by Maia Filar
God, Toronto loves meat so much right now. Pork in particular. Smoked, maple coated, pulled, roasted, BBQ’d, it’s in your soup, it’s in your drink and it’s in your chocolate bars. But with so many dishes in this city to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down for you, picking the ones that are big on flavor, value and originality, and don’t leave you feeling like a porker.
Pressed Cubano Sandwhich at Delux Bistro (92 Ossington Ave), $15
The West-end of the city is seriously devoted to pork, and it’s hard to choose from everything this three-block radius had to offer. But the molasses-cured pork shoulder is slow roasted for 5 hours until extremely tender, and then sliced and pressed on an in-house made French boule bread along with ham, Gruyere cheese, grainy mustard, red onion and sour pickle. It’s a sandwich that has you thinking about it for days afterwards. Served with salad and fries. While this is chef Corrina Mozzo’s only nod to her Cuban food roots on the French bistro-style dinner menu, Delux will be opening for lunch this summer with an entire Cuban menu. Sandwich inlcuded.
BBQ Pork at Ho Ho BBQ (3833 Midland Avenue Scarborough) $4.99
While we have an abundance of Asian foods in Toronto, nothing beats Cantonese done really, really well. Ho Ho BBQ has been hailed as some of the best, and rightly so. The pig is marinated, hung and placed in a fire-roasting oven until, well, until owner and chef Jacques Wong says it’s done. He learned under masters in Hong Kong, and has been in this suburban location perfecting his craft for 10 years. Perfectly roasted, the skin is crispy and crackling golden with fatty and flavorful meat makes this dish hard to resist, especially for the price.
Ribs at The Stockyards (699 St. Clair Ave. West) Whole Rack $25, Half Rack $13
Toronto has been itching for a really good southern-style BBQ restaurant for a while now, and it has finally arrived with flocks of people in tow. Using a wood fired smoker is the key to getting these ribs so perfect. Smoked for 6 to 9 hours with apple and hickory chips makes for a not overly smoky and sweet caramel flavor. The Carolina style BBQ means the ribs are served dry with sauce on the side. Cooked the day of and available from 5 pm Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
Pork Belly at Cava (1560 Yonge Street) $8.95
Cured and slow cooked, the fatty meat is mixed with painted pony beans, shredded Brussels sprouts, buckwheat noodles, salt and pepper and cooked in pork stock. Not too overdone, not too fancy, a perfect classic dish with balanced flavors.
Peameal Bacon Sandwich at Carousel Bakery (St. Lawrence Market, 93 Front Street East) $5.99
The St. Lawrence Market is an institution. If you grew up here you probably went every Saturday morning with the family. If you moved here later in life, you probably knew you were home when you tasted the peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery, where they have been slinging grilled cornmeal crusted Canadian bacon on a soft country bun for close to 30 years. The meat speaks for itself, lean and sweet cured, it doesn’t need much besides the bun, but if you want you can load the sammy with bacon, eggs and cheese, lettuce, tomato and a selection of mustards.
Pig on a Spit at Bairrada Churrasqueira (various locations across Toronto including 1000 College Street) complimentary appetizer
You know summer has officially arrived with this west-end Portuguese restaurant opens their massive patio, filled with local families and sneering hipsters. On Wednesdays, head over for the whole roasted pig on a spit, rubbed in a secret blend of spices and roasted over an open charcoal grill. Get it while you can. They start serving it as a freebie at noon, doused in piri piri sauce, until it’s all gone. A great way to welcome the warm weather.
Ka Chii Pork Bone Soup (612 Bloor Street West) $6.95
I have been known to sing the praises of this fatty and spicy soup, before. The peppery kimchi sets your mouth on fire, but it’s quickly balanced out with an earthy broth, potatoes and pork so tender, it almost melts in your mouth.
Old Fashioned at Hoof Café (928 Dundas Street West) $12
Rye infused with house-cured and smoked pork belly, Black Hoof bitters and cherry syrup. Three ingredients, but it is creations like this that has made owner Jen Agg and her restaurants, The Black Hoof and its little sister, Hoof Café, Canadian food superstars. Not for the overly squeamish, almost every pork dish, from the suckling pig eggs Benny to the pigs’ tail and cheesy grits, is a must have.
Maia Filar is a freelance writer and a full time eater.