Toronto contains such a never ending array of interesting restaurants that even the most ardent foodie can discover entire neighbourhoods, complete with dozens of dining options, on a regular basis. Such was our encounter when we visited Barque Smokehouse on Roncesvalles Avenue, an area in West End Toronto that lies just east of the sprawling High Park. With three to four food options on almost every mini block between Dundas West and Queen West, the area is ripe for discovery, especially for those who rarely have a reason to visit the area. Having spotted Barque on the Tourism Toronto’s Top 10 Family Friendly restaurant list, we were curious!
Disclosure : Our meal was complimentary but, as always, opinions are TOTALLY ours!
Our family walked in to Barque on a late Saturday morning and knew immediately that the place was for us. There was a small spot for stroller parking at the front (they didn’t even bat an eye when we folded up our double stroller) and as soon as we walked in the kids were asked to pick up a small tub of playdoh each and offered a choice of colouring books which came with a cup of crayons! All this before we even walked over to our table! Its stylish wooden tables, which would eventually be lined with numerous styles of barbecue and hot sauces, seemed to welcome a fun and messy eating experience. A bookcase to our right was filled with so many barbecue sauce options that I would have been content to stay the afternoon and sample them all. Another great touch were the various toys lined up on the mantle of a chalkboard drawing of pig driving a scooter, ad ad for the restaurant’s delivery service. The kids were thrilled with this artistic touch.
The food and drink options made us pretty excited too. We started with a delicious Barque Caesar, which included bacon, and a Hugo, a prosecco based drink with mint, lime, and elderflower. A debate in my mind then ensued in trying to decide between the Smoked Beef Brisket or the Pommery Pulled Pork sandwich. The Brisket won, as it seems like it’s an item infrequently available in Toronto restaurants. I made a good choice because the red cabbage slaw was a perfect compliment to the brisket. The aforementioned abundance of sauce options presented a dilemma too, but I just went with the spiciest option like I always do, and the meal was complete. The lightly seasoned home fries served with the sandwich were quite good too, befitting of a great brunch spot. At this point Baby Boy excitedly informed us of his need to go to the potty (don’t worry it was a one time thing and he’s still in his Pull Ups!) and we were glad to see a step stool in the bathroom. A change table was also on offer!
Yashy, with her penchant for ordering the most unusual menu item (pig ears anyone?), went with the Smoked Duck Pancakes, topped with Blueberry compote and chevre. It certainly must be the prettiest option at Barque, and looked hearty enough to feed two. According to Yashy the dish was the perfect sweet and salty combo and the pancakes were fluffy.
Most importantly, the kids were pleased with the Barque Fingers (chicken strips), pancakes, fries and fruit medley that we concocted for them from two different kids meals. We seem to end up at a lot of restaurants where the only food the kids will eat are the bread and the fries, and so finding a place like Barque, that not only welcomes and entertains kids, but provides them with appetizing food choices as well, is a relief. The more kids like eating the food, the quieter they tend to be.
A vibrant atmosphere, combined with a neighborhood feel adds to Barque’s charm. The area is not as noisy as most of the thriving restaurant scenes closer to downtown Toronto, making Barque a peaceful place to spend a weekend morning with the family. The restaurant also offers a lunch and a dinner menu with some intriguing options, including a Shrimp and Haddock Jambalaya, and, of course, a full range of barbecued meats, featuring 12 hour Brisket, Pommery Pulled Pork, Smoked Lamb Shoulder, Caraway Stout Sausages, Competition Chicken Thighs, and Baby Back Ribs, which, as I list them, make me want to take a trip to Barque this evening.
Also, for parents looking for a date night, Barque offers a great little program where BookingJane watches your kids while you dine at Barque! On Sunday nights they also host a Family Night with all the trimmings for a great Sunday dinner. Growing up, my parents liked to barbecue a lot, but we would always eat meals prepared on propane grills, with very little sauce added to the meats. I didn’t discover the true potential of barbeque until I ate the charcoal prepared dishes of the West Indies, and later, the perfectly cooked ribs at the famous Ribfest in Burlington. Now, whenever we walk by a barbecue joint, it usually gets added to our list of places to try. Someday soon, I want to visit Kansas City, a place famous for its barbecue plates. For now, we are well taken care of in Toronto with the Barque Smokehouse offerings.