12 of Toronto’s best American restaurants
A dozen of our favourite places for burgers, barbecue and fried bird
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Adam Skelly’s barbecue is so mind-blowingly good that it’s worth venturing into the wilds of a Leaside industrial park for. The cavernous concrete space is a smokehouse pure and simple, with rolls of paper towel on the tables and a menu penned on butcher paper taped to the wall. Everything here takes a spin in the Oyler1300, a massive wood-burning smoker: brisket, already on the cusp of disintegration, melts in your mouth, and pork ribs flecked with caraway seeds are perfectly pink inside. Sides are as nature and the Deep South intended: kitchen-sink potato salad, creamy slaw and rich beans flavoured with beef tallow. There are no spoons in the collection of plastic cutlery—instead, the slices of Wonder Bread served with each platter are meant for soaking up escaped sauces.
The view from the surrounding office towers into this 31st-floor restaurant in the Trump Hotel must be distracting. At night, it’s a Vegas-style club with theme parties, bottle service, micro-skirted beauties and randy brokers. Midday it’s another story: tables of Brooks Brothers suits, quiet talk of serious deals, prevailing calm. It’s the best time to appreciate the stellar menu, which takes you on a culinary tour of the U.S.: chowder with sassafras, an andouille sausage jambalaya, buckwheat flapjacks gilded with foie gras and a gorgeous salad of tuna sashimi, macadamia nuts, nori and puckery pineapple.
Walk behind the Dupont diner Rose and Sons, through a laneway, and you’re engulfed in a cloud of intoxicating charcoal smoke. Chef Anthony Rose and his crew slow-smoke ribs, chicken and honey-glazed rabbit over a firepit, and serve the meat with sides like pork and beans and potato salad. Brunch brings grilled pork belly and eggs, or chocolate banana bread topped with maple butter and berry compote. Diners sit an picnic tables in an open-air mess hall, drinking pitchers of cocktails and bottles of rosé made for the restaurant by Norman Hardie. In winter, the patio becomes a fully heated cabin, topped with canvas, lit by candles and strewn with blankets.
This cavernous Queen East space disproves the rule that the best barbecue must come from out-of-the-way smokehouses. The brisket is some of the best in the city—it sets a lofty standard for the rest of the pitmaster platter, which turns out to be a bit more Jekyll and Hyde: the St. Louis cut ribs are slightly overdone, and the fried chicken could use a few more seconds in the fryer. But it’s a safe bet that no idealized barbecue place could successfully execute—or would even try to pull off—a Korean fried cauliflower dish, an herb-crusted slab of blackened sea bass on a minty frisée slaw, or a bracing shrimp ceviche. The disparate culinary traditions mostly hold together, save for a rye and ginger made with cold brew that registers a culinary clang—something from the wine list is a better way to go.
This raucous Parkdale joint is home to some seriously tasty barbecue. The evolving menu eschews the more experimental bites present when it first opened—gone is the Black Forest–style smoked duck with hoisin, and ribs topped with peanuts and chives—in favour of more standard barbecue fair, and the restaurant is better for it. The brisket sandwich may be one of the city’s best: tissue-thin slices of Montreal-style smoked beef are piled high on a soft roll and topped with sweet molasses-barbecue sauce, chipotle mayo and crispy fried onion strings. Tangy buffalo cauliflower, crowned with pickled celery, is another standout. No meal here is complete without a bourbon-forward cocktail and Crack Rolls—warm milk buns served with whipped butter accented by smoker drippings.
It wasn’t Toronto’s first smashed-on-a-flat-top burger joint, but it’s probably the most fun—which is why it’s packed most nights with groups of friends and Deer Park families. The eponymous Holy Chuck is the Platonic bacon double cheeseburger, while the Animal Feed—panko-crusted portobellos with feta and lemon-herb aïoli—is a veggie burger that doesn’t feel like a compromise. The Go Chuck Yourself is an orgy of six beef patties, processed cheese and caramelized onions wedged between three grilled cheese sandwiches. Unlicensed.
