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Nov 30, 2010 02:38 AM

Russ' BBQ Bar and Grill - If you like frozen food then this place is for you!

Well my family and I went to watch Tangled at the Eglinton Towne Centre at Lebovic and Eglinton. Excellent film. We hadn't eaten lunch yet so we looked around and saw: a Firken, East Side Marios, Mr. Greek Express, Imperial Buffet, Tim Horton's, Wendy's, and a new place called Russ' BBQ Bar and Grill (it replaced the Casey's that was there for years). We decided to try the new kid Russ' and this is how we ruined a perfectly great outing. First of all the service at this resto was great so no complaints there. Our waitress was friendly, efficient and professional. The food on the other hand was overpriced frozen food. I mean they weren't even trying to make it look like it was fresh. It would have made Casey's food look like North 44. I ordered fish and chips and got an oversized triangular fish stick reminiscent of Highliner. Our fries and calamari tasted like McCains and even my daughter who LOVES calamari took only 2 bites of the stuff and didn't want any more. My daughter had the pizza from the kid's menu and you can tell this was from frozen from the look and the taste... however kids are funny and she said she liked it because it reminded her of the pizza from daycare. My wife ordered ribs, which is supposedly their specialty. She had to use a knife to cut through the meat. She also ordered gravy for her fries and she said that it tasted like they just added water to some powdery substance. Horrible, horrible meal. Considering what they charged us for the food, the owners need to taste what they're serving. I swear I thought I heard the ding of a microwave coming from the kitchen. If you like the taste of frozen food and want someone else to deep fry it for you then go to Russ'. East Side Marios, Mr. Greek Express, Firken, and all the other restos would have been a far superior choice over this place. BTW what really irked me afterwards was that I had forgotten Jetson's burger joint was just in the plaza across from us =(.

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  1. A group of friends & I were @ Russ's Bar & Grill this past weekend and had a great experience with both the food & the service. Our server was terrific--friendly, efficient and didn't miss a beat. Prices were reasonable for us--we were serious foodies that dine from Quince to Annona to Duckworth's Fish & Chips.

    Here's what we ordered:

    Spinach Dip for Sharing: Naan bread was warm when the platter arrived. Dip had plenty of melted cheese but there were chunks of spinach that were not properly separated and were left in chunks ---overall, it was a beautiful appetizer. $ 9.99

    Chicken Strippers which were battered, arrived juicy and moist and were definitely not frozen. It was the 1st time that we ever had chicken fingers in this pubby style restaurant that wasn't frozen. Sweet Potato Fries were frozen but this is not a uncommon thing. $12.99

    Steak Sandwich--6 oz AAA steak; it was alright but nothing outstanding. Garlic bread that the steak rested on was flat with a thin layer of melted shredded cheese and onion straws. Baked potato was a a baked potato--no surprises or dissapointments. $14.99

    The Big Russ--1lb of ground beef was massive and topped with bacon, and the usual topping. It was juicy and hot when it arrived to our table.

    Ordered the Baked Apple which took 8-10 mins to bake. It arrived bubbling to our table ; layers of thinly sliced apples layered like scalloped potatoes sprinkled with plenty of rolled oats, spices ----we found it extrememly reasonable for $5.99

    Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by the addition of an independant restaurant such as Russ's Bar & Grill over lacklustre franchises like Firkins, East Side Marios, and especially Caseys which was beyond horrible but the general masses appreciate. Mr.Greek Express wasn't bad --too bad the tables are not cleaned & santized more often; it reminds me of Dangerous Dan's from Broadview/Queen. Someone else's crumbs left behind is a slight turn off for us.

    Dangerous Dan's
    714 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M1H2, CA

    5 Replies
    1. re: fooddiva7

      Wow, one reviewer is calling it "McSysco" (everything came frozen off a Sysco truck) another is calling it a great independent who makes everything from scratch.... who to believe?

      I've never been to this place so I'm not questioning either of you, I just found it strange to see absolutely no consensus at all. It was like you two were at different restaurants!

      No problem, Five Guys is opening in that neighborhood soon :-)

      1. re: TexSquared

        ha ha--- perhaps we lucked out that evening in the menu items that my group chose; although I'm also sure that not everythign was made fresh--like the sweet potato fries were definitely frozen but that's not uncommon.

        Coolio---what is Five Guys?

