What’s the vibe
Bootleg Smokehouse brings a creative approach to smoked dishes, eschewing traditional BBQ styles in favour of getting playful with a pair of electric smokers. Opened by the team behind Folly Brewpub and Watson’s, the restaurant is set in a two-storey freestanding house dating back to the 1890s.
Bootleg leans into the naturally cozy vibe of its historic setting, decorating the space with dark woods, warm lighting and leaving a brick wall exposed across from the bar. As the restaurant’s name hints there’s also a Prohibition theme at play, with vintage photos of rum-runners displayed on the walls. There’s space for around 40 people on the main floor, while the upper floor has a dining area that can seat 55, along with a 20-person private dining room for events.
What to drink
The cocktail menu draws inspiration from the restaurant’s Prohibition theme for drinks with names like Untouchables, Members Only and Shebeen (a term used in Ireland, Scotland and Canada to describe hidden bars where alcoholic beverages were sold without a license).
We tried the Harlem Sunset, a pleasantly floral mix of Romeo’s Gin, elderflower, aperol, lavender and lemon; and the Tomoka, a zingy, refreshing tipple featuring Flor de Cana 7 Year Rum, elderflower, jalapeno, lime and ginger beer.
While the cocktail menu features lots of original concoctions, it also includes classics like Paper Planes and Sazeracs. There’s also a pretty extensive selection of whiskeys, scotches, and bourbons to enjoy solo.
What to eat
While chef Kevin Diaz (Bymark, Baro, Kanpai Snack Bar) channels traditional Southern smoke techniques for Bootleg’s menu, this definitely isn’t your standard BBQ fare. The menu is divided into garden, land and sea sections and all the plates are designed to be shared.
We started with the cornbread du jour, which comes in a rotating variety of daily flavours – ours saw the savoury bread topped with sesame seeds – and served with a caramel-y smoked butter. We enjoyed the unexpected element the smoking process brought to dishes like marinated olives and tenderloin tartare, bringing a hint of smoldering tang to the standard flavour palette.
The restaurant does the more classic smokehouse dishes well, too, including a fall-apart three peppercorn brisket, which comes with a trio of sauces: jalapeno chimichurri, pepper sauce, and housemade hot sauce made with maple syrup and scotch bonnet peppers. Bootleg is also now bringing its smoke-everything approach to a new brunch menu, which includes dishes like smoked avocado toast and chia seed pudding with a smoked compote.
Dinner and drinks for two: around $70
64 Spadina Ave, Toronto, bootlegsmokehouse.com