A look at the east end’s new 7,000 square foot sports and southern-style barbecue extravaganza
By Meri Perra
Get your barbecue on (all images by Meri Perra)
No matter how mild January gets this year, Toronto’s winter weather is hardly conducive to thoughts of southern-style barbeque. For most of us, that is. But standing tall between a truck wash and a Mister Transmission at O’Connor and Sunrise, in the former Rock & Roll Heaven spot, Rally Sports Bar and Smokehouse serves up wood-smoked barbeque delights to sports-loving East Yorkers. Its grand opening is tonight.
“We’re the ultimate state-of-the-art venue for a sports fan,” claims Gus Papaioannou, who owns the place with four other business partners.
A bold claim, but the stats back it up. Picture a whopping 7,000 square feet of space with no less than 42 screens on the walls from which to watch your favourite game(s). At the centre, there’s a massive 110-inch projector screen. The remaining 41 screens are placed so that patrons can watch nearly every game from every seat in the house. So if you’re into hockey and your buddy is into, well, some other sport that’s not hockey, there’s peace at the table.
And if you’ve ordered the barbeque — smoked with hickory, usually, in a Cookshack smoker — there’s likely to be carnivorous joy regardless of which team wins.
The already popular pulled pork sandwich ($12) is the luscious product of a 12-hour long smoking process. The pork is covered with a southern-style rub, slow-cooked, tossed with a signature barbeque sauce, topped with house-made coleslaw and mashed inside of an Ace Bakery bun. The result is slightly peppery and sweet pulled pork, with the creamy coleslaw as a nice complement.
Chef Chris Papadimitriou, who is also a co-owner, studied at Liaison College and spent a decade working front-of-house at a local Italian bistro. But his mad barbeque skills, he says, were honed from cooking at home for his wife and kids.
“You just can’t create that flavour out of a bottle,” Papadimitriou says. “The rub is something I used at home. It’s tasty but not spicy — my wife and kids don’t like spice. But anyone who wants heat can add it.”
The ribs ($15 for half a rack, $27 for a full rack) are St. Louis cut, rubbed and then smoked for five hours. The result is like a savoury chunk of ham on a stick. The meaty ribs are sweet with just a touch of spice.
Other options include a beef brisket sandwich ($12), rubbed and smoked for 12 hours, or burgers, ground in-house and cooked to order ($12). Fried chicken ($14 for three pieces) comes from a Mennonite farm in Ontario, and is brined for four hours, seasoned, coated in a buttermilk batter, fried and then finished in the oven.
If you can pay attention to anything else on your plate, sides include fries, (regular or sweet potato), house salads, macaroni and cheese, onion rings, baked beans and more, all house-made. We had the fries; they were the perfect combