Summer Festival of Craftbeer – The Only Cafe

For those of you following along, you will know I work with Castro’s Lounge, in the Beach.  If you’re familiar with the beer scene in Toronto, you will know that there is another bar, not too far away, that has a very similar “feel” as Castro’s; The Only Cafe.  Dark, bohemian, lots of pictures on the walls, excellent beer selection.  The reason for this is, if you go far enough back in our histories, both bars were owned by the same people, quite a while back.  So we have a long history together.  It’s not uncommon to find staff from The Only at Castro’s, and vice versa.  So when Fabian, manager now from The Only, formerly from Castro’s, called me to ask if we wanted to take part in their Summer Festival of craftbeer, I was all for it.  Fabian had a few ideas for our participation, but the one that really grabbed me, was to have us come in and cook some BBQ for the beer tasters.

I love BBQ.  Let me clarify: I love to BBQ.  I’m a vegetarian (okay, a peskatarian, I eat seafood.  Or as Ashok says, I’m a picky eater).  I don’t eat mammals.  Or birds.  The jury is out on bugs.  The point is, I might be one of the only “Picky Eater” BBQ guys in the city.  Because I don’t really like eating meat, I don’t get many chances to BBQ stuff.  I make a mean smoked jackfruit, which is lovely, but it only takes about two hours, which doesn’t really pluck my BBQ heart-strings.  Needless to say, I jump at any opportunity to slow-cook some quadruped over smokey hardwood.

Roughly half the beef to be BBQ'd

13 LBS of cow, waiting for the fire

Now, I do love to BBQ, but I’ve always gone for the Carolina/Georgia style, focusing on pork.  Specifically, pork shoulder (I just can’t do a whole hog on a spit).  I’m getting pretty good at pork, and if you doubt me, feel free to come by The Only Saturday after 5pm to taste and see.  That being said, I like to learn.  And in terms of BBQ mecca, Texas has a decent argument for that title.  Not the first place to do it, to be sure, but certainly a place that has adopted the style well.  And in Texas, the king of the BBQ pit is brisket.  The ultra tough neck area from the cow.  After hours of study, and a good bit of dreaming (seriously, I’m sick, I know), I knew what I was going to do.

My Texas-style Brisket

Okay, first off, remember, Texas is nearly part of Mexico.  In fact it was, before it became part of the USA.  I think.  I kind of made that up.  Anyways, Mexican cuisine is an integral part of Texas.  So whereas a rub for meat in the Carolinas focuses more on the ingredients of European descent, Texas rubs often contain chillis and spices from Mexico.  As such, this one features, aside from the obvious garlic, onion, salt and pepper; cayenne and morita (smoked and dried red jalapenos). Beef needs a sturdy hardwood smoke, so these cuts have been sweating over a mix of primarily mesquite and hickory, with some apple and cherry towards the end for aromatics.  How long?  Well, they will be over the fire for about 12-13 hours, then they’ll be wrapped and insulated for another 3 (I’ve got a thing this afternoon, before I go to The Only).  This is called “The Crutch”.  I have no idea why.  It means the bark is softened (some people like this, others not), but it steams it, and lets the tissue break-down even more.

One peice, after 11 hours over the coals

Looking good

So, if you’re interested in trying out my first stab at Texan BBQ, you know where to find me.  The Only Cafe, Danforth and Donlands (easy access to the subway station), after 5pm.  I hear there will be excellent beer too….. Seriously, Friday will feature beers from Great Lakes, Amsterdam, Mill Street, Wellington, Creemore and Beaus All-Natural.  Samples are $1/each and I think sandwiches are $5 each (don’t quote me on that).  Saturday will be killer pulled pork and beers from Keep 6 Imports, featuring Dieu du Ciel & Charlevoix, as well as Spearhead and Wellington.


  1. Tyler
    Posted August 12, 2012 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    OK….I was at this…and how did I miss it? Recently bought a WSM and have been smoking meat pretty much every weekend since we got it (May???). This is amazing….favourite bar and favourite food? Bring it!

  2. chris
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Haha, Tyler, I suspect you were at the one the just happened, in 2012, right? This post is from 2011….. Funny enough, if Fabian made the same offer, I would have to decline, as Castro’s has gone fully vegetarian. If he asked me personally, on the other hand, I would be in for sure. Glad to hear you’ve gotten the BBQ bug. Here’s my tip for BBQ folks: Wal-Mart. I hate shopping there, but their selection of charcoal, hardwoods, and accessories is great, and their prices are crazy.

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