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Mar 13, 2013 05:04 AM

Is Smoke House BBQ Deadpool?

There was social media grumbling yesterday that Smoke BBQ House on Harbord had closed down. Their official Twitter Account ( ) says they are closed but looking for a new space and a new chef... but on BlogTO there are conflicting reports ( ) One person said the tables have been removed but someone else says that they called and someone answered and said they had a water leak but will be open again today as usual.

So I am not sure if they are closed, or maybe a fight between partners or that it was just a hack of their twitter account or maybe even an ill conceived marketing stunt... but if someone is around Harbord tonight let us know what you see?

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  1. Didn't this place just open in November?

    1 Reply
    1. re: mnajji

      Opened Dec 11 according to their Twitter page - so it lasted exactly 3 months.

    2. Well if someone hacked their Twitter they are responding to peoples comments about their closing. I'd say they're caput. I guess running a restaurant is about more than marketing, huh?

      3 Replies
        1. re: justsayn

          I just didn't like this place on principle. To take a 3 day smoking course and call yourself a master? Ugh, and media ate it up!!! I've Been doing it my whole life and wouldn't dare to presume to be a master!

          1. re: LexiFirefly

            Ya, that whole Master Smoker or whatever title he was using was a huge, huge red flag.

            Maybe they're retooling and getting rid of the stupid stuff (as mentioned above) and trying to do things right.

            Removing all the tables and chairs for a water leak?? Doubt it.


      1. Wow, anyone know the record for shortest restaurant opening ever?

        Based on reviews here/BlogTO/etc I didn't think the place would last that long but I was guessing they would go till at least the summer...

        Funny comment LexiFirefly about the "marketing" :)

        1. 90+ days since opening? Probably couldn't cover their accounts payable.

            1. re: MissBingBing

              Wow. I wonder what happened between the owners in such a short period of time for what I can only see as animosity between them.

              1. re: LexiFirefly

                When you get bad reviews that were pretty evenly split between front and back of house it probabley caused tension each blaming the other for the problems.. The young guy even tweeted about someone stealing his Burbury Scarf on Saturday... I am thinking he found out it was the chef and that was the last straw as they closed down right after that...

                1. re: pourboi

                  That seems a pretty childish way to work. When you own a restaurant you should strive to get rid of the usual FOH vs BOH mentality and work together. I've worked in a few restos in my time and those with that animosity were hellish work environments.

                  1. re: LexiFirefly

                    The FOH was a kid who works at an Ad Agency downtown and did not quit he day job to start the restaurant... The chef is an middle age man from Windsor with a lifetime of BOH restaurant experience.. I do not know if they had a prior relationship but I doubt many seasoned chefs would put up with taking instructions from some "punk kid with no experience" as I have head many a chef say...

              2. re: MissBingBing

                Maybe he should concentrate on the basics before worrying about more menu items.


                1. re: MissBingBing

                  LOL I was right "Partner Fight"!

                  "Smoke BBQ House changes ownership; rebrands as Smoke Bourbon Bar-B-Q House"..

                  I like how they throw "Boubon" in the name BUT the "bar" itself is only about 5 feet long and they don't have room for more than a dozen bottles of booze in total... Will be interesting to see how many types of Bourbon they carry? Electric Mud & AAA Bar claim to have between 25-30 bottles of just Boubon (not including ryes and irish and scotch whiskys)...

                  1. re: pourboi

                    Perhaps Bourbon refers to their sauce as opposed to their bar.

                    In any case, it's such a slight name changed I wonder why they even bothered changing the name. It's essentially the same name as the original.

                    1. re: magic

                      Probably because the partner who left most likey owned the name... and the rights to the logo.. as he was a marketing guy...

                      1. re: pourboi

                        I would probably just choose an entirely different name.

                        It's not like that name has years of trust associated with it. And if the other partner reopens with the original name it could be confusing to diners.

                        But what do I know.

                        1. re: pourboi

                          It is kind of funny how Barque and this place have some similarities,as in one of the partners was also in marketing,and he also to a course,but to become a bbq competition judge.

                          1. re: Spanglo

                            Marketing people tend to believe the hype they sell to clients. Makes them think they can be sucessful themselves in something as easy as "selling food"... then stuff like this happens..

                            For someone in the marketing business Smokes website sucked, there was not a single post or even a logo on their facebook page and their tweets were more like inside jokes many times..

                            I would love to be his next marketing client and say "if you could not get it right for yourself, why should I hire you?"

                            I respect Barque in that they have lasted, put out a consistient product and do not try to hype it too much... it's just BBQ

                        2. re: magic

                          The original co-owner wanted to keep the previous name according to the Postcity and Toronto Life stories.

                          I agree, they should go for a total name change though. Try to minimize any association with what they were doing before hand....

                          1. re: ylsf

                            I doubt the other guy will open a new place, sounds like he just got the tables and benches... not a lot to start a new restaurant on.. If he is lucky he got the money he put in back but most times that does not happen..

                            It is not like he got "Rave" reviews and will have chefs and investors lining up to work with him now... he will now have the reputation of the guy who could not make it work after only 90 days.. not someone I would invest in..

                            1. re: pourboi

                              To clarify, I meant, the existing owner of Smokehouse "Bourbon" should have picked a new name completely.

                              At least it sounds like there will be chairs there now vs. stools :)

                          2. re: magic

                            Speaking of that name, why didn't he just call it Memphis Smoke Pit Bourbon BBQ Hickory Pig House?!?!


                            1. re: Davwud

                              no, no call it: ELECTRIC Memphis Smoke Pit Bourbon BBQ Hickory Pig House.. then you will have lineups down the block...

                                1. re: Davwud

                                  I don't understand people that open up BBQ places in Toronto. They all try, put these names on them that sound very authentic but the food never taste like authentic BBQ. You can give it whatever name you want, and have someone with the title "master smoker" or whatever all you want. At the end of the day, if the product doesn't taste like what every Torontonian is hoping for (a real BBQ place), they aint coming back. You can even get away with sub standord service if the food is awsome.

                                  I can't understand for the life of me why a place like camp 31 doesn't open up a location in the GTA. Place in my opinion would be a gold mine, but I know nothing about the cost of runninng any type of food establishment.

                                  1. re: C mac

                                    Well first of all, in regard to Camp 31. While it's been a long time since I talked to them, it, at the time, would be very easy to say their priorities aren't here. That was over 10 years ago though.

                                    As for real BBQ there are a few problems with that here. First of all, which style?? I've mentioned this before but for those who don't know, BBQ love is not transferable. If you grew up in a BBQ region, any Q, no matter how good, from another region will rate anywhere from "Okay" to "I wouldn't feed this to my dog." So having a little of this, a little of that satisfies no one. Secondly, if you decide you'll do "Memphis Style" then all you do is satisfy all the Memphis style lovers.
                                    As well, it's my belief (And most but not all) that side ribs are best for Q. In TO a lot of people see them as substandard or crap. Much like the debate over the cheese for a smash burger. The great Q places make only so much food and when it's done, it's done and they close. Can't get away with that here. While you can get some really good stuff off an electric smoker, hardwood is the best way to go. It means much more work and I'm not ever sure if it's allowed here. There's also a certain charm with a lot of the great Q places down yonder. They've been around for decades. There's no way to compete on an ambiance level. Not to mention the food.

                                    I do see some cities north of the Mason Dixon/Ohio River that are trying to define their own style. That's fine. It's a process and takes time. I've had plenty of good non traditional Q. It seems we don't like the smoky taste as much up here either.

                                    At the end of the day, what's gonna sell is good food. It doesn't matter how well it's marketed.
                                    I think, as much as anything with this place is the way they marketed it. It seemed like they were trying to pull a fast one. Most people saw through the "Master smoker" title and I know it left me with the impression they were selling me a bill of goods. Wasn't this the same place that was selling "Authentic" Texas chili?? With smoked brisket and beans?? C'mon. They have the internet on computers now. Do your homework.


                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      For the record, that "authentic Texas chili" place was another "smokes" place

                                    2. re: C mac

                                      I have eaten at Camp 31 in Paris 3 times and unless I am in the area and really hungry I will not go back and if I do it is only for the fried chicken. Their ribs were dry 2 out of the three times, service sucked it seemed like a bunch of highschool kids working there. People get this romantic impression of them because they are far away and they only see them ot Ribfests or when they make the long trip west.. It is like Beer in Mexico it always seems to taste way better when you are sitting in the sand on the beach than when you are at home coming in from shoveling snow. Look at Momofuko everyone raved about his NY restaurants here on Chow.. he opens in Toronto everyone says "its not as good as New York" ... Camp 31 would be the exact same..

                                      There is no such thing as Authentic BBQ every place down south has it own style and its own secrets developed over decades. Two places could be a block away from each other and they would punch you in the face if you said that their BBQ tasted exactly the same.

                                      Smoking is a long process 14-16 hours for brisket which needs to be ready for lunch therefor you need people to watch it all night and not just one person because they cannot work 7 days a week and need holidays. And then you need the people to actually cook the rest of the food as the customer orders it but still know how to reheat and slice the meat. So all of a sudden your kitchen staff costs are doubled. Then what can you charge for half a rack, look at the backlash against the price at Electric mud for "3 ribs"..

                                      Buster Rhino got a good thing going because he was a "factory first" he does the volume on wholesale to make the number work, Barque and others keep it pretty small but have a lot of specials and non BBQ items to keep margins up but that is only if they keep the customers coming in (which they have). Camp 31 is in the middle of nowhere and own their building so costs are low and they make a killing at Ribfests that carries them through.

