About 16 Chowhounds met for a pig out at three spots Saturday afternoon:
Southern Rub BBQ
Donnely's pastries (I'm guessing at this one, as not all of us went there for coffee and cannelloni)
Chicago Pizza Kitchen
It was a good introduction to Chicago style pizza, with a Greek accent, Chicago beef sandwich,
and a sampling plate of southern smoked ribs, slow cooked brisket, pullled pork, and beans
There was good mac and cheese, and Creemore to swill it down.
The cost for this adventure was just $22, excluding bar tab and dessert. We arranged carpooling for some folks, as it was north of Steeles Ave.
The next Chowmeet will be the first Friday in December.
For details, and more pix of this meeting, go to
I'm a huge CPK fan however not ever having had a Italian beef sandwich or pizza in Chicago, I have nothing to use as a benchmark. I simply find it the best the city has to offer.
I'm also a huge St. Phillip's fan. It's a great bakery and tough to get in and out of without gorging yourself.
RUB was very unfortunate. It's not as good as it was. The smoke level was less than the "not smoky enough for me" from my last trip. The rub was non existant.
The ribs were the best part for me. They did have some smoke flavour and had a decent amount of meat. The brisket must have come from at least two different pieces as some claimed it was dry while mine was not. It didn't seem like anyone at my end of the table had dry brisket.
Also, some complained of stale cornbread while people at my end didn't have that problem. We were served last so maybe we got lucky.
By all accounts the mac and cheese has gone down hill too. When I had it, it was a nice creamy cheesy m&c. Most complained of blandness. I noticed it looked different too.
One thing I will say though, when I had gone before the pork was presauced. As in, mixed in. I like that they spooned some over the top.
They also had one of my HUGE pet pevees. If you're gonna serve bread, have some room temperature butter. I wanted butter on my corn bread but it came right out of the fridge. Not possible to spread.
All in all, as was mentioned, it was a great day. Thanks to Wahooty for setting things up and I look forward to more outtings with the Hounds.
I am from the Chicago area, so I am pretty picky about foods claiming to be "Chicago style" Nevertheless, I was pretty satisfied with Chicago Pizza Kitchen. Food was ready soon after we arrived and was hot and delicious. I would say their crust is not quite the same as the buttery crisp (Reggios) or oily and crisp (Piper's Alley) pan pizza that I enjoy from chicago and I am sure my significant other would have appreciated more thin crust pizza (which was quite good) but over all it was tasty. The Italian beef was nothing like the sandwiches I know and love. The beef was dry, although it tasted good and there was plenty of juice to sop up with the bread. It only needed some steamed sweet pepper and ketchup along with more tender beef to make it perfect imho.
I was not impressed at all with Southern RUB. The food was not hot, my cornbread was stale, the mac and cheese was tasteless. The owner seemed reluctant to give with the BBQ sauce and had it packaged in little tubs. Have some bottles on the table, for cryin' out loud, this was not to go! The BBQ itself was okay, nothing special. But I'm not an expert on this. Okra was delish, but I ordered that special, I think he had the other items holding too long.
I had a wonderful time, though, being my first outing with the group, and I'm glad I went. Kudos to the organizer!
Chicago Pizza Kitchen
2338 Major MacKenzie Dr, Maple, ON L6A3Y7, CA
Here's my take on the two places. First, let me say that both owners were fantastic. It's a little weird to call someone and say, "hey, I'm bringing a group of 20 into your restaurant, but we're only going to buy enough food for 10, and can you cut it up into little pieces so we can all share everything?" They were both amazing, and made it sound like they do this every day. Can't say enough good things about them as people.
CPK - I enjoyed. Did not blow me away, and can't compare to the best Chicago pizza, but they treated us very well and a good effort is being made there. Like Boodah, I have certain criteria that make or break Chicago pizza for me - it so happens that sausage is my dealbreaker, and theirs just didn't do it for me. Nothing obviously wrong with it, but the flavor just didn't have the oomph that I was looking for. It was a perfectly good pizza, and I do adore the owners, but I wouldn't be rushing back the next time I have a car for the weekend. If I were in the area, I'd stop in. The Italian beef was a good sandwich. Not quite right, but enough to satisfy a craving. These are both foods that I generally just resign myself to having only when I'm in Chicago, and this trip didn't change my mind about that, but should I have an emergency, CPK would get me through.
