The unmistakable scent of barbecue fills our souls. The aromas of smoke, char, and seasoning are deeply comforting and a beautiful sign of what’s yet to come. We took a drive to Brine & Grill in Orléans and now we are ready to make the trip every single week.
The inside is tastefully decorated with a big sign, carefully (and probably painstakingly) cut out by hand—the main feature above the booth we chose. The restaurant also houses a brick wall painted in white, indoor-outdoor canopies above the seating area, and beautifully stained tables that owner Eric Auclair rescued from the previous establishment and sanded and painted by hand.
A lot of love went into this place. And for good reason. Manotick-born and raised Auclair spent 15 years in the service industry, fleeing the nest to Calgary after finishing his Culinary Arts program at Collège La Cité. Throughout his solid career, he’s worked in all roles, from dishwasher to Executive Chef in fine dining at the best restaurants in Calgary. In Ottawa, you may recognize him from his days as a Bar Manager at Rabbit Hole. Auclair says he was one inch away from leaving the industry when COVID hit.
“The only one thing I haven’t done yet is have my own place. My friend found a guy, we had a meeting and that was it. I came in and this place looked like a Subway. I am colour blind too but I put together a mood board, my designer friend signed off on it, and we started the work—I burned and scraped the tables, we went pallet hunting, reupholstered all chairs, borrowed a school projector to trace the sign,” says Auclair passionately. You can hear in his enthusiastic voice how much he loves Brine & Grill, and may we all be blessed with this passion for our work.
This is someone that knows what they are doing—with two staff in the restaurant plus Auclair running the place, the process from sitting down to ordering, to receiving our smoking hot dishes was seamless and fast. Crisp local lagers accompanied the meal. My partner, eating with his eyes first, ordered the half chicken which came charred to crispy perfection with full little potatoes and sweet pickles on the side. I opted for the most tender brisket sandwich of my life on a soft bun, with pasta salad as a side and slaw to share for the table. Auclair was a gracious host and courteously brought over his famous cauliflower steak, joking that we did not order any vegetables (guilty as charged).
My partner remarked how tender and juicy the chicken was and Auclair’s secret brine recipe is to thank for that. The chicken sits in a mix of the acidulated seasoned marinade with ingredients like mustard seed and peppercorns (not to mention the 10 other spices the chef named, but it is the secret sauce after all—no spoilers!) for 24 to 48 hours before being put in the Big Green Egg smoker for the signature crispy skin texture. Auclair even preserves all chicken spines (sorry, vegans) to make his homemade gravy sauce. Auclair gets even more technical with his brisket—he brines the meat with spices from smoked paprika to coriander and then cooks it sous-vide for two days before transferring it to the smoker.
The result of all the careful preparation, planning, and finally smoking the meat is stunning—we can honestly and confidently say that we enjoyed every single thing to perfection. The chicken was flavourful and beautifully smoked. The brisket melted in your mouth. The cold pasta salad acted as a perfect palate cleanser, especially when my partner got into Auclair’s homemade hot sauces, one of which is aptly titled “Kill me.”
Thank you, Eric and the team, for inviting us to Brine & Grill, and treating us to a meal. “All I want to do is feed people with good food. You can come here and relax after a busy week with no Wifi or distractions,” concludes Auclair, sending us off with a takeout container and full content bellies.