                                      Costs (staff, rent, insurance, taxes..) are just to high in Toronto to get the space and staff that you need to do BBQ like in the "states"

                                      1. re: pourboi

                                        When Thuet opened the BBQ spot on Bloor, it had the makings of a great place. The problem was poor management and therefore no consistency in anything they did. They came close and proved it can be done.

                                        BBQ, pizza, deli, burgers, etc. they all have their regional differences so it shouldn't be a concern. You can't meet everyone's concept of "authentic", so ya just make great food instead.

                                        1. re: justsayn

                                          iirc Thuet wasn't the original chef. He was drafted in after the first guy left just after they opened. Blame the owners for that failure.

                                          1. re: MissBingBing

                                            I do blame the owners....100%

                                            Not sure - I think Thuet was involved from the get-go? I remember the Thuet buzz before it opened.

                                            I think it was Boehmer with Thuet originally and then Thuet stepped up to take over. I may be wrong but I remember Thuet tried to keep his name out in the beginning.

                                        2. re: pourboi

                                          I don't know. All I can say is I love most of the vendors a ribfest. I think if any of the really good ribbers open up a location, it would do well. I have to be carefull saying that though because there are some places that have a spot at the ribfest and they have actual locations but they aren't good. For example like memphis grill in woodbridge enter a few, and there stuff is far from good. Turtle Jacks even were at least one ribfest last year.

                                          Im not sure about your analogy for camp 31 and having a beer in Mexico. Ive never gone to camp 31 in paris. Just know that's where they have their location. I've only tried them from the ribfest and liked them a lot. Having said that, there are other places I even like more. Bad wolf is great, hawgs gone wild and Uncle Sams.

                                          1. re: C mac

                                            You go to a rib fest and it is a "festival" you are outside the smell the people the stuff happening around you...You are trying a bunch of half racks from a bunch of places $10 here $10 there, maybe a side for $5.. it is like a fair.. only happens once a year it is a day out that you have been planning.. Just like in Mexico you are out of your element out of your usual routine...

                                            Now take that same rib or that same beer and it is your usual day you have to find a parking spot get seated at a table look over a big menu decide what to order and because it is a "dinner meal" you are not spending the $10 for ribs you are spending $50 with sides and drinks and apps for the wife and kids.. You sit there waiting for the food to arrive thinking boy this is expensive, as you sip your $6 corona with the dried up lime thinking god I wish I was in Mexico drinking $2 coronas that seemed to taste much better.. The food comes it was smoked the night before and just wamed up in the oven because unlike a ribfest they do not do the volume to have the smoker running all the time.. It is just not the same... even if they try to be the same.. It is not a once a year special thing you can get it 7 days a week so it is not special..

                                            Think of all the crap people eat and love at canadas wonderland or the Ex.. how many of those foods would survive a year as a "restaurant".. They tried to open a Funnel cake place in Toronto.. big hype when it opened as everyone loves funnel cake.. now I have no idea if it is even open anymore.. everything seems "better" and "special" when you are on vaction or at a destination like a fair or a ribfest.. it is how the human mind works...

                                              1. re: pourboi

                                                I kind of hear what your saying but I dont always think that's the case.

                                                These pics are how the human stomach works.

                                                (I believe I was at the Hawgs gone wild booth in these ones.)

                                                1. re: C mac

                                                  Yes but how do you translate that to a resturant in downtown toronto in the middle of february to give you the same experience that you enjoyed?

                                                  1. re: pourboi

                                                    can't, that's the problem, and it doesn't have anything to do with the venue in my opinion. When I go to the ribfest, I almost always go by myself and get the ribs to go. I have a few in my car and then take the rest home so the whole idea that my brain is making some kind of romantic connection between the festival and the ribs that make them taste better I don't think applies IMHO.

                                            1. re: pourboi

                                              "Costs (staff, rent, insurance, taxes..) are just to high in Toronto to get the space and staff that you need to do BBQ like in the "states""

                                              i never saw this before but it's completely untrue. just patently false in every single way. it's not that it's not possible to do bbq in toronto, it's just that no one has been good enough to really nail it. electric mud is super good but it's not full on legit bbq and that fat louie's truck is good but not on point with like, texas or kc or tennessee or whatever the personal bbq grail may be.

                                              the way that the franklin dude does his q is proof enough that anyone COULD do it, as long as they're incredibly dedicated and possess the innate bbq skill (and are probably a bit crazy). i feel like everyone doing bbq in ontario (besides the aforementioned) are these defeated, old ribfest circuit vets who lack the, for lack of better words, singular meat-obsessed passion that seems to consume the best of the us bbq guys. anyways, to dismiss our lack of good q as an issue of red tape or whatever is a bit of a cop out. great things are very possible from small means, just as much as jack astors giant kitchen can shit out a thousand plates of mush a night