Dishing up Memphis-style BBQ with a focus on dry rubs, Blackstrap BBQ is the latest of the Southern food wave to hit Montreal.
I’m just going to say it. My first experience didn’t live up to the hype. It was so far off.
Fans of Blackstrap BBQ, if you’re reading this, I know you’re shaking your heads disapprovingly, sneering, “This girl doesn’t know shit.”
I’ll be honest with you. I’ve never had Memphis-style BBQ so I have nothing to compare it to. “Yeah, this girl definitely doesn’t know shit.”
But I can tell you whether I liked it or not.
It’s really as simple as that.
How it works: Order and pay at the cash, pick up your food when the cook calls your name, and take a seat at the warmly-lit counter or at one of two picnic tables lit with natural sunlight (during the day) by way of wide windows. Help yourself to a pitcher and glass of water, utensils, napkins and plenty of wet-naps. Super casual and family-friendly, I can’t imagine anyone not being down with the vibe.
Smoked up to 16 hours on apple and oak wood daily, the meats are first rubbed with a secret recipe chef Dylan Kier created after extensive research. Options like brisket, chicken, turkey and pulled pork were available, but the ribs were my number one priority. The order includes pork ribs served with coleslaw, a bun and a side of your choice for $14.99.
I like that I really got to taste the meat, which is standard for dry rubs. The seasoning was tasty and the flavors sank deep into the pink flesh, but my order was too dry and tough, except when I hit a blob of fat. While I wasn’t anticipating fall-off-the-bone tenderness, I didn’t think I’d have to slather them with the sauces on the table to compensate for the lack of moisture.
The spicy sauce was runny, far from spicy and predominantly vinegary. The sweet sauce was akin to smoky BBQ sauce in both taste and texture. I was dead set on not using them before coming in so I could really appreciate the rub and pork, but it just didn’t work out that way. The meat let me down.
I got a side of the fried mac ‘n cheese balls everyone’s been losing their minds over, and they didn’t do anything for me. The brown shell was nice, crisp and greaseless, and the pasta was tender but bland. The cheese was too mellow and there wasn’t enough of it, and it needed a heavier dose of salt.
The pulled pork sandwich ($6.99) was just OK. Paired with boring coleslaw and tucked in a soft bun, the pork was moist and juicy without being drenched in any sauce. Still, it lacked something to tie it all together. I didn’t know what, all I knew was that it was missing.
If it weren’t for the burnt ends poutine ($10.00), I would’ve left pissed. It featured fries, melting cheese curds, and tender, fatty and charred ends of brisket with super salty gravy to bring it home. There’s been lots of noise about it being one of the best poutines in Montreal, and while I can’t vouch for that, it certainly was good. Very good.
When we get to down to it, I wasn’t impressed. All that praise Blackstrap BBQ has been garnering suggested it would change my life – but here I am, shrugging.
Fanatics will accuse me of being unfair for publishing this so-so review based on one visit – defending that they must have had an off-day. Fine, if that were the case, wanna know what’s really unfair? The fact that I have to pay the same price on a day where the food is not up to its usual standards. If you want to argue with that, I reject all of your opinions.
But, there’s also the possibility that the food I had was really as good as it ever gets. And all I’m saying is, FOR ME, it was all right.
Look, I’m open to giving Blackstrap BBQ a second chance. The friendly people there who care about the customer add to that cause. I want them to make me bite my tongue. I genuinely want to love them. They’re one of the few places doing Memphis-style BBQ in Montreal – which several of my trusted sources describe as “authentic” – and that’s huge.
I’ll be back. I’m just not in a rush.
N.B. Closed Monday
4436 rue Wellington | map