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True meatheads are happy to stand at this no-frills, no-chairs Kensington Market bolthole for a taste of Texas-style barbecue. Brisket imbued with white oak smoke gets top billing, but brined and smoked turkey doused in butter is great, too, as are the juicy house-made mac and cheese sausages. Pretzel Fluff bars—made with melted marshmallows, potato chips and pretzels—are like hard-core Rice Krispie squares.
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Matt Blondin made his name cooking sublimely comforting bowls of shrimp and grits at the defunct Acadia, as well as during his short tenure at Momofuku Daishō. Now he’s taken over an elegant room on Ossington with a Carolinas-inspired menu of hot-from-the-oven cornbread, boudin balls, fried chicken, beef ribs rolled in puffed amaranth and, yes, his famous grits, this version studded with andouille sausage. The bar, run by talented fellow Momofuku expat Alex Harber, turns out smooth, head-whomping dark-liquor classics, plus back-in-vogue drinks like a puckery strawberry shrub precisely balanced with sweet vermouth and whiskey. If only every Toronto restaurant took the odd southern detour.
The crackle and pop of a century-old Blind Willie Johnson recording sets the tone at Roux. A sprawling marble bar and dangling Edison bulbs might be more Queen West than bayou, but the molasses-like speed of the kitchen is on point. Chef-owner Derrick Markland’s menu spans from creole and low-country-inspired plates to soulful classics like chicken and waffles. A duo of four-and-a-half-hour braised pork belly and pan-fried catfish reads like a culinary odd couple, but it’s brought together by a delightful, delicate smoked tomato–cowpea ragout. Deep-fried mac and cheese bricks aren’t worth the artery damage. Instead, save room for addictive beignets.
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This perennial pop-up has settled into a permanent home on Dundas West. Drawing on inspiration from across the southern U.S., pitmaster Nick Chen-Yin smokes up a BBQ Belt greatest hits menu: from South Carolina, smoky pulled pork dressed in a vinegary sauce; from Memphis, dry-rubbed pork ribs seasoned with paprika and pepper; and, from central Texas, jalapeño-cheddar sausages that snap like a bullwhip. Classic sides include creamy mac and cheese and savoury baked beans studded with the brisket’s burnt ends. Even if it’s not served directly from the bag, there’s still something shamefully delicious about a good Frito pie, as this smoked chili and crema version proves. To drink: barbecue-friendly beers—and bourbon, of course.
Stack – the ultimate platter baby back ribs, quarter chicken, pulled pork, brisket and smoked meat Served with fresh-cut fries, mac & cheese, smoky molasses beans, slaw & fresh buns. . . . . . #goodeats #foodpic #foodietribe #phoneeatsfirst #buzzfeast #feedmyphone #goodfoodtoronto #torontofood #eatfamous #dailyfoodfeed #feedfeed #eeeeeats #buzzfoodfeed #lovetoeat #livetoeat #foodforfoodies #foodlife #yyzeats #nomnom_to #meat #ribs #pulledpork #brisket #chicken #fries #macandcheese #beans
When Stack opened, the food wasn’t great and the kitchen lacked focus. Although the menu remains bloated—it’s a crowd-pleasing place, after all—the cooking is now top-notch. The sampler platter is superb: fatty slices of brisket have a charred-just-right crust, the baby back ribs are cooked to perfection, and the deli smoked meat has that necessary hint of pickling spice. The smoked chicken, coated in tongue-tingling pepper sauce, is also excellent.
It’s surprising that the menu at this celebrated smokehouse is dominated by griddle-smashed burgers and juicy fried chicken. And their much-touted and delicious seven-to-eight-hour smoked ribs are only available Tuesday, Friday and Sunday evenings. But no matter, since the alternatives—like pulled beef brisket, which is mildly smoked with oak and hickory, drenched with barbecue sauce, lightened with vinegary house-made coleslaw and sandwiched between soft halves of a griddle-toasted bun—go down easy. Unlicensed.