        1. re: fooddiva7

          Five Guys is a burger chain from the states, It was rated the best burger in America at some point or another, and now they are coming up to Canada, theres 3 locations so far but one is opening up in the Warden and Eglinton area, which is a plus. All they do is Burgers and fries, but they do them very well.

      2. re: fooddiva7

        Maybe it was that with the items you ordered you did luck out. I just know that if you're going to use BBQ as part of your business name then you have to prove that you can do BBQ. I'm just saying that the ribs seemed to be the main item on their menu and it was tough... not a good sign. My battered fish looked and tasted like it came from the frozen food section of the supermarket (it was actually triangular in shape ala Highliner). As well if you can't do something simple like gravy then get the kinks out before officially opening.

        1. re: scarberian

          I agree. If you use "BBQ" in your name, to me that suggests pulled pork, ribs, brisket, etc, all smoked on-site. "BBQ" is *NOT* grilling.

          As for your description of the battered fish, sounds to me this is a McSysco; think of all the independent "bar and grill" places out there that are serving frozen Sysco food. Waste of my time and money -- I might as well go to Costco or M&M Meat Shops, buy the same items, and reheat it myself for 1/4 the price...

          Just because a place is an independent doesn't mean it's automatically better than the chains. Not if the Sysco freezer truck makes regular deliveries there.... then they just belong to the Sysco chain....

      3. Okay, here's what I know.

        They are, in fact, independently owned. Now that they're unchained, they're open to suggestions from their clients. Case in point: That fish and chips you had, Scarberian, wasn't on the original menu. A friend of mine dined there with her 11 year old boy. He wanted fish and chips. When he discovered there were none, the bold young boy asked for the manager. He explained that kids like fish & chips. Poof, it was added to the menu and has remained since.

        If you didn't like what they served you scarberian, tell them how they can improve it. I suggested their appetizer, which is a spin on a flauta they call a flute, would benefit from having no cheese. First, flautas don't have cheese and, second, all the cheese does is bury the taste of the grilled chicken and dipping sauce. We'll see where that goes.

        I had the same steak sandwich as fooddiva. For roadhouse fare I found it a pretty darn tasty combination. I would order it again.

        The service, as stated, was friendly and efficient. She was knowledgable about both the menu and their business. The ambition of Russ' is to be high-end roadhouse dining. I welcome that. God knows I feel trapped in my kitchen these days since I can outcook any of the Kelsey's, Jestuns, etc in the neighbourhood.

        I'll go again, voice my suggestions, and generally work with them to develop into a restaurant the neighbourhood wants. Hey, it's only neighbourly. I think it's great that one independent place has been moved into what is otherwise chained up. We should be encouraging this and not taking our business across the street to yet another American owned chain,

        As for the McSysco's comments, this isn't a bistro serving two turns of 30 diners a night. This is a large place. Freezing is a necessity. As one who cooks from frozen at home I can tell you, you can trick the flavour back into it. I don't think it fair and I don't see anyone saying they saw a Sysco reefer, which are all clearly branded on he box of the truck, parked outside.

        28 Replies
        1. re: Googs

          The only problem I see with your suggestion Googs, which is a decent suggestion and I can see your point, is that we are the customers and we shouldn't be the guinea pig for their dishes and be paying for their mistakes. If they are going to specialize in ribs and bbq which their menu suggests then ribs shouldn't be tough where you need a knife to cut it. We can make suggestions as the customer, but the business should've had many of the wrinkles ironed out of their menu by the time they officially opened. I wish any independent all the best and I do root for them, but make sure you're ready to open. For what we paid, the only saving grace was the service which as I stated before was great.

          1. re: scarberian

            I drove by this place and didnt see BBQ anywhere on the sign. Im pretty sure it just said Russ' Bar and Grill, could you have maybe mistook the emphasis on BBQ, because this doesnt sound like a typical BBQ place.

            1. re: jmarcroyal

              You're correct jmarcroyal. It's just Russ' Bar & Grill, no bbq in the name. I only noted "griled" on their menu, not bbq, though I suspect scarberian did.

              scarberian I, as always, respect your opinion. You've uncovered some of the gems in the east end. While we shouldn't be guinea pigs, it's a daunting task they've taken on. A large room in the midst of a hectic shopping area that must please all tastes. For the life of me I can't recall any indie opening of this nature in this area. If it takes root, it'll bode well for others. I'll be doing my bit to encourage that direction. Unless they really, really disappoint me. Then you can be sure you'll be seeing my boot sailing through the air.