Now, the BBQ. I hate to say this, because again Nick was incredibly helpful and accommodating in giving me exactly what I asked for so that we could all sample everything, but there wasn't anything on that plate that I genuinely enjoyed. The ribs were the least disappointing, but the brisket and pulled pork were both flabby, grey, and seriously lacking in smoke. If they ever touched a rub, I sure couldn't taste it, and the sauce really didn't do anything to save it. The cornbread was also...let's just say not my style at all. Wrong texture, not enough flavor aside from sweet - more like a corn muffin, and not a particularly good one. BBQ is another food group that I generally save my cravings for trips back home or, in a pinch, my own homemade approximation, and I think from here on out I'll be sticking to that policy.
I am, however, still glad I tried both places. It was definitely an interesting afternoon, and this Midwestern/Southern girl is glad to have her curiosity satisfied. (oh, and the cannoli I had from St. Phillips was DAMN good...)
Perfect summary -- as a native Chicagoan, I feel exactly the same way about the offerings at CPK -- not bad, not great, fills a niches. And totally agree about the food at Southern Rub. But, as you said, the owners at both places are super, super nice and I would really like them to succeed.
I agree with TJ and Wahooty. I had good pizza, a first of type for me, and I would go back, especially since few other places try as hard, and it is not soggy.
But the Southern Rub BBQ was dry, lacking smoke, lacking a rub, and the sauces too sweet, and sparse. The beans and cornbread were like my mom's, (that's a plus!) but sweeter. The ribs were thin, and not succulent.
I have the impression Southern Rub BBQ is looking for a sports bar crowd, and the food is slipping as a chow joint destination.
I didn't want to say anything but since others have brought it up I might as well add my input as well about Southern R.U.B. Went for the first, and likely last, time earlier this week. I won't get into detailed specifics about the food, as they've largely been covered beautifully above but I was fairly shocked at how, well, yikes, the food was.
The owners and staff however were perhaps the nicest and most accommodating restaurateurs I’ve come across in Toronto; a city, that I feel generally has horrendous and apathetic service. So, they were a delightful breath of fresh air. They didn't know me from Adam but treated me like family, and sent me home with so many extras it was insane.
I really hope their food picks up, some semblance of a rub is seen, and they put more smoke in that food (I tasted not a lick nor could I make out one smoke ring or shade of purple/pink hue amid the sea of sad grey flabby, barkless protein) . They are wonderful people, and exhibit true southern hospitality and genuine warmth. But the food was really, well….
I encourage them to keep trying, use a rub, truly and fearlessly use their smoker, and improve their sauce (well, improve much of their food). Cuz these sweethearts deserve to succeed.
ps. I was lucky enough to have the cornbread superfresh and it was the lone standout. I loved it.
The outing sounds fun, glad ya'll enjoyed!
We weren't able to make it to the group outing but did make it to the Vaughn CPK location on our own tonight. I've eaten a LOT of pizza in Chicago (grew up near there) and these guys got the two parts of it right that really define Chicago pizza, in my opinion: the crust and the chunky tomato sauce. Spent some time talking to the owner's son, Denny, and it was really nice to hear how much effort they've put into making it not only authentic but just all-around good food. We traveled quite a long ways to eat there and will willingly make that trip again, and soon. My hat's off to you, CPK.
It was Southern Rub BBQ, and St. Phillips bakery. :)
I was pretty disappointed with the BBQ -- no smoke, bland pulled pork and brisket, too sweet sauce. Ribs were decent and I enjoyed those. But I was glad to have tried the place and for 10 bucks, it was a nice way of sampling the offerings.
Food coma has not yet lifted...