Sort-of Secret: Golden Horseshoe BBQ, a new pop-up attracting crowds with Texas-style barbecue

Sort-of Secret: Golden Horseshoe BBQ, a new pop-up attracting crowds with Texas-style barbecue

Pitmaster Andrew Golden and his sous-chef mom are bringing barbecue to the city’s breweries

A tray of Texas-style barbecue from Toronto's Golden Horseshoe BBQ

More Sort-of Secrets

The sort-of secret: Golden Horseshoe BBQ
You may have heard of it if: You have a nose for smoked meat
But you probably haven’t tried it because: It pops up at the city’s breweries, quickly selling out each time

Andrew Golden is a 23-year-old wunderkind bringing Texas-style barbecue to Toronto, one pop-up at a time—and he owes his success to a fortuitous pandemic purchase by his mother. “My mom, Doris Golden, brought home a pellet smoker for our backyard one day,” he says. “Since I wasn’t in school at the time due to lockdown, using the smoker not only helped pass the time but immediately drew me in—cooking with it felt natural.” What started as Golden’s Covid hobby quickly morphed into a full-fledged passion.

He started posting about his smoker experiments on social media, and people began asking if they could place orders for his barbecue. “I sold my first pre-order pick-up for some brisket in February 2021,” he says. “To be honest, it didn’t turn out as I had hoped, but that just served as motivation for me to improve.” Every weekend after that—until he returned to Carleton University for in-person classes—was dedicated to figuring out the low-and-slow art form.

Chef Andrew Golden and his mom at a Golden Horseshoe BBQ popup
Andrew Golden and his sous-chef mom, Doris Golden, during a recent pop-up at Goldenfields Brewery, in East York

Related: Top-notch barbecue in Muskoka from two Toronto fine-dining chefs

“I have no formal training—I have a background in criminology and psychology,” says Golden. He credits his mother, a talented home cook, with helping him tackle the initial learning curve. Incidentally, around the same time, someone else in his neighbourhood was doing some backyard smoking. It was Ben Slan, who now owns Benny’s Barbecue, at Yonge and Eglinton. Golden worked for Slan at Benny’s until just over a year ago. “Since we’re both self-taught, I didn’t feel like there was any true guidance on how to improve,” says Golden. “I felt like I needed a new mentor.”

Golden then spent a few weeks working on the line at Cherry Street BBQ before landing a gig at the Carbon Bar, where he still works one or two shifts a week. “Executive chef Kristopher Hansen helped me get a deep understanding of what it’s like working in a real restaurant kitchen, which I was oblivious to at the time,” says Golden. “He also helped me understand how to manage a restaurant, in terms of things like food costing, product sourcing and menu planning.”

Pitmaster Andrew Golden grabs a hunk of barbecued brisket off his cutting board at a recent Golden Horseshoe BBQ popup

While Golden is grateful to Hansen, the Carbon Bar is a bit more upscale than your average barbecue joint, so Golden felt he was still missing out on the true barbecue experience. “So I went to the motherland: Texas.”

Unsurprisingly, Golden follows many barbecue-related social media accounts, and last spring he stumbled upon B4 Barbeque and Boba, a family-run restaurant in Mabank, Texas (population: 4,000) looking for some help. After a DM and a phone call, Golden bought a plane ticket the following day. “I’m forever grateful they took a chance on a random kid from Canada,” he says. Ultimately, he formed a bond with B4’s owner, Nolan Belcher, and his family, and what was supposed to be a two-week trial ended up lasting three months. “I owe them the world—not only for teaching me more than I ever knew about Texas barbecue but for inviting me into their home and making me feel like one of their own. Nolan was the mentor I’d been missing all along.” Golden ended up staying at the Belcher’s ranch, and upon his return to Canada, he started his now popular pop-up series.

A pitmaster wearing black rubber gloves slices into a barbecued brisket

A closeup of barbecued brisket

As a budding pitmaster, Golden takes pride in offering a concise and beautiful spread of Texas-style barbecue. “I focus on the holy trinity: brisket, ribs and sausage. But I’ve also adopted some new-school barbecue, including pork belly and burnt ends,” he says. “Ultimately, everything is made from scratch and no corners are cut.” He and his mother rent out commissary kitchens—like Airbnb but for chefs. Together, they prep the meat and make the sides (including something called a Texas Twinkie: a jalapeno stuffed with brisket, mozzarella and cream cheese), garnishes (pickles, coleslaw), and Doris’s legendary banana pudding. “People rave about my barbecue until they get to her dessert. Then they fall over and die—it’s that good,” says Golden. “She steals my thunder, but it’s more than well-deserved.”

A tray of barbecue sits under a heat lamp

Of course, being in Canada, Golden faces challenges that Texans don’t have to contend with. “Waking up at 4 a.m. in the dead of winter isn’t ideal, but you learn to manage,” he says. He’s constantly nursing his oak-maple fire to ensure the temperature remains between 250 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. “That’s my sweet spot for brisket because it produces the signature bark everyone loves and ensures that the right amount of fat renders out of the meat.” Product sourcing was tricky due to a lack of consistent supply and inflated costs, but thanks to his Carbon Bar connections, he now has a solid supplier. “Prime Meats is my staple supplier, but sometimes I can find decent stuff at Costco too. Ultimately, it’s about not only the quality of the meat but how it’s cooked.”

A recent Golden Horseshoe BBQ popup at Goldenfields Brewery in East York, Toronto

Customers dig into trays of Golden Horseshoe's Texas-style barbecue at a recent popup in Toronto

None of Golden’s succulent creations would be possible without his pride and joy: a 500-gallon Bog Line offset smoker. “It cost $16,000—most of my life savings,” he says. “But I’m fortunate enough to say that, thanks to my pop-ups, it’s almost paid off.” In fact, sales have been so good that the smoker’s capacity is now almost inadequate, and Golden is in talks with the company about getting a new 1,000-gallon unit built.

With all of Golden’s success and his plans for expansion—including scouting a brick-and-mortar location—he’s put university on hold indefinitely. “I dropped out to focus on this. I was never thrilled about pursuing a degree in criminology and psychology because I didn’t see a future in it,” he says. “It wasn’t until I discovered barbecue that I found my calling.”

Golden Horseshoe BBQ recently hosted a popup at Goldenfields Brewery in Toronto

A tray of Texas-style barbecue sits on kegs next to some sides and a pint of beer at Goldenfields Brewery in Toronto


March 6, 2024

This article has been updated to clarify the employment relationship between Andrew Golden and Benjamin Slan at Benny's Barbecue