              1. re: jmarcroyal

                Jmarcroyal i stand corrected. You're right checking back it doesnt say bbq but i believe i saw a sign they had up probably advertising bbq ribs and i got confused. My bad. Still their menu had a good section on ribs and my point was that their ribs were too tough. My whole point was the food we got that day seemed like frozen food you'd get at any grocery store. For what we paid we expected something better. I wish them well knowing now that theyre an independent but they do need to do more than tweak their menu.

                1. re: scarberian

                  Russ's Bar and Grill is now closed. Look for some remodeling over the next little while.

                  1. re: bigheid

                    wow, talk about a failure! Sorry to hear for the owner but come on, what do you expect, thats a pretty big place for a new business, it had no publicity, no specialty, no rave reviews. Well, on to the next one I guess...

                    the Five Guys would do better in that spot then the one its currently in, I just hope they dont put some crap like a Boston Pizza or some other overly common place.

                    Man, imagine if an Olive Garden came in that location...(Id love to see them force the failure of East Side Marios...)

                    I bet it becomes a Buffalo Wild Wing, but Id really like it if they put something more useful in that location. How about they put in a Chipotle there...

                    1. re: jmarcroyal

                      Pretty sure it is going back to being a Casey's franchise.

                      1. re: bigheid

                        Not doubting you, but how do you know?

                          1. re: bigheid

                            I liked all those funny photos on the wall. I hope they're back too.

                      2. re: jmarcroyal

                        I doubt we'll ever see Olive Garden come back to Canada. How often have you seen an American chain that failed here, make a comeback? Krispy Kreme is dead in the water, Sam's Club is gone, Fuddrucker's is gone, Wolfgang Puck is gone..... They get 1 chance here. That's why I do not want to see Five Guys or Buffalo Wild Wings fail.

                        As for that location in Scarborough, don't be surprised if it becomes a Crabby Joe's... that chain has been expanding very fast lately, if you've never been to one it's basically Jack Astor's crammed into a Boston Pizza sized space. There's a new one being built near my house, north side of Kingston east of Whites in Pickering (next to the Wendy's).

                        1. re: TexSquared

                          There are still Krispy Kreme stores in Canada and they are currently researching additional locations here for a re-launch.

                          1. re: jamesm

                            I hope you're right. Just that, since the mass closure they've had just one new opening, and that's the one downtown that doesn't make the donuts on-site (simply brings them in from Mississauga). We'll probably never see one in Scarborough/east GTA again after the Scarborough Town Centre location failed so badly: it was the one to last the shortest (the last to open and the first to close under the expansion).

                            1. re: TexSquared

                              The renovation should not be that long as it will be largely cosmetic in nature. Again look for Casey's to return to that site

                              1. re: bigheid

                                I, for one, am bummed. I really had hoped for one indie in the sea of chains. At least with an independent there's flexibility. I hope Russ' does return. Being in that location right now is smart. Selling out of it is just plain crazy. You guys can hope for all of the chains you want. I want an owner that listens to his patrons.

                                1. re: Googs

                                  If you don't have your house in order (either service issues, or food quality issues; this place excelled in the former but failed in the latter) you have no business opening. Because you will get eaten alive by the competition who do have their collective houses in order. Poor food that came out of the freezer? Sounds like the kind of places you see on Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares....

                                  You may disagree, but a well run chain trumps a poorly run independent. I don't give business to an independent just because they're independent, which seems to be your way. I give my business to restaurants that serve me food I want, prepared properly, at a price I'm willing to pay, and with quality of service consistent with that price, and with no "attitude". Chain or independent, if they fail on any of those I won't go there.

                            2. re: jamesm

                              There's a Krispy Kreme on Harbord and Bathurst close to Chabichou Patisserie. Tiny spot, but maybe due it's size it can survive. I took my daughter to get her hair "did" in the area and got a glaze and creme filled for old times sake. =9

                              As for the Russ', sadly I'm not surprised it closed, BUT I do hope an indie does open (NO BUFFET PLZ!!! No chains) that can make at least half of their menu items from scratch. A nice southern BBQ joint or steak house or seafood joint would be nice or all of the above.

                              1. re: scarberian

                                I doubt a buffet will open there -- remember, there's already an Imperial close to the movie theatre and a Tucker's on Warden north of Eglinton. I guess an Indian buffet could survive there since that would be different from the other 2.

