1620 Bayview Ave
Recently I was in Toronto for a visit. Decided to head to Hwy 61 with some friends to try their BBQ. I had heard and read some very mixed reviews about it. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there.
The decor feels right. What I mean by that is the place feels like a BBQ joint from the South. Tucked into a storefront on Bayview Ave its got great curb appeal with flames and barn boards. The inside is even better. Lots of blues (of course) , Jazz and other music posters , comfortable seating upstairs and down with a couple of friendly bars you want to saunter up to and have a beer. They have a terrific selection of craft beers.
I spoke with the General Manager Matt and asked if I could see their pits. He was really accommodating and let me see their kitchen and their pits. They use 2 Cookshack Electric smokers in the kitchen and a HUGE custom made 2 ton Ole Hickory in the back. They use organic apple wood for all their smoking.
As I headed to sit down for lunch I asked if could try a sample platter with my friends and a few of their sauces. What happened in the next hour or so was a bit of a blur. Ribs. Lots of ribs, from their original signature side ribs (my fav) to their Dakota beef ribs ( they had a little heat to them) and then their Mississippi back ribs . Bourbon glazed pit chicken – super moist and flavorful, tender but not too tender brisket that yielded well to a snap test and had a lightly smoky flavor, Texas style sausage – that had a great snap, great texture to it and a beautiful scent of smoke plus the best onion rings I have ever had anywhere. Alongside of all this was their sauces… 61 BBQ, Dakota, Memphis, and a really unique creole sauce I could have drunk a cup full – it was so good. I didn’t even capture a before picture the BBQ enticed us all so much. I think that says a lot. The aroma was captivating. The food was gorgeous to look at. Nothing was over sauced or shellacked so much that the meat didn’t come through. Here’s the bones:
Seriously as soon as they bottle this stuff I will buy a case or 3 Hwy 61 Creole Sauce.
The meats mentioned above were all incredibly well done. We liked it all. – The pulled pork was however not my favorite. I found it to be on the mushy end and not all that appealing. It was also lacking flavor. I like bark. I like bark on pork especially since it captures so much flavor. This certainly would not keep me from going back again.
I talked to Matt about the restaurant a bit. I asked him where they learned to BBQ – he told me that the crew had done their own thing but also had gone to learn from a couple of folks who know BBQ inside and out because it literally is in their blood…. Mike Mills yes.. that Mike Mills of 17th Street BBQ fame and his lovely daughter Amy Mills. They all had gone to the OnCue and business of BBQ course.
Matt also talked a bit about the challenges they had with bringing such a large smoker into the downtown Toronto area. The amount of challenges they had to overcome was huge. From the smokestack length to the building they had to create behind the restaurant to accommodate a hand wash station and prep table were just a couple of obstacles. They have overcame them all and made all of the health inspectors, fire departments and councils happy.
This was a really good BBQ experience. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meal. The warm hospitality, the great ambiance and the kick ass Q all led to some very happy people with full bellies who are already thinking of making a repeat visit. There are a whole lot of other things on their menu I still want to try. Kudos to the crew at HWY 61 BBQ. They make some of the best BBQ I have ever tried in Ontario. I’ll be back for sure.