David and I had the chance to stop into Buster Rhinos for lunch today. Primarily, to taste owner and pitmaster Darryl Koster's latest experiment, smoked fried chicken.
Mention Buster Rhinos to any BBQ afficionado in the GTA and they will rank it as one of their top bbq joints in the province. Since BBQ became a big trend a few years ago in Toronto–and even with a number of new players in the scene (Stockyards, Barque, Hardy's)–Darryl's establishment has managed to tally the accolades and win over palates. In my personal eating experience, there isn't much competition because of how consistent the food is at BR. Stockyards is also great, but everything else pales in comparison.
The menu at BR is simple: just authentic southern BBQ. Items like smoked pulled pork, ribs, beef brisket, wings, and a variety of sides. But behind the scenes, what most people don't know is that Darryl and his chef Scott McDonald experiment, a lot. In the past, the two have hosted tastings where these experimental recipes have been showcased. Recently, fried chicken has been an obsession for both. The Spotlight crew were invited out to come and taste their latest creation.
As far as we know, no other BBQ joint in the GTA serves smoked, battered fried chicken. (Stockyards has a buttermilk fried chicken dish, not smoked. Barque has smoked chicken, but its not battered and fried.) So, this is a first in the region, for now anyway. As David and I sat down to eat, we noticed that Darryl was hestitant as usual when asked about the recipe. For example, only Darryl and Scott know the recipe for their southern bbq sauce and many of the spice blends that go into their dishes. It's because a number of Darryl's dishes have made their way on to menus in Toronto in the last two years, sometimes quite obviously. All we know, is that the chicken goes through a lengthy process of smoking, brining, and frying.
The smoky flavours were deep and pronounced with every piece, hitting the nose before you take the first bite. The skin, beautifully golden brown and crunchy, with a discernable amount of spices and herbs. The meat was tender and flavourful with a considerable amount of that smokiness with each bite. This isn't Stockyards' fried chicken, which is arguably Toronto's favourite, it's just different. Very different.
The smoked fried chicken will be on the menu as a weekly special, starting next Wednesday. Every Wednesday, you can get three pieces of smoked fried chicken, your choice of side, and a drink, for $9.99.
David's Thoughts: I love barbecue. I'll go to almost any ends to try it. My conistent complaint in Toronto is that there just isn't enough smoke going into what we can get. This is never a problem at Buster Rhino's.
Here the chicken's crispy crust hides the intense woodsmoke aroma that they've managed to lock into the chicken meat. Do us both a favour and try your first piece straight-up, without sauce, and you're on your own from there.
Buster Rhinos BBQ
7-2001 Thickson Road South
Bits > Casually chronicling where I’m eating, and what I’m eating. If it’s interesting and if its tasty, it will be here.
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Written by Suresh Doss
Suresh Doss is the publisher of SpotlightToronto.com and Rickshawmag.com. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America.