The only difficult part of having a meal at Greenwood Smokehouse (673 Danforth Ave.) is getting there. And that’s because owner and pit-master Warren DeSimone has been practicing the art of meat smoking for years at his own home on Greenwood Ave. It was so good that his friends (who were lucky enough to come by at just the right time) began to refer to his home as the Greenwood Smokehouse. And now that you know that, you won’t be confused when you find the new restaurant actually standing on the corner of Pape and the Danforth.
Warren has done his homework. In one meal, he’ll take your taste buds from Memphis to North Carolina before leaving them (happily) in Central Texas. This is the kind of smokehouse where your water comes in worn down bottles of Bulleit Bourbon; where your food is served on wooden tables that rest below old license plates hanging on the wall. In short, it’s captured an atmosphere that manages to evoke feelings of permanence and transitoriness at the same time. This space, both timeless and new, is exactly where you want to settle into some of the best smoked meat in the city.
You won’t find a huge barrel smoker here – Warren prefers a cabinet cooker. He fills it with old whisky barrels that have been chopped up (primary white oak) to ensure a unique flavour. Just as the smoke matters, so does the bun. Warren tells us how simplicity is what should be favoured. Forget brioche (not always, but definitely in the case of smoked meat); this isn’t about bread, it’s about tasting as much of the meat’s flavour as you can. Getting fancy with a bun will only distract from that. So our Central Texas-inspired brisket (heavy on pepper and salt) comes on a simple sesame seed bun – one Warren thinks is a fine middle ground for those who might turn up their nose at finding their meat placed between two pieces of Wonder Bread. Seriously.
The meat is fantastic, from the aforementioned brisket to the Memphis-style ribs (think heavy paprika, rosemary, dill, ginger, brown sugar, and more) that come in full portions. That’s right, before now you might not have noticed that a full rack should always contain 12 ribs, and at Greenwood Smokehouse it always will. However, it’s actually the vegetarian options that help take this restaurant from being really good to being great.
The poutine is a large bowl of heaven, and since it’s layered with a mushroom smoked gravy it means vegetarians can delight in all the gooey goodness without worrying. The wedge salad comes with (surprise, surprise) a large wedge of iceberg lettuce and a side of smoked kale that quite literally melts in your mouth. But it’s the mushroom burger that truly retains the title of pièce de résistance. This might be the best veggie burger in the entire city. A Portobello mushroom stuffed full of rolled oats and smoked eggplant and topped with caramelized onion, smoked pineapple, avocado, and chipotle sauce; it is the closest we’ve ever felt a veggie burger has come to reaching both the weight and texture of a real burger. It’s also cooked on a separate grill and separate veggie utensils are used in its handling, so you can be sure that despite the wonderful smell of smoked meat in the air, none of it will have ever touched your vegetarian preference.
In case you can’t tell, we think going to Greenwood Smokehouse is a fantastic option for everyone in Toronto. So forget flipping a coin to decide whether you’re meat eating or staying veggie – head here and have the best of both worlds.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)