I've been to is Etobicoke which is at least double the size of Mississauga and the other ones I've been to

      My favorite vendor is Carolina Rib King.

      7 Replies
      1. re: duckdown

        I've only been to the Etobicoke Ribfest and my favourite is Carolina Rib King too!

        1. re: always_eating

          right on! good choice :)

          they never seem to get mentioned on here, probably because they only come around for all the ribfests, but they are my favorites

        2. re: duckdown

          Do any of these ribfests have brisket, chicken, or beef ribs?

            1. re: c_snapper

              Thanks - can anyone point me to a schedule of local GTA ribfests?

            2. re: Teffub

              Hi, only brisket I saw last year was at the Burlington one, but it was chopped beef not sliced and tasted like it was from a gas cooker, not smokey at all. Was a team from Texas, forgot the name...I have not seen brisket at any other ribfest, I go to Mississauga, Burlington and Etobicoke...I remember Carolina Rib King...liked their ribs, sauce had a molasses element to it...unless I am confusing with another...usually get pulled pork from Gator for 9-10 bucks for a pound of it...they have good sauce, wife likes them...their ribs were just average though.

            3. re: duckdown

              Burlington is Canada's biggest ribfest and apparently has been since its inception, so 15 years now. Growing up there, the tagline gets pounded into your mind. See: http://www.canadaslargestribfest.com

            4. Etobicoke is fun b/c there's lots of people - but the line ups are horrendous. I had a really good time at the one in Guelph

              1. If you have a car, Scarborough isn't bad -- ample parking etc. I used to say Markham was the best but last year they began charging admission (supposedly to pay for the concert, even if you weren't there for that) so I no longer go there. My personal favorite is Oshawa, as there's lots of parking and if you use the back lot behind the carnival rides rather than the main lot out front, you can avoid having to "run the gauntlet" of pushy charities and snake oil salesmen as you enter and leave like you have to do at most fests.

                2 Replies
                1. re: TexSquared

                  My 2 faves are etobicoke and burlington.
                  Etobicoke (@ Centenial Park) falls on july 1st long-weekend. Usually runs friday-monday. The weather is perfect at this time and the food delicious. All the vendors are pretty similar. Your best bet is to try a few! Gators, Uncle Sam's and Camp 31 are some of my faves. This ribfest is a good for families because it has other stuff to do beyond eat ribs - fireworks for Canada day, bands on stage, and rides/games for the kiddies.

                  Burlington usually falls on labour day weekend. Its a nice one because its by the water. I recall hearing some good music at this one.

                  Warning: Parking at both is abit of a pain. Be prepared to wait in lines, both in the parking lot and at the vendors.

                  1. re: pancake

                    I find if you go later at night the lines are not as bad. You'll always encounter them, but they are usually worse in the early evening.

                  1. re: SNACKeR

                    According to their Website, there will not be a Markham Ribfest in 2010.

                    1. re: Hooter1

                      My complaints about the Markham fest are in this post:


                      It used to be my favorite (Pickering fest wasn't around yet) but when they started charging $10 admission and forced you past the pushy snake-oil salesmen that was it for me.

                  2. My favourite is and has always been Oshawa. There is never a better atmosphere for ribs. It is a very "down home" style event, and Oshawa really lends itself to that. The bands are good (honky-tonk) the rib variety is good, and the extra vendors are good too.

                    I've been to Burlington (really large, noisy, crowded, hot) and Pickering (too few vendors) so Oshawa wins in my books.

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: Dflip

                        There is also a new on that will be starting up in June at the beaches in Toronto apparently as well. As soon as I get more information I will put it up (June 23 or there abouts)

                    1. I've posted this before and will again. If you can go on opening day in the afternoon do it, the quality of the food drops dramatically after that. (somewhat specific to Etobicoke, but pretty sure can encompass all)
                      I've done this a few years in a row, and gone back on later days through the weekend, and the difference is night and day. In fact if I can't make it on opening day I won't be going at all given lines and precipitous drop in quality. Of course if you want some ribs and aren't all that particular fill your boots. Sometimes any Rib will do, as my Sat/Sun trips can attest to.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: damonster

                        you ,may be right... i seem to remember my best experiences are on opening day as well

                      2. We have only been to the RibFest at Centennial Park in Etobicoke. Every year for the past 6 years, we've been trying EVERY ribber's wares. We haven't seen the quality vary a lot by day, but it definitely varies by vendor and each year, the individual vendor's quality seems to vary.

                        It may depend on when you get there, too. We try to get there before noon each day, so the lines aren't bad. The later you go, the longer you wait. Don't trust the lineups, though. They are not always for the best ribs! We see some wagons have more of a lineup than others, so we usually choose the shortest. If you have to have one particular product, go with a small group. One or two persons wait in line, the others go and get the beer for them, which makes waiting tolerable!

                        Some (but by no means all) of our faves: Bad Wolf, Camp 31, Bibb's, Uncle Sam's.

                        1. I have to concur. I went to Pickering and Scarborough this year, and was disappointed in both. Pickering was still selling ribs for $20 for a full rack. The line-ups were insane when I went at about 8pm on the Saturday. I think I got my ribs from Silver Bullet (can't remember for sure), and they were soggy and burnt.

                          I had Bad Wolfe BBQ in Scarborough and my 1/3 rack at 11:00 am was really good. But when I went back to get a full rack for takeout, they had just (and I mean just) put up the price from $20 to $22. The rack I brought home was overcooked and dry, plus not anywhere near as meaty as the 1/3 rack from a couple of hours earlier.

