For all of the thousands of restaurants we have access to in Montreal we’ve been lacking in good, authentic style Southern BBQ joints until recently. Joints like Le Boucan, Le Fumoir Rubs Smokehouse, and the ever addictive Blackstrap BBQ have brought south of the border, classic American flavors to a city that “celebrates” winter 8 months out of the year and they have excelled at it. There isn’t much that is more satisfying than heading to a BBQ spot when it’s -20 outside and sticking your face into a warm, slow smoked plate of brisket. All week long I was in the mood for something like this and I stumbled upon a few reviews of a new joint in town that seems to be gaining much attention; Moonshine BBQ.
Opened in August of 2013 and led by Pitmaster Shawn Dascal, Moonshine BBQ boasts a wide array of smoked meats to dig into and, while I thought they had outpriced themselves when I looked at the menu online, my mind was quickly changed when I saw the mammoth portions being served up. We were initially going to dine in but being a larger group we would’ve had to wait a bit for a table and unfortunately we needed to be somewhere a bit later so we ordered for takeout. Being a bigger group can have its benefits though in that we can order a wide variety of food to sample without blowing our budget. So we walked out of there with behemoth amounts of brisket, pork ribs, and chicken served with coleslaw, cornbread, some sweet potato fries, mac-n-cheese, chili, and tater tots.
While we were waiting for our food I took a nice look around the place and liked the simple, rustic style design. It felt very welcoming and laid back. It isn’t a big place so if you are more than 4 I would call ahead for sure. We dealt with 4 different staff members and all were very friendly and funny, if a bit disorganized in the rush of Friday night dinner. And I have to say, there isn’t much more torturous than sitting there, starving with my phat gut rumbling and smelling the delightful aromas of real BBQ smoke and seeing the dude pulling out massive amounts of stuff that has been smoked for up to 18 hours a mere few feet from me. So far so good, I really like the vibe of the place and I can see it is a spot my kids would like too. Alright, food acquired we now floor it to my buddy’s place for the hideously beautiful act of stuffing our faces.
I had ordered the brisket and I am simply blown away by the portion I am served. That right there makes me feel that I’ve already gotten value for my money without even tasting it. Ok ok,fine I’ll taste it already, get off my back people! The exterior has a great, smokey crust on it and the interior is perfectly juicy and succulent. Ain’t nothing wrong with the brisket. I sample some of the chicken and it is good. Well cooked, not dried out. Some nice zesty flavors going on. While not as earth shatteringly good as the brisket it is a solid smoked chicken that I would get again. I sample some pork ribs and something just doesn’t seem right. The flavors are all great. They are sweet and smoky with a nice zip to them but something seems off with the meat itself. They are done St Louis style so it doesn’t just fall right off the bone, which is fine, that is how good BBQ ribs should be, but there is a strange layer of fat running along the whole rack that is more than an inch thick and of a strange texture. Having seen what the ribs looked like when people were jamming them down their throats eagerly just minutes before in the restaurant, I can only gather that this is actually just a messed up cut of ribs. It happens. It’s happened to me with steak a reputable steakhouse and I am sure if we were dining in house they would have rectified it with another serving of ribs.
First side I taste is the cornbread, a staple of Southern style BBQ. While I find this one to be slightly desserty in nature I do love the perfect density of it and dipped into the BBQ sauce that is slathered onto my brisket it is pretty damn delicious. Next I taste the coleslaw. The mustard in it is prominent and right up my alley. I love it, while a few friends are not so sure they like it. I admit this style of coleslaw may not be for everyone but I am of Ukrainian descent so give me cabbage or give me death. From there I jam a few forkfuls of mac-n-cheese into my face. *DISCLAIMER* I loathe standard store bought mac-n-cheese but LOVE when places get it right. Ever have the mac-n-cheese at Burgundy Lion with the fried rabbit shoulders? That, my friends is as perfect a mac-n-cheese you can get. Sadly, this one does not stand up to that or any I’ve made at home. It doesn’t taste too far from store bought to me. The tater tots are standard fare and, while I find it a bit of a strange side to get, I have no problem with them. The sweet potato fries are great. Not too thick of a cut and they appear to be double fried, making them perfectly crispy. The chili was a bit off too unfortunately. While the flavor of it was great it wasn’t cooked down to a thicker consistency and was almost more like a soup.
Any of you who read my articles regularly will know that I tend to steer away from negative reviews. There is enough negativity about any place, cookbook, recipe out there on the internet for you to find if you like. I know what you all are thinking. Ya, that’s right. At this exact moment I know the exact thoughts in each of your brains right now. Some of you are creeping me out a bit actually with what’s going on in there. Like, get help for some of that stuff! Alright but seriously, you are thinking well Phatman you say you don’t like to write negative reviews but have you read this? Yes, yes I have. I know it isn’t a glowing review. But I tasted enough great BBQ quality stuff here like the brisket, the chicken and that addictive cornbread to know that they are doing things the right way with that smoker.
You ever go somewhere and it just feels like the staff is maybe having an off night? It felt more like that. I know I liked enough things to go back and give them another shot soon. When I do, if it is mindblowing, you will all be the first to know. These guys just opened too. I’ve worked in a few kitchens and I know it can take a bit of time to work out the kinks and get running smooth every night. Listen, these guys are getting great feedback and there is great buzz around them everywhere I look. It could be that they are growing quickly and just need a bit of time to adapt. So, here’s my pledge: in 1 month I will go back and I will keep you all posted on how it went. Just know this; that brisket was a work of art. I like art. And I have seen that gargantuan custom built smoker they’ve got. It is a thing of beauty and we are lucky it is in Montreal. Here’s to hoping more beautiful things keep coming out of it.
5625 Decarie, Montreal