Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Cluck, Grunt and Low

Neon sign from the Toronto barbecue restaurant “Cluck, Grunt and Low”, featuring a pig, cow and chicken in suits.
Click the photo to see its Flickr page.

A couple of weeks back, the Ginger Ninja and I went to Cluck, Grunt and Low to see if Toronto finally got a barbecue place worth mentioning. I felt that the food could use a little work: the sauce — which comes courtesy of the highly-regarded Thuet — is quite good, but the pork ribs I had that night were a little thin and dry; I’ve had juicier and meatier at Montana’s Cookhouse (which is surprisingly good, considering that it’s a chain). Wendy, who’s used to some of the better barbecue place in the Boston area, said that it wasn’t authentic enough to bill itself as “barbecue”. I think the true test will be to bring my coworkers from Tucows’ Starkville, Mississippi office there. We’ve had a couple of serious discussions of what real barbecue is, and I think it would be interesting to see what they think.

Opinion seems to be divided between the professional reviewers and the word-of-mouthers. The people on the Chowhound discussion board have by and large been disappointed, while Toronto Life food reviewer James Chatto, Eye Weekly’s Kathryn Borel and the National Post review have generally been favourable.

I think part of Cluck, Grunt and Low’s problem is that the food isn’t barbecued or smoked on the premises. The place isn’t large enough — I remember when it was Shakespeare’s Cafe, a student coffeehouse — and there just isn’t enough of the smell that a real barbecue pit and smokehouse has. The barbecuing and smoking apparently takes place offsite and the food is trucked in, where it’s warmed. Those of you who old enough to remember the CN Tower restaurant in the late 70’s and early 80’s may recall hearing that the kitchens were in the basement and the food had to be taken up in the elevator, which was one of the reasons why the Tower’s Revolving Restaurant was also known locally as the “Revolting Restaurant”.

I might give Cluck, Grunt and Low another shot if I start hearing better reviews from friends or the Chowhound crowd, but in the meantime, I think I’m going to get my barbecue during my trips to the States.

5 replies on “Cluck, Grunt and Low”

I have to note here that though there are a couple of good places, Boston is not a bbq hotspot either, of course. I miss Blue Ribbon (Newton and Arlington) like crazy though. They even have homemade pickles.

The food tasted all right at CG&L – not gross or anything – it just tasted nothing like barbecue.

i second Zvi’s comment. phil’s is the absolute best. it is real authentic bbq. why does no one in TO seem to know it exists?

Best part is they don’t pay their employees!!! Dont eat in that shithole… their mice fruit flies and ants…. and 12 people who are taking them to court for not paying them. The ribs are good no matter what anyone says but why eat at a place who treats their staff that keeps them in business because they constantly run out of stuff like that seriously? you want to eat there karma baby

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