I am craving smoky comfort food. Southern cooking and backyard barbeque seems to be all the rage these days, and when it’s good, there is nothing better. I would drive just about anywhere for it. Just like down south, where the most incredible bbq joints are tucked away from the main streets, we need to go off the beaten path for that lip-smacking good stuff.
Introduced to Toronto restaurant, Rally Sports Bar + Smokehouse, at the Toronto Delicious Show, I was seduced by a jambalaya. Chock full of chicken, shrimp and chorizo, the jambalaya is Louisiana’s answer to paella, and Rally’s answer to, “what can I eat tonight that is hearty and flavourful?” Oh, it’s got a kick—but the spice is not overpowering, and a fresh confluence of flavours is picked up in each spoonful of rice.
The slow cooker is the star here, and the wood burning bbq punctuates the menu. Poutine of thick cut fries is enlivened with smoked cheddar curds and peppercorn brisket. “You can turn the heat up, but you can’t turn it off,” co-owner, Chris Papadimitriou tells me. In-house made bbq sauce is so tangy, and the vinegar in the sauce really cuts the sweetness perfectly. As the pulled pork sandwich arrives, my Pavlovian response ignites, and with each mouthwatering bite I sink into bliss. Back ribs are cut with some of the loin attached so they have a lot more meat on them. They are indeed very lean and meaty; and slow cooked and smoked to that tender charcoal essence that we love.
Another southern staple is the “po-boy”. I can honestly say that in all my travels down south, I never had it so good. Rally’s shrimp Po boy sandwich is light and crunchy, and loaded with plump shrimp. There is not one miss on this menu, and the Po-boy is the quiet over-achiever.
My focus does not leave my plate, but just in case I didn’t come here for the food, I am reminded that there are over 40 big-screen HD TV’s that display every major sporting event every day of the year. On Friday nights, martinis are $5. Snacking on my shrimp Po boy, sipping a martini and watching boxing, UFC, NHL, MLB, NBA, NFL, or UEFA would be A.OK with me!
My sweet ending is a luscious southern peach cobbler served in a mason jar and, for good measure, one warm velvety chocolate torte. Even the espresso is rich and bold. This is not your average sports bar. Rally Sports Bar + Smokehouse is a food-centric destination run by people who are serious about food…and happen to love sports.
~ For more info go to: Rally Sports Bar + Smokehouse ~
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.