Cherry Street Bar-B-Que, in Toronto’s Port Lands area, channels a Southern U.S.-style barbecue joint in all the best ways: Hardwood floors. Exposed brick walls. Busy open kitchen. Early on a Sunday, the restaurant is packed and buzzes with energy.
Also authentically Southern is the method of ordering: At the counter, after which customers take their seats and wait for Cherry Street’s gregarious, efficient and attentive servers to bring their food.
Part of a flurry of new, Central Texas-style barbecue joint openings in Toronto this year, Cherry Street is located in a former bank building and dishes up some fine fare, indeed.
And what food! Cooked low and slow, with plenty of smoke, Cherry Street’s barbecue fare includes tender, moist beef brisket, boasting a good peppercorn crust; meaty side ribs and even meatier, St. Louis-style baby back ribs; moist, gently spicy sausage; and pulled pork drizzled with vinegary, fruit-based sauce.
But the kitchen is no one-trick pony and ventures, successfully, beyond barbecue. There’s a griddle-cooked, two-patty burger made from brisket trimmings garnished with cheddar, onion, tomato, pickles, shredded lettuce and Cherry Street’s own secret sauce, the whole packed into a soft potato bun. It’s like a Big Mac gone upscale. There’s also a novel and addictive take on a cheesesteak loaded with thin-sliced beef and jalapeno-spiked cheese.
Barbecue is as much about the sides as the meats, and Cherry Street’s go-withs shine. I adore the mini potatoes that are pillow soft and full of deep spud flavour. I also love the mac and cheese that’s like a rich, velvety queso dip packed with noodles.
As if those charms weren’t enough, Cherry Street dishes up two desserts, silky banana pudding and bourbon caramel apple crumble, that are homey but so well made they wouldn’t be out of place in a higher-end restaurant.
Seating 60, restaurant is available for corporate buyouts. In the warm-weather months, buyouts can include the restaurant and outdoor patio, which, combined, seat 160.
Cherry Street also offers offsite catering providing both barbecue and office sandwich platters made from the menu’s wood-fired options — roast beef, smoked turkey, grilled veg, chicken and pork loin, as well as side salads.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,300 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.