We went to Hogtown Smoke on Friday evening for a family get together. Our unique options around the area were somewhat limited. Our initial choice would have been a traditional pub, but all for the better – Hogtown Smoke turned out to be quite a delight! They asked that we call and hour ahead of time to save us a spot.
The smallish façade is not difficult to pass without noticing. Their hog illustration does not get as much attention as one would hope. There is no front patio, but two large windows open right out to create the second best thing for the folks crammed inside. It looked a bit tight to us walking in. Perhaps that was driven by the fun interior - metal buckets as lights, brick walls and plenty of colourful paintings for sale. We should note, people were not dressed as casual as we hoped. Either way.. the trick here is their marvelous back patio! The large semi-covered area feels like someone’s backyard (which it might have originally been actually). The narrow alleyway access increases the coziness of the whole experience. We spent quite a few minutes surveying the surroundings before even getting to the menus. The tall tables are made from unfinished wood with distinct grain on the sides. There are a few metal signs hanging on the barn-wood cladded walls. The bar was a few steps away and next to it, the holy grail of Hogtown Smoke, the huge smoker. Later, out waitress told us they keep it running all day.
The menu itself had organs (we believe) in the background, stealing a bit too much attention from the text. A much more expressionistic hog illustration than the store-front sign, really added a good feel to it. There is a funny bit about hot wings eating competition (win – get a picture on the Wall of Fame, loose – pay $50 and be condemned to the Wall of Shame). The beer menu was considerably more epic. From a distance it looked like a stone tablet with large uneven writing detailing their craft beer offerings. Important to mention, there are only craft beers here – no Stella or Guinness to choose from.
We ordered a Pig Out Platter for 5-6. While the over $100 price initially deterred us, it turned out to be enough for our crowd of 6. A few extra sides were ordered as well, as the portions are tiny. We went for a couple of different coleslaws, a cornbread and a few baskets of fries. Surprisingly, our food arrived in under fifteen minutes. The meats came on a large wooden board, almost overflowing with goodness. The 4 meats we picked their pulled pork, wings, harder chicken and beef ribs All plates were made of aluminum, giving an additional authenticity boost to our experience.
The first thing snatching people's attention was the rack of ribs. The meat was cooked perfectly to the point it slid sliding off the bones. We found that the chicken wings were also of a another grade compared to what one would normally find in a standard pub. The half chicken was not particularly interesting – simply well cooked meat, although a bit dry. Perhaps the brisket would have been a better choice. Last but not least - the pulled pork was amazing. All these meats came arranged on a unique wooden platter.
Hogtown Smoke is definitely a place to visit with family or just friends looking for something slightly out of the ordinary. We compared this place with one of our favourite west end spots – Barque Smokehouse. Hogtown Smoke wins in terms of its patio and attention to detail, looses in terms of its sides (smoky popcorn and roasted corn were a big plus for us). Overall, Hogtown Smoke is one of the best places we visited in Toronto's east end so far.
PS: a family of raccoons decided to pay us a visit throughout the dinner. They found their way to the patio rafters above us and hanged around there for almost an hour, less than ten feet from us. Probably a testament to how attractive the smoked meat smell is…