                          I'll be interested to hear how things go in Burlington. I know they have a lot more ribbers, so maybe the competition will be bumped up a notch or two.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: CeeQueue

                            I have to agree about the opening day thing. I've been to lots of ribfests. Last year I went to Scarborough on opening day about 2:00pm and they were the best I've ever had a ribfest.

                            After that time, I noticed that quality goes downhill but I still really love the ribs.

                            1. re: C mac

                              I went to the Etobicoke ribfest today around 1:30pm and had really good ribs and pulled pork from Bibb's - better than I remembered them in the past. Perhaps opening day really is the best time. Plus the longest lineup at any of the booths was was 2 or 3 people long - most had no lineup at all.

                              1. re: Ted Richards

                                We tried going on Canada Day and didn't survive the lineup to find parking (this was around 3pm). Cars were climbing all over each other on to the grass since all the lots were full. We gave up and went to Centre St Deli instead. Our second attempt today was much more successful, we arrived around 5pm, plenty of parking and next to no line ups at all. We got ribs from 4 spots: Blazin', Horn Dawgs, Pistol Pete and Kentucky Smokehouse. Our favourites in order were Kentucky, Blazin, Horn Dawgs and Pistol Pete. Nice smoke and carmelization with the ribs from Kentucky & Blazin. Both meats were tender and moist, very tasty. The ones from Horn Dawgs were good but the sauce was a tad sweeter than I normally like (I prefer smokey) and the ones from Pistol were weak, meat was tough, dry and sauce too sweet. It's too bad that Carolina Rib King isn't at Centennial, I would love it if they came back.

                                Centre St Deli
                                647 Centre, Mount Albert, ON L0G, CA

                                1. re: fickle

                                  You are right! Carolina Rib King were the best

                                  1. re: duckdown

                                    Based on our disapointing experience from last year..........under cooked chicken, ribs, terrible $5 fries, and $5 "cow" corn, my wife and I decided to pass on this one, even though we are a five minute walk away. Instead, we fired up our charcoal BBQ, added some birch bark and smoked our own ribs and "newfie" weiners.............nothing like it!! BTW No-Frills have ribs on special this week. Poor old pork farmers.................must be costing them $10 to make $5............my sympathies go out to all of them.

                                    1. re: NewtonSquare

                                      Birch Bark? I trust you used it instead of lighter fluid and not a flavouring agent. Thanks for the NF tip on ribs...need a few racks of BB ribs...

                                      1. re: ebay3392

                                        OK, I'll try try answer both questions here:

                                        A) The birch bark is both the starter and flavour agent in our BBQ's. Look for the really old thick stuff that looks like cardboard. Throw a few pieces on to start and if you really like smoke, soak a few squares beforehand and toss them in as you go along. Really beats any other smoke stuff I have found. If you are in love with calf liver like our neighbour's dog, our cat and I am, be sure to do some of that too.

                                        B) Newfie weiners.............that's those cocktail weiners in the can, right along side that canned "corn on the cob" in any Newfoundland store. We use something a little different. President's Choice Cocktail Smokies also from N/F. We buy a few and put them in the freezer.

                                        I'm not the "newfie" my wife is and I love going there. Feel more at home there than when I go home (Edmonton). If you have never been, make it a priority. Anything else you need ......just ask.

                                      2. re: NewtonSquare

                                        What are "Newfie" weiners? Sound good already. My east coast (NS) friend is in town and I'm sure I'll be getting a chunk of wax balogna to fry up for her. She (and I of course) might appreciate some "Newfie" weiners.

                                        1. re: NewtonSquare

                                          The government must be subsidizing the pork farmers..I can't believe how cheap it is!

                                          1. re: Wiley

                                            Not sure what your definition of cheap is, but $22.00 for a rack of side ribs is a little pricey to me. You can get a rib dinner, complete with sides, for less at many restaurants.

                              2. I've attended a few of the Ribfests... Burlington, Etobicoke, Guelph, Toronto. Would have to say Burlington is the best. It's held on Labour Day weekend. It's the largest with more than 16 ribbers serving everything from pork ribs, beef ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, etc. It also has live entertainment, typically blues and light jazz. Friday and Saturday evenings can get really crowded with line-ups of 30-45 minutes not uncommon. Best time to go is opening day on Thursday or other days around 2-3:30 before the dinner crowds set in.

                                By the way, I think that there is a Ribfest in Waterdown this weekend though I 've never been.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cynalan

                                  Just hit the Mississauga Ribfest..had two 1/3 racks for $9.00 each. First was Bone Daddys with a nice spicier sauce..ribs were very large untrimmed with cartilage and membrane. I could almost bet on it that they wrap them due to their steamed braised fall of the bone style. Kept looking in teams's Southern Pride cookers for foil but did not see any...I guess most like that way, was good but I prefer competition style where the meat comes clean off the bone but still firmer. Second was Uncle Sams, from Albuquerque...they asked if I wanted Beef or Pork 1/3 rack...I should have chosen beef..pretty pedestrian and very small portion, almost baby back size without the bend. Sauce was pretty KC typical style....Curious if anyone has tried their beef ribs as they would not go with the sweet sauce at all..having a smoker myself, I have done beef ribs that turned out very good and not so good as they have to be cooked a lot longer than pork.