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Aug 10, 2009 08:54 AM

Windsor, ON: Smoke & Spice or Tunnel B.B.Q.?

How would you compare Smoke and Spice BBQ to Tunnel B.B.Q.? The latter restaurant is part of the nostalgia of my Windsor childhood visits to the grandparents, with its 1950s style desserts and formica decor....
Could you comment on the restaurant decor, and the overall "feel" of the experience?
And lastly, has anyone been to Tunnel B.B.Q. who could comment on the place as of recently? (Have heard sad stories of receivership, changing hands, etc....)

Going to visit the grandparents next weekend, and wondering which place we should venture to....this is really a limited dining choice, as my grandparents usually only like places that they already know....and like them on those to take them somewhere new, it must impress.....

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  1. I was at TBQ two weeks ago. My experience as always, has been positive. Sadly, the times have changed, and where there were once lineups around the corner, you can usually be seated straight away. Secondly, the once vibrant feel has disapated. The ribs and chicken remain there strongpoint, as well the daily specials. Service the last couple of visits was indifferent, resting on there laurels I beleive is what cost them there customer base, along with the US border sitaution. US customers at one point constituted over 70% of there business. The ribs remain reasonably priced, and from a tradition standpoint, your grandparents will enjoy the atmosphere.

    I am not familiar with Smoke and Spice? TBQ sauce and ribs have been my benchmark when comparing BBQ restaurants.

    1. Haven't tried Smoke & Spice, but my experience, after living in and/or visiting Windsor weekly (my mother-in-law lived there) for over 10 years, was that the food at Tunnel BBQ was "meh" at best, but the desserts - especially those brownies! - were great. Accordingly, we always picked up a half a dozen before heading back to Toronto.

      9 Replies
      1. re: FrankDrakman

        I haven't yet been to Smoke & Spice, as I am not by nature a meat lover. I've been saving my first visit for when my meat-loving friends come to town. That said, I've heard really good things about the place. I drove by a couple of times near dinner-time and it looked quite busy. If it's nostalgia you're seeking, then perhaps a return visit to TBQs is in order, but in my opinion, the place is nothing to rave about. The sauces are just so-so and I don't think their menu changes much from decade to decade. If someone asked me to enjoy barbecue with them, I'd be inclined to sample the smoked meats at S&S. By the way, I hear their smoked/grilled (not fried) wings are excellent.

        1. re: 1sweetpea

          TBQ sauce so so!!! I have yet to find one(hot) that can hold a candle to it. An all time fave. Please refer me to a comaparable substitution I am not into sweet sauces. Also, smoke and spice, where is this located?

          1. re: spine64

            You can order TBQ sauce from their website:
            We always bring back some whenever passing through Windsor.

            1. re: kitfo

              Sorry to insult the precious TBQ sauce. I'm the kind of person that makes a sauce from scratch, so it stands to figure that anything I make fresh will likely blow away a bottled, mass produced product.

              Smoke & Spice is located on Ottawa St., near Hall, where Bin 151 used to be. The address is 1515 Ottawa St.

              1. re: 1sweetpea

                Thanks, will have to give it a try when I return.

                1. re: 1sweetpea

                  Hey Stweetpea - totally off topic but not sure how to message you. You wrote back in December about a place in Windsor with some high quality beef jerky.
                  Can you provide me with the name of the place?


                  1. re: lindmar

                    Please refresh my memory if I've veered off topic. Were we talking about Chinese or other Asian styles of jerky? If so, I was probably thinking of the International Market on Wyandotte (across the street from the Leopard Lounge). Another good store for that and other southeast Asian supplies is on Dougall, just north of where Dougall merges with Ouellette. It's south of the plazas (Zehrs and Food Basics), right by where Hy's Seafood used to be. This place has some really great fresh and frozen stuff too.

                    1. re: 1sweetpea


                      You said "I live in Windsor right now and my go-to Vietnamese stores all carry at least a few different types. Some are very high quality."

                      Thanks for all your advice thus far.

                      1. re: lindmar

                        If you want to try something really different, try the spicy dried squid. It's only mildy spicy and more sweet and salty than anything. I had it grilled streetside in Hanoi. It's very chewy but kind of addictive, dipped in sriracha or any garlicky chile sauce. Heating up on the grill makes it more pliable, but I've tasted it right out of the bag and it's not bad, if you like the taste of squid/cuttlefish. If you want to talk further on this topic, let's move to your thread on Windsor and jerky. :-)

        2. I had the unique opportunity to dine at Tunnel BBQ every day for three months this year for lunch. Service was warm and welcoming, professional and efficient, and the place is wonderfully old-school. There's some pride that goes into the food preparation... and I feel like they haven't changed the menu in decades. That may be a good thing in your grandparents' book.

          1. A couple of caveats:
            I grew up across the border and Tunnel BBQ was/is legendary. I have not visited there in years (more than 20) and understand that the quality has gone downhill over the years.
            However, while visiting Windsor last week we had dinner at Smoke & Spice. I can certainly talk about that experience.

            First off you can smell the smoke for blocks. I can tell you that's what drew us in. The restaurant smells are amazing. I only wish the food was half as good as the aromas promised.

            The service was great. Friendly and knowledgeable wait staff. They were all very attentive and warm.

            The portions were huge. I believe that when you order a meal you also receive a choice of 2 sides. The sides were also huge. Oddly, they were out of greens that night. Sides ran the gamut between salad, fries, sauteed veggies, beans and mac & cheese.

            Here's the bad news....

            We ordered a platter which was quite reasonably priced. I believe it was $19.99. We received a half rack of ribs and pulled pork.

            The ribs, to their credit were fall off the bone tender. The taste..... well.... there wasn't much flavour and that's were the problem lies. The ribs and pulled pork (served dry) were pretty tasteless. Yes, you could smother it with sauce that sat at the table but, for me, that's like ordering steak (well done) and ketchup! A waste of time. I admit that the sauces were tasty but the meat itself was dry and you needed the sauce to add moisture.

            The pulled pork was also tasteless and dry. Same criticism as the ribs.

            1. Thanks to everyone who posted such thoughtful responses. It's nice to generate such hearty discussion over an old favorite vs. a newbie in the Wndsor restaurant scene.
              Eribgood, I appreciate your comments..reminds me of an Italian saying, Tutto fumo e niente arrosto" all smoke and no roast....I'm wondering Smoke & Spice bastes their meat with a vinaigre sauce, or a sweeter sauce...and what kind of dry rub....
              For culinary curiosity's sake I think we will go to Smoke and Spice (as well as to satisfy my craving for homemade mac and cheese.) Will report back!
              PS- Now, my grandmother seems to have quarrantined herself as a result of H1N1 paranoia, so it'll be my immediate family--thanks for the nostalgic TBQ posts!