Lately, barbecue places are popping up around Montreal more an more. This does not strike me as a surprising trend, so allow me to explain briefly. Food media has been glorifying food for years. The Food Network, magazines, online cooking videos, and food blogs (including foodguymontreal.com…guilty!) bring the exciting part of food to the forefront while showing the fun, creative, and and entertaining side of this industry. Food is fun, and we should enjoy it. When we see shows like Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, certain segments and features are drool-worthy from the dripping metling cheese, the bubbling sauces, and oozing juices. Some of the most popular moments to watch, and my favorite ones, are when the host, Guy Fieri, takes a trip to Saint Louis, Memphis, Kansas City, Texas, and the Carolina’s to sample the best barbecue America has to offer. I love watching what goes into a dry rub, a barbecue sauce, how big the smoker is, what wood they are using, and how long a piece of meat is cooking away low and slow. With barbecue competitions increasing in popularity, more food media covering it, and chefs who are smoking ingredients more and more, it’s no wonder the awareness of southern barbecue has increased. That’s why there’s more interest for chefs to open restaurants of this nature. It’s a very delicious trend.
There are a few places to get barbecue in Montreal, but I felt a strong disconnect from what I was seeing on TV, or reading on blogs, other websites, and magazines, compared to what’s available here. The one’s we currently have are considered to be “wet” barbecue, or sauce-based. Ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and chicken are served with a house-made (I hope) barbecue sauce. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but what I’ve been waiting for is one where all these meats can be cooked in a smoker for hours, where the dry rub is the star. I want to eat ribs where a bite mark shows without all the meat falling off the bone while still being tender. I want brisket with a natural smoke taste without the aid of a sauce. I want chicken where the skin is a little crispy, and the flavor penetrates throughout the entire bird. The timing couldn’t be better for Blackstrap BBQ.
After the ending of their tenure at Griffintown Cafe, Dylan Kier and Clarah Barron did what I would love to do one day: take a road trip to Saint Louis, Kansas City, and Memphis to sample America’s best barbecue. They ate at the best places, did their research, learned about what makes this type of food so good, and put it into practice at their new restaurant on Wellington, in Verdun. They have officially been open for one week; I have been twice. The setting is what Dylan considers as a “fancy barbecue joint”. I agree. With two communal wood tables, wood benches, wood bars, and wood floors all made by a carpenter-friend, this space is exactly what you want to experience. It’s rustic, warm, and friendly.
At Blackstrap BBQ, they smoke everything in house, and use the same dry rub on all their meats. It’s important to know that this barbecue is based on their dry rub and not based on basting with barbecue sauces throughout the cooking process. The delicious spicy and sweet sauces come on the side if you want them. During both visits, I ordered the same thing. What was formerly known as “The Dave Plate” (named after Dave McMillan of Joe Beef after he tweeted what he was eating on opening night), now known as “Le Gros”, this plate of food is most of the menu in one dish which should be shared between two hungry people. It consists of ribs, chicken, brisket, pulled pork, collard greens, coleslaw, smoked beans, and deep fried mac & cheese balls. We also ordered the burnt ends poutine on top of all that. Rather than discussing every morsel, I’m going to highlight just a few of the items that truly stood out. Just know that everything I ate was incredible.
The ribs are tender, smokey, and stay on the bone with each bite. In fact, a perfect semi-circle dent remained after my teeth sunk into the succulent beast. You can see the juiciness glistening under the bark, and redness staining the meat from the penetrating smoke. This is textbook barbecue ribs. The 12-hour smoked brisket displays the most perfect bark and smoke ring. The slices of this meat are succulent, and mind-numbingly delicious. I love this and could eat it every day. The chicken is as moist as it comes, the smoke flavor is definitely present, and the skin is mouthwatering. The best way to eat this is to pick it up with your hands, dive right in, then lick your fingers to suck up all the remaining flavor.
By far the best thing at Blackstrap, and dare I say the best one in Montreal, is the burnt ends poutine. The burnt ends are located at the edges of the brisket. It’s the slightly fattier part, which means more flavor and juiciness. The bark is a little tastier, the smoke rings are thicker, and the natural smoke flavor is a little stronger. In this poutine, the burnt ends are cubed then added to a deliciously smokey gravy, crispy fries, and traditional cheese curds. The caramelized peppery and sweet dry rub on the chunks of brisket contrast perfectly with the saltiness of the fries and cheese curds. I’m not kidding when I say that every fork-full is ridiculously amazing. I let out a grunt or two, which is really just a next level “Mmmmm”. Not ordering this would be a sin.
Dylan and Clarah believe so strongly in their barbecue, that they plan on participating in the most prestigious barbecue competition, The Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition. Good luck to them. There are some serious heavy-hitters out there. Finally, we have southern barbecue. Real, authentic, delicious barbecue. They operate on the philosophy of “make only what you need for the day”, meaning if they run out of food, then that’s it for the day. Come back tomorrow. That’s how they do it in every barbecue restaurant, so just accept it. If you’ve been waiting for a place like this like I have, then your search is over. Go to Blackstrap BBQ…NOW.