What is not good about being in tune to FoodTV network all the time was that it can give you serious cravings. I had this craving for BBQ’d ribs ever since I watched it as the weekend came and it would just not go away. Yesterday night, the craving was so bad, I started searching for BBQ places that were open on Monday (most Toronto restaurants close for Mondays). What I have found scouring Yelp and Urbanspoon was an unlikely restaurant to have good BBQ. Good reviews sang praises over the smoked meats that come out from the kitchens of Aft. But apparently, they were not just a BBQ place. They dish out comfort food, with their menu having the usual suspects of smoked burger and chicken wings, pulled pork, steak frites, southern fried chicken, the lip smackin’ good short ribs and more.
I came to Aft with my constant dining companion, Diona, a.k.a TitaFlips. We met up early to beat the dining crowd. As we drove by Queen St. East, heading west, we found out that street parking was actually free after 6pm. That was definitely a plus and a treat for a downtown restaurant. It would have been easy to miss the restaurant had I not known how its façade looked like. The signage was minimalistic and vintage in style. Walking in, I fell in love right away with all the edgy reclaimed wood fixtures in the form of table and the expanse of the bar. Contemporary lighting fixtures adorned the ceiling, just giving the bar and dining space a touch of sparkle without overdoing it. It certainly appealed to my aesthetic senses as I have a love for wood furniture that took care of highlighting its raw beauty.
As there were just a few patrons when we walked in, I spotted a table closest to the window. Our server, (I later learned was Jared), attempted to sit us somewhere more center into the dining room. I politely asked if we sit nearer to the window. I am so glad I am not timid as our server indulged me with my choice. Frankly, it was the lighting that made me choose the spot. There was nothing like having ample light to make food look so luscious in pictures.
I already had BBQ’d side ribs in mind before I got there and Diona selected the chicken wings. When we told Jared of our choices, he asked us whether we liked the chicken wings skinny dippin. That sure did perk my interest as he went on to explain that it means to deep fry the smoked chicken wings to give it that extra crisp. I always professed a weakness for anything fried so you can just imagine my smile grow bigger as I started envisioning what he was describing. Totally sounds delectable to me. He later came back given us three squirt bottles containing BBQ sauces, telling us one was Habanero-spiced, second was medium and the third was sweet.
The food did not take that long as they smoked the ribs for hours before the restaurant opened. The ribs came beautifully plated in a slab of wood, with coleslaw and cowboy baked beans on the side. The chicken wings looked equally photogenic, plated with red checkered sheet and a generous pile of hand cut fries. I appreciated the fact that Jared stopped me ordering my own serving of fries as I think that would just be too much food if we have double the amount. Just looking at the food in front of me already was a comfort. It looked moist, rich and just begging me to stop-taking-pictures-and-start-eating-right-now. Of course, after a few clicks I did start listening to my inner foodie nagging voice. Sometimes the foodie did precede the photographer. LOL.
Being a bit braver than usual, I opted for the habanero-spiced BBQ sauce and started dipping the rib deep into the sauce. I was glad it did not burn right off the bat. Although the more I indulged in the rather addicting sauce, with each bite of the tender meat, the heat started building in my tummy. I resorted to mixing more of the sweet into the spicy sauce to give me relief. Ah well, I have still a lot of work ahead of me to build a tolerance for spice. The chicken wings were equally tasty too. Should I have to decide, I have to go for the ribs. It was really lip smackin’ good! Special note too for that cowboy baked beans. This side was so exceptional, I swear if I have room in my tummy, I would have insisted of finishing this generous side dish. There was no question that it went through a slow-cooking process as the flavors were deep and robust.
It seemed to me that with each month that passed by, I get more and more reasons to be a regular at Leslieville. If you find yourself this side of Queen St. East, do indulge and eat Aft BBQ’d side ribs with your hands. I believe licking the sauce off your fingers is half the fun of enjoying good food! :)