                                Southern BBQ... yeah, Camp 31 would be amazing but I don't think they have any plans of moving into Toronto.

                                1. re: TexSquared

                                  Indian Buffet wouldnt fit on that scale, I mean, there are some around the city but none that would fit in that area. Whatever goes there has to have franchise appeal, even if its a new start-up. You could put 2 smaller places in that location and that could work too. Chipotle on one side, Burger Priest Expansion on the other?!

                                  1. re: jmarcroyal

                                    I was in the area today and did a short tour.

                                    Saw a lot of vacant units there compared to similar developments elsewhere in the GTA (like in Durham Region where I live). It seems like a classic example of over-supply -- the developers built way more retail space than they had tenants for, and/or the area just isn't affluent enough to support that much retail and dining. I don't see luxury condos and big houses near there, just a lot of 1950's homes and low-rent apartments....

                                    So to get back on topic... the former Nickels two or three doors down from Russ' looks like it had been an independent that went belly-up, and then I made a point of walking up to Russ' and I didn't see any "renovating" going on inside. Seems that East Side Mario's and Mr Greek are the only original casual dining tenants on that block to survive since they opened the complex. Wouldn't surprise me if Russ' stays vacant for awhile. It's a dead duck location that couldn't complete against Mario on one side and Imperial Buffet across the huge parking lot.

                                    The entire outbuilding that will eventually house Five Guys is vacant -- both the former Payless unit, and the former EFADS unit next to it. Maybe 5G will take over the whole building and it'll be a really big location... that would be at least 3 times bigger than the one I visited in metro Detroit.

                                    1. re: TexSquared

                                      I think what happened was that mall used to be full. Then the redevelopment happened across Eglington; the Walmart moved to the new location (it used to be where Lowes is).

                                      Nickels was a Celine Dionne small chain of restaurants; and it closed a few years back (and it looks like all their Ontario locations have gone).

                                      1. re: Spelunk

                                        The Nickels in Ajax (across Kingston Rd. from the Costco) has been vacant ever since the chain pulled out of Ontario, while the nearby chain places (Applebee's, Boston Pizza, etc) are doing fine.

                                        1. re: Spelunk

                                          Basically you hit the nail on the head Spelunk. That plaza was busy at one point, but then all that retail space on the north side of Eglinton went up and traffic in the Lebovic plaza diminished. Only a few restos managed to hang on like the East Side, Imperial, Timmies, Wendys, Greek Jr. and Firkin. I ate at the Nickels at that location and it wasn't very good. TexSquared's right about the number of vacancies there and it doesn't look good for a plaza with that many vacancies. I wish they would've modeled that plaza like the outdoor plazas in the states similar to the Don Mills Centre. More pedestrian friendly with a village like atmosphere. You can also stick in a Blue C sushi for your fast food sushi fix.

                                          1. re: scarberian

                                            Please tell me you don't eat at Imperial Buffet in Eglinton Town Centre. I'd rather eat in a toilet.

                                            Imperial Buffet
                                            24 Lebovic Ave, Toronto, ON M1L4V9, CA

                                            1. re: Googs

                                              I went there once (someone else took us there) when they first opened. It was horrible, we'd have rather been to Mandarin or Tucker's (yes, that bad).

                                              Go figure the one in Ajax is much better. Cleaner restaurant with better food.

                                              1. re: Googs

                                                Are you asking me about Imperial Googs? I don't really do buffet unless invited by close friends and family. Now Star Walk on Silver Star Blvd. in Scarborough has been the only Chinese buffet I've been to that I found was pretty good for what it is. I've been to Imperial (this location) for my aunt's 70th and it wasn't bad, bad, but typically pedestrian and the food was bland. I was just glad my aunt had a good time.

                                                Star Walk
                                                648 Silver Star Blvd, Scarborough, ON M1V5N1, CA

                                                1. re: scarberian

                                                  Yessir. I'm asking about Imperial and suggesting don't do it. Especially not with friends and family. Just don't.

                                                  1. re: Googs

                                                    Hey it's hard to say no to one of my few favourite aunts who's turning 70 (and who has got a wicked "death stare" if you slight her). I mostly went for the reunion part. As I said, personally I didn't the food, but I'm not going to let that spoil the fun seeing family ;¬).

                  2. Folks, we've removed a lot of discussion about the mall situation in this area. Please keep the discussion about currently available chow -- speculation about what would or wouldn't do well in an area is not on topic for the boards.