Franklin BBQ

franklin5franklin6 franklinlineup

If you come to one conclusion from my recap of Hot Doug’s, it’s that Isabel and I don’t mind waiting in line for the promise of great food. And of course, when it comes to Texan cuisine, great food and great BBQ are one in the same.

Coming from Toronto, the notion of proper, southern BBQ is foreign. BBQ around here tends to be hot dogs, steak and burgers (or chicken wings, if Isabel and I invite you over). But of course, anyone with tastebuds and internet access knows that ain’t the case in Texas. So while in Austin, it was natural for us to sink our teeth into the best BBQ we could find. And since the internet is full of people who know more about that sort of thing than I do, it was easy to to get pointed in the right direction. Because if you’re looking for BBQ in Central Texas, all signs point to Franklin.

Of course we knew about the lines. But from what we’d heard, the multi-hour queue is a worthy price of admission for what plenty of experts call, “the finest barbecue in the land.” So we arrived shortly after 9am on an unassuming Thursday morning. Some two hours before the restaurant opens its doors and staked our place in line. Little did we know, it would be close to 4 and a half hours before we’d come face-to-face with the famous pitman.

Here’s where I say the most unbelievable-but-true thing I possibly could: the wait wasn’t that bad. Yes it was long, but we happily used that time to make friends with the fine folks around us who shared the belief that greatness (some might say, “perfection”) is worth waiting for. Maybe we lucked out, but our linemates were all very friendly, offering a place to sit (on their cooler) and drinks (beer from said cooler). And as the line snaked closer and closer to the unassuming shack of a building you couldn’t help but feel that the waiting is part of the appeal. BBQ is slow food, after all.

So what did we eat and how was it? We ordered everything that came out of the smoker (aside from the turkey, which sold out before we got the chance to probably not order it). So this meant brisket, ribs, sausage and a handful of pulled pork given to us gratis. The brisket is probably what gets most people excited, and it was undoubtedly delicious. The Central Texas-style of BBQ means that the rub is simple: salt and pepper. Which means that the end product is really all about the meat. And the smoke. And the skill of the pitman. A common credo around these parts is that great BBQ doesn’t even need a sauce. And this was true for everything we tasted. But that’s not to say that Franklin doesn’t have a dynamite BBQ sauce. Spiked with espresso, it’s much more complicated and delicious than the typically one-note sauces I’m used to.

On the whole, the Franklin experience was worth it. It was the best BBQ I’ve ever had, and would happily stand in line for it again if given the chance.

Blue Star Donuts


When telling people that you’re headed to Portland, the word “donuts” is generally said within a few sentences of their response. Or at least when you talk to the kind of people I do.

“Skip Voodoo Doughnut. It’s for tourists. The real winner is Blue Star.”

Be it through word of mouth or word of mouse, the general consensus is nothing but praise for Blue Star Donuts – the trendy shop (of course it’s trendy, it’s in PDX)  slinging inventive and delicious donuts. So naturally, it was Isabel and I’s first stop when we rolled into the city. And it did not disappoint.

I typically favour a cake-type donut (with a sour cream old fashioned being my absolute favourite) but Blue Star’s brioche-based dough gave even the best donuts I’ve ever had a run for their money. Between the two of us we sampled three delicious varieties, but the undisputed champion was the lemon poppyseed. Paired with Portland’s finest brew and what you’re left with is a breakfast fit for a big ol’ fat king.

Yum Cha with Susur Lee

davidstrasser-blog-P1240430 davidstrasser-blog-P1240429 davidstrasser-blog-P1240433 davidstrasser-blog-P1240438 davidstrasser-blog-P1240446 davidstrasser-blog-P1240448 davidstrasser-blog-P1240449 davidstrasser-blog-P1240459 davidstrasser-blog-P1240456

It’s been about a month since Susur Lee’s newest venture, LUCKEE, opened in the Soho Metropolitan. Isabel and I went on opening night (after the Jay’s home opener) for drinks and bar snacks. The was service scattered, the was food cold, and everything was overpriced. But I’ve been a Susur fanboy for some time now, and knew that he deserved another shot to impress us.

So last weekend we went for Saturday lunch. Which really is the main event for any dim sum place—even if it’s of the so-called Nouvelle Chinoise variety. Unlike our first visit, we were seated in the dining room (it’s a beautiful room) and were given the full menu to order from.

The menu is a mix of dim sum items and larger sharing plates. We decided to sample a bit from both. Of course, when it comes to dim sum, the true way to gauge a restaurant’s quality is to sample the standards. For most that means ha gow and siu mai—but we usually add in a pan-fried turnip cake (Susur’s variation involved taro—which I’m a sucker for).

The “classics” were legit. Well-made and tasty, but mostly elevated in price only. The true revelation in the meal came when we ordered his luxe version of cheong fun. This classic rice noodle roll dish was sent into the stratosphere with the inclusion of a fried dough stick (yau ja gwai), chicken and onions. It really was something special. 

Other dishes approached this high (his Shanghaiese ham dish was delightful, and the wok fried beans were as good as they are anywhere else—which isn’t faint praise, because I love that dish).

The only real miss of the meal was his take on siu long bao. I insisted on ordering it because I always do at dumpling restaurants, but knew full well that it would be hard to impress us.

Most reviews will refer to LUCKEE as elevating dim sum. And truth be told, based on this one experience,  it’s already near the top of the dim sum food chain in Toronto. But the Chinatown bar is pretty low. So does it make the trip to Markham irrelevant? I’m not going to go that far, but it’s nice to know that a yum cha fix can be filled closer to home. Even if we’re charged a premium for it.