Opened six years ago, Stack restaurant, in North Toronto, is a gem, a real find, both for its top-notch Southern U.S.-style barbecue meats and for the fact that it incorporates those meats into salads, poutine, burgers, tacos and sandwiches. Call Stack’s approach ‘urban barbecue’ — and also call it delicious.
All of Stack’s meats are cooked low and slow for up to 14 hours in a made-in-Tennessee Southern Pride wood-fired smoker. Moist and smoky pulled chicken tops the Smokehouse Bowl salad built on brown rice, mixed greens, tomato, black beans, corn, Jack cheese and green onion tossed in chipotle ranch and crowned with chunks of buttery avocado.
We use corn chips to scoop up a dip thick with refried black beans layered with guacamole, sour cream, Monterey Jack cheese and pico de gallo.
But to truly get the authentic Stack Experience, we opt for The Ultimate Platter, which feeds three to five people impeccably. The baby back ribs hit all the right notes: They’re tender, deeply smoky and come easily off the bone, the sign of a perfectly slow-cooked rib. Coated by a zippy spice rub, smoked chicken wings are plump and tender (the drumettes are particularly fine). Pulled pork and thick-cut, bark-encrusted beef brisket are deliciously moist and smoky.
Barbecue is as much about the sides as the meats, and Stack’s made-from-scratch sides are mighty impressive. Coarse-cut slaw is crunchy and properly undersweet. Beans carry irresistible molasses sweetness and deeply smoky backnotes; served in a cast-iron skillet, mac ’n’ cheese is rich and splendidly gooey. And I could make a meal out of the superb cornbread. Not long out of the oven, the tiny loaves are moist and crumbly, with just the right notes of sweetness and jalapeno heat.
There’s only one dessert option, but it’s sublime: Made-to-order mini-doughnuts with choice of toppings. We opt for the simple, classic Old Fashioned, with half of the order tossed in icing sugar and half in cinnamon sugar. The generous stacks of warm, pillow-soft doughnuts melt in the mouth and send gasps of pleasure around the table. It’s the perfect end to a stellar meal.
In keeping with its style of barbecue, the airy and welcoming two-level room is outfitted in an urban style I’ll call Modern Diner: Understated earthtones, acres of gleaming hard surfaces, spacious padded booths and, in the back corner, a glassed-in area displaying that Southern Pride smoker that turns out those boffo barbecue meats.
For groups, buyouts will be considered for the entire restaurant, which seats about 100 people. A second-floor private room, outfitted with its own bar and offering audiovisual capability, seats 50 and is ideal for a variety of events such as on-site ceremonies (wedding rehearsals, for example).
Stack also caters offsite meetings and events of up to 200 people, for which it offers drop-off or full-service options.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 30 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,500 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.