Zane Caplansky opens Baju, a Southern barbecue spot, in The Monarch Tavern

Zane Caplansky opens Baju, a Southern barbecue spot, in The Monarch Tavern

(Image: Renée Suen) (Image: Renée Suen)
 

Toronto deli giant Zane Caplansky got his start slinging smoked-meat sandwiches out of the miniscule kitchen at The Monarch Tavern on Clinton Street. Over half a decade later, he’s opening another meat-focused food business in the space, this time in collaboration with a pair of budding food entrepreneurs. Tomorrow, November 14, marks the debut of Baju, a Southern-barbecue restaurant whose day-to-day operations will be run by Dan Green and Kyle Wyatt, the duo behind catering company Mise en Place, which has been popping up at the Monarch since September. (To be clear: the Monarch isn’t closing—this new business will be operating out of the bar.)

Despite the iconic location and Caplansky’s involvement, there’s been remarkably little build-up to this opening. Keeping things low-key was a deliberate decision on Caplansky’s part. “Too much media coverage at the outset can make things difficult,” he says. (Staying mum during the six-month planning stage wasn’t easy either. Says Caplansky: “I’m not exactly known for having a small mouth.”)

As for the choice of venue, he’s confident that it’s a natural fit. “You can’t build or buy that kind of character,” he says. “Germs soaked into the carpet; memories cracked into the vinyl chairs. It just spoke ‘rib joint’ to me.” Barbecue connoisseurs should note that the ribs in question are dry-rubbed—saucing is strictly optional, and DIY. The same holds true for the beef brisket, pulled pork and other meat options, all of which can be ordered with traditional Southern sides like coleslaw, beans and collard greens. (The “Meat and Three” platter—i.e. meat and three sides—costs $18.) And anyone expecting kimchee-infused this or soy-glazed that should take their appetites elsewhere. “This is the furthest thing from reinvented barbecue,” says Caplansky. “Just homemade, old-fashioned food.”