As quickly as I am to tell the world I’ve sworn off red meat, I get a fabulous deal from TeamBuy: $22 worth of food for $10 at Lou Dawg’s Southern Sandwiches. I mean, how can I say no to brisket and pulled pork? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly drooling at just the thought…I mean when can vegetables ever be that mouth watering? Seriously?
I have to be honest, I’m no connoisseur of brisket, pulled pork and chicken. All I know is that it’s damn good when it’s done right (or to the point where my palette highly agrees with what’s tantalizing my taste buds) and unfortunately, there are no where near enough places in Toronto to go for this delicacy. Phil’s Original BBQ on College and Ossington is usually our go-to pulled pork place (say that five times) but upon our last few visits we’ve been unfortunate to get there too late and the “sorry we’ve run out” speech hit hard as we haven’t been, and that was well before BB and myself left for Asia. Don’t get me wrong, Phil’s is amazing, and not to mention incredibly affordable for students like us.I was however, incredibly excited at the prospect of testing out this new barbecue joint and for half the price, I’d be foolish not to give in. On a sunny day, we headed to King Street and Portland and found Lou Dawg’s.
The setting is a bit strange when we first entered because not only is it in a small, dark basement but I think the owners are a little confused about what their target demographic is. Is it because brisket and pulled pork equate to a male audience? That women can’t appreciate smokey, slow roasted beef or pork to the point where it just melts in your mouth and you can taste that bit of crispiness around the edges? I’m sorry but that is WRONG. Unfortunately, Lou Dawg’s doesn’t seem to understand that. The interior basically has a tv on every wall and of course featuring the sport highlights off ESPN while for the two ladies waiting for our meals, we heard some top 40s from the 90s like Backstreet Boys. I guess we have to take a hit somewhere.
In my opinion Lou Dawg’s is a little overpriced. I honestly have a hard time seeing myself trekking to that part of the core to eat brisket, if it wasn’t for my discount coupon I bought. That was even before I saw what the food portions looked like. We got there around 2pm so needless to say it wasn’t the crazy lunch rush. We went in, ordered at the bar which doubles as the cash register as the jumbo menu sprawled across the three chalkboards on the wall just stares you down. The sandwiches don’t come with any sides so it’s roughly $7-$10 for a sandwich plus an additional $3-$5 for a side such as coleslaw, sweet potato fries or potato salad (just three of their nine options), which can really add up.
I opted for the beef brisket ($8.95) and coleslaw ($2.99) while BB felt adventurous and went for the three meat slider sampler ($9.95). The meal was whipped up in less than 10 minutes and delivered to our table. Here’s how I know the restaurant does not cater to women: instead of serving me the enormous brisket sandwich (relative to the size of the samplers- see photos below), I was given the puny, barely-there sliders.
THE BEEF BRISKET WAS LIKE QUADRUPLE THE SIZE OF ALL THREE SLIDERS!!! A “wtf” was definitely mumbled from BB’s lips as he stared longingly at my amazing menu choice. All I could do was shake my head and give him that well recognized smile that he knows of, the, “I am not sharing today!” Actually, that’s a lie. I gave him a few bites because the sliders are a ridiculous rip off. Sure, it’s nice that BB was able to taste test what they have available so that in the future he can be decisive and pick a meat for his sandwich, but the fact is there was almost no meat on each one (the pictures are deceiving) and it was overpowered by the bread once you took that first bite of two (unless you just popped the whole thing in your mouth) and it was more expensive than all the other sandwiches. What gives? We both agreed that the slider sampler is not the best choice off the menu. Unfortunately neither was the coleslaw (or the two potatoes that were in BB’s sampler) as each were bland and needed more than a few dabs of their hot sauce and pepper to make it taste like anything but mayo and slaw.
It’s disheartening that Lou Dawg’s had the chance of winning me over yet failed on so many counts, and the one thing I came specifically for was the one thing I had yet to devour: the brisket. Although once again I found that their bread (I chose whole wheat, you know, I’m on that “healthy food binge” apparently) was far too dense and took away from the flavor and tenderness of the meat. I was incessantly chewing, chewing, chewing that damn bread that I couldn’t really appreciate the tenderness of the meat, which was definitely there, just I had to eat the meat separately to realize how tender the meat was. The sauce , thankfully wasn’t drenched on but it potentially held more smokiness than the meat itself. Plus, it definitely was not a lean cut of meat, which fine I can handle as it’s always the fat that makes it more delicious, but I had to literally tear apart half my sandwich to rid itself of the fat compounds on every piece. Gosh Lou Dawg’s you were so close to winning me over.
With BB’s sliders, I had a piece of his pulled pork and chicken which were tasty, just nowhere near fantastic or even in the same level as the brisket, I just don’t think they hit the major leagues. I was starting to wonder if there was any love or skill put into smoking and barbecuing their meats, or if was just a half-assed attempt at trying to start a competition with the few other places in the city. I’m really not trying to hate on Lou Dawg’s because I had a great time going, I just feel like they failed to deliver the goods they’re bragging about. The execution of the sampler was horrid and the prices need to be seriously re-evaluated by the owners. It could be that the clientele are more willing to pay more for their pulled pork in a restaurant that is succeeding in one thing: being a potential sports bar that serves up mediocre sandwiches.
If you want to go to Lou Dawg’s and try their sandwiches yourself and maybe prove me wrong (please do, I’d be more than willing to give this place another chance if people can vouch for it being much better than my own experience!), their info is:
589 King St W
Toronto, ON M5A 1M6