316 3rd Street SE
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
On the right at the foot of the exit ramp as you get off the highway from the airport coming into town.
Interesting place for the decor alone. Appears to have been a factory converted into a combination bar (old-style, with beer and cigarette smoke) and BBQ/New Orleans restaurant. However, the look is so quirky that I couldn’t decide if it really was an ex-factory converted to a BBQ place or whether the owners hired an interior designer to make it look like that – planned quirkiness. The prices, which were a bit expensive, suggest the latter but I don’t know.
Definitely quirky though… The seafood section of the menu, which comes on what’s made to look like old Alberta license plates, proudly announces “Booker’s got crabs!”
Went with my wife’s cousin Jeff Lafond and his wife Carolyn – aka Carrie in Eastern Canada. We got Salt N’ Peppa Ribs as an appetizer. Carrie got pulled pork, Jeff got fish, and I got a two-meat platter – St. Louis ribs and pulled pork with a standard set of sides – corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and a corn muffin.
Salt N’ Peppa Ribs were great. Boneless riblets with a salt and pepper coating that were great plain – chewy and tasty – or with the Cajun Ranch dip. Highly recommended.
Pulled pork was excellent – shreds and chunks, not mushy at all, with a light coating of a sweet BBQ sauce. Ribs were also excellent – dry style, lightly zingy, slightly crusty on the outside, chewy but tender on the inside. Since I got a two-meat combo, I only got half-orders of each meat which was a good thing as even the half-orders were huge. Cole slaw was about average and the corn suffered from the usual mushiness that comes from sitting on a steam table for too long. The muffin was good as were the mashed potatoes, which were slightly chunky. However, after knocking back an enormous amount of meat, I could barely touch the potatoes and the muffin.
The place has a small selection of deserts, like shoofly pie and cooter pie. Jeff and Carrie split a keylime pie. I never did ask them what they thought of it, but they definitely demolished it.
Overall rating – Excellent.
514 Eglinton Avenue West
Toronto , Ontario Canada
Take the eastern line of the subway north to Eglinton station, then take a bus, a taxi (about 5 minutes and $7), or walk (about 20 minutes). The restaurant is in a small storefront along a commercial area several blocks long that includes several clothing stores, an art supply store, and a poster shop. In other words, the restaurant simply fits nicely into the area but obviously wasn’t going to have a stack of hickory and a smoker belching away out in the back.
The place is long and narrow, with booths along each side and a long trestle table with benches down the center. Lots of wood all around, with blackboards high up on the walls that mainly listed, as I recall, the beers and other drinks. This being Canada, they didn’t list traditional BBQ beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Rolling Rock, but the waitress, who I think was from New Brunswick, suggested Moosehead as a good alternative and she was right.
On the meat side, the place offers beef ribs (the big, Fred Flintstone-style ribs), plus baby back and St. Louis, along with pulled pork and brisket. I got the St. Louis ribs and the brisket, since St. Louis ribs have become my standard of comparison for ribs and brisket is just plain hard to get right. The ribs were barely smoky and didn’t have that much meat on them but they tasted good, mildly tangy, crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The brisket’s consistency was excellent – juicy and tender – but didn’t have that much flavor and needed some hefty shots of the red BBQ sauce. (The waitress had warned me when I ordered that “we’ve been having some trouble with the brisket lately”. This may have been what she meant, although I don’t understand how a brisket can not have flavor unless there’s almost no rub.)
Ate there with what’s becoming the Canadian BBQ team – Ed van Beilen and Ian Magwood of New Toronto Group. Ed ordered the beef ribs and made a lot of “mmph” noises so he seemed happy. Ian “ordered the Longhorn beef ribs and the baby backs. The baby backs were great, although not as meaty as the Pig. The Longhorns, however, were a standout smash. Ridiculously meaty, tender, and tasty .”
One unusual touch – instead of mints or scooter pies on the way out, each diner gets a fudgesicle at the end of the meal!
Overall rating – Good to very good, with a possible move up to Very Good subject to another trip to try the beef ribs.
Purple Pig Rib House (December 2004)
1 Richmond St. West
Toronto , Ontario Canada
Follow Yonge St. two blocks south of city hall plaza, turn right on Richmond, and walk <50 yds. Across Yonge St. from Cambridge Suites Hotel. You actually go in through a bar, walk to the back, and up a flight of stairs that looks as though it leads into a wall. Just follow the smells…
Excellent ribs – Very meaty baby backs. Barely spicy but smoky and sweet with a slight molasses undertaste. Excellent spicy fries. Even the cole slaw was excellent. Corn on the cob was bland; corn just can’t sit in a pot of water for long. The cajun pierogies were excellent – potato pierogies with onion, green pepper, and real chopped bacon. Very oily, however.
Ate there for the fourth time in December of 2004 with Ed van Beilen and Ian Magwood of New Toronto Group. Both approved. Ian, who ate a rack of ribs during dinner, liked it well enough that he went back with his girl friend the next night and ate another rack. (In Ian’s honor, I re-dub the place “The Purple Pigout.”)
(Correction – Ian pointed out that he went back and ate another rack of ribs the same night, not the next night. He’s truly an inspiration…)
Overall rating – Excellent.
Hog Tails BarBQue (April 2010)
645 Laurelwood Dr.
Waterloo, Ontario Canada
A storefront restaurant in a small strip mall in Waterloo. (Be warned that the sign doesn’t stand out very well from the road, and my hostess and I drove past it at least once.) Inside, the place looks like a fairly typical BBQ joint, with some dark booths and the menu highlights on a blackboard. The place uses two smokers, one burning pellets and one burning small chunks of hickory. (This from a guy who was chopping ribs and from, I think, one of the owners.)
Hog Tails offered the traditional BBQ standards – ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and BBQ’d chicken – plus wings, fried chicken, and shrimp etouffee. Sides included the traditional cole slaw, fries, beans, and greens, plus grits, hush puppies, red beans and rice, sweet potato fries, and potato salad. It’s an eclectic mix, but there aren’t too many BBQ options in Waterloo, Ontario so offering as many different dishes as possible makes sense.
I had a three-way plate – ribs, pulled pork, and brisket, with the cole slaw and sweet potato fries. The ribs were excellent, with a slightly crunchy crust and tender inside, with just a bit of resistance to coming off the bone. Hog Tails also put a sweet BBQ sauce on the ribs, which was excellent. The pulled pork was very good, chunky and slightly smoky. The only disappointment was what I think was the brisket. (I ordered brisket, which came in what I think was one large chunk rather than sliced.) It was a little mushy. The cole slaw was standard good, but the sweet potato fries were excellent. The place also has two sauces on tap, one sweet and one “hot”, which was spicy but not as overpowering as many “hot” sauces that I’ve had that mainly anesthetize your taste buds. Both sauces were excellent.
Overall rating – Very good, boosted by the quality of the ribs, sweet potato fries, and sauces, supported by the pulled pork, but drawn down by the brisket and somewhat blank cole slaw.
Thanks to Fei Min Lorente and Jim Bousquet of the Southwest Ontario chapter of the Society for Technical Communication for bringing me to Hog Tails, treating me, and, incidentally, for inviting me to present an information design workshop for the chapter that got me to Hog Tails in the first place.