The 420 Smokehouse
Yes? Hi! We saw the new place on the Parliament that is doing the BBQ. It is the 420 Smokehouse and they had some of the best ribs so far in the Toronto. They also are doing the smoked meat but we didnt do the eating. Maybe the next time.
The ribs had the good smoke ring and the dry rub and werent the silly to saucy. They had the really good bark and chew. It was the yum!
I've eaten there three times and I can say that it's a great addition to the neighbourhood and it will hopefully only get better with time. This is somewhat of a long review, but I like this place and I really want it to succeed (we need more places like this in Cabbagetown).
I've had the smoked meat sandwich, the St Louis ribs, the fried jumbo chicken wings, and the pulled duck sandwich (an off-menu special).
Smoked meat: I had some of my wife's (she ordered it lean) and later got one of my own (I got it fatty). I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan of hers; I found it a bit bland. I liked mine quite a bit better, so it might be the fact that mine was fatty or that they were still tweaking the recipe (the first visit was the week after they opened, the second was about two or three weeks after that). I found my sandwich to be very satisfying, although I wouldn't complain if they upped the smoke and spicing somewhat.
St Louis ribs: despite being advertised as a dry rub, they came sauced, which I thought was a bit strange. They also didn't remove the membrane on the back of the ribs, which I'm not a fan of. That being said, the ribs had a great smoke flavour and were cooked perfectly. I liked these very much (I also note that they've since changed the menu to show that you can have them as a dry rub or with ale sauce, so maybe you actually can get them dry).
Chicken wings: these were indeed jumbo...pretty huge, actually. They're not really like battered fried chicken (more like breaded and fried), but the coating was quite tasty regardless. I wasn't a huge fan of the hot sauce they drizzled over them, but the wings themselves were great. Could maybe use a bit more seasoning in the batter (and maybe have the hot sauce on the side), but otherwise very good.
Pulled duck sandwich: I was expecting loose pulled duck on a bun, so it was a bit strange to get what looked like a duck burger patty. When I tasted it, though, I really liked their version. The patty seemed like it has been fried in a pan, and was somewhat crispy as a result (which was very nice). The sauce and other toppings complimented the duck very well.
Fries: the only time I had the fries was with the duck sandwich, and I thought they were a bit over-fried. I normally like extra crispy fries, but these ones had a ridiculously crispy exterior and almost no interior (some of them were essentially hollow, like the inner potato part had been fried completely away somehow). They were nicely seasoned, though, so they're not bad by any means. A bit less cooking and I think they'd be great.
Coleslaw: I'm not a fan of this. It's vinegar-y (not creamy), which I normally like, but it frankly doesn't have much taste.
Side pickled vegetables: they now offer a pretty good choice of sides (fries, rice & peas, sweet potato, kale, cornbread, potato or caesar salads, poutine (for a small extra charge) or smoked meat poutine (for a larger extra charge)) with your ribs (they didn't when I first went), so I'm not sure if they're still offering the pickled vegetables we got with the ribs (and with the chicken wings). Anyway, they have to do something about these. They were essentially tasteless. My least favourite part of the meal. I hope they've phased them out.
The two-top tables near the window are strange...I don't think they're restaurant tables (they have little drawers in them that open, they seem somewhat fragile, and they're a bit too narrow and too high for two people to eat comfortably). They should get better tables for these seats. Other than that small comment about the tables, the restaurant has a nice decor and a nice feel (although the chalk board is riddled with spelling mistakes, which makes the OCD speller in me cringe). I could definitely hang out here for some drinks.
On that note, beer selection is generally pretty good, wine selection seems very good (although I've only ever got beer).
The staff has always been very nice when I've been there.
Price-wise, some may think it's a bit on the expensive side. The recent change to the menu whereby you get a free side with a few of the items (they should really offer a side with all of them...why do you get a side with the pulled pork sandwich and the pulled duck but not with the smoked meat? Or the chicken wings? Any why are you forced to get the caesar salad as a side for the calamari sandwich?) definitely helps, though. I personally don't mind paying for good food so I'm okay with the prices.
Overall, as I said, I think that this is a great addition to the neighbourhood. Looking forward to seeing it get even better.
My visit (only one) pretty much supports your review. Overall it IS worth a visit but some of the choices are a little quirky.
My ribs were fine (no membrane) but - yes- the St Louis 'style' wasn't! It was sauced. But I really liked the smokiness, which was more dominant than most I've had in Toronto. Also loved the texture - I'm fed-up with 'disintegrate off the bone' - I want some texture and 'bite' to my ribs, and these were perfect for me.
The fries were indeed a little off-kilter - I speculated 'triple-fried' to get that slightly burned flavour. I actually liked them (compared to the usual fare in Toronto) - not my favourites but certainly held interest.
Would have preferred more 'crunch' in my coleslaw, but otherwise fine - I liked the vinegar.
I also had their Bisque, which was not bad, but unexciting. I'd hoped for some smokiness (not present) and maybe some croutons to add texture, but flavour was fine (albeit 1-dimensional).
Service was also pretty good - they're clearly trying hard.
I found the pricing fair. With minor tweaks (which already seem to be occurring, based on your review), this can be a solid place.
I know the owner did not like this review, but, for sake of completeness of this thread, here is Alan Vernon's review (Dine.To) : http://www.dine.to/420smokehouse?show...
I think we all have our opinions of Alan Vernon (i.e. Bero review, etc)..... maybe we can keep this thread focused on the food though... I am glad that 420 Smokehouse is listening to comments/feedback. To graciously accept what people have to say and consider it is a big thing. I have a bad experience in the past of giving my feedback to a restaurant owner when asked only to be mocked...
As a Cabbagetowner and a smoked meat junkie (an early champion of Caplansy's) I eagerly awaited 420 Smokehouse opening. My first smoked meat there was a big disappointment. Tough, dry, and chewy and thick sliced dense dough home baked bread didn't help matters. The whole point of smoked meat is that it is supposed to melt in your mouth and the reason most delis used light rye is to provide an instrument for getting the meat into your mouth, not to compete with the meat. While this artisnal bread was high quality it was the wrong choice of bread to pair with the smoked meat which needs a thin sliced and soft dough to melt in your mouth.
Hopefully this was just a case of opening jitters. I know Zane Caplansky had a lot of trouble with consistency after opening, it's not easy to get smoked meat right. The whole point about slow cooked/smoked anything is that its supposed to be super tender and juice and melt in your mouth like butter. Hoping this kitchen has finally found it's smokehouse groove when I give them another try later this week.
Consistency is one thing I've noticed that they do have problems with. I've had their smoked meat sandwich three times; the first was the first week it opened, and it didn't really have much taste. The second was maybe a month ago, and it was great...tender, juicy, and with a good smoke flavour. I had one last weekend and while it still had a good flavour, it was too dry (even though I asked for it fatty).
Same issue with their ribs; I've had great ribs there (smoky and just the right amount of chew), but I've also had meh ribs. Their dry-rub St Louis ribs last time were quite good (although a bit dry).
As for other things, the one time I had their pulled pork the pork itself was fantastic (it came unsauced, which I generally don't prefer but I liked it here). The bun was a bit too doughy for the sandwich, but the pork was quite good. Similar thing with the burger; it was generally very good, although the bacon (while tasty) was thick and difficult to bite through. I also had the jerk wings once and they were very tasty (the jerk sauce was quite spicy...I like heat so I was okay with it, but something to think about).
Anyway, I assume that they're just working out the kinks...I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, though, since when they're on, they're very good. Even when they're not, they're still a solid neighbourhood option.