Finding a place to eat lunch in Little Italy has always been a real dilemma. You got your beloved standbys like Dirienzo sandwiches, new entrants like Beech St. Burger and of course your pick of pasta or pizza. A new addition to the strip – The Zydeco Smokehouse (432 ½ Preston St., right next to Pub Italia) – has just made the decision that much harder. Focusing on freshly made cajun inspired fare, Zydeco fits right in to the neighbourhood’s tradition of straight-forward food without a lot of fuss and muss.
We sampled the restaurant last week after a quick tour of the tulips at Dow’s Lake. The take-away sandwich counter only has seating for two or three people (although they’ve added 3 small tables outside, for the summer season), but the cozy space, open kitchen and friendly staff gives the Smokehouse a nice homey feel that make you feel like a regular even on your first time.
Apparently everything on the menu – with the exception of the potato chips – is made from scratch. For your starters or sides you can pick from southern classics like Chipotle and Molasses Baked Beans, coleslaw Macaroni Salad or Potato Salad. There also the mandatory poutine with a Zydeco twist, with baked beans and pulled pork crashing the cheese curds’ party. But of course it’s the sandwiches and the Po Boys, often featuring some kind of smoked meat, that are the main act. Maple smoked Pulled Pork, Apple Smoked Andouille Sausage, Hickory Smoked Chicken, Mesquite smoked beef – it’s a veritable forest of options.
Although it’s Zydeco’s pulled pork that is making a name for itself, we decided to try other items on the menu. I went for the Andouille sausage with the coleslaw and mac and cheese while my companion tried that day’s special, beef brisket rubbed in mustard and smoked with Mesquite wood and a side of baked beans. The sausage was great – lots of subtle flavours ending with a nice spicy kick. The sausage was covered in delicious creamy slaw. My side coleslaw was the perfect accompaniment – crispy cabbage, a bit of apple and a nice acidic finish that nicely complemented the rich flavours of the sausage. I also liked the mac and cheese, which was just the right consistency and saltiness. The weak meal’s weak point was the bun, which seemed like your standard grocery store issue. For me it was the worthy of that expertly smoked sausage.
The beef brisket was tender, with little fat and plentiful. It was covered in a bit of chipotle BBQ sauce, and thinking back, my partner says he should have asked for a bit more sauce, to smother that baby. He loved his beans – which were tomatoey, sweet and filled chunks of bacon and delicious beans.
Dirienzos watch out! I can see the Zydeco competing for the street’s hopping lunch time market, and with time becoming just as beloved a local low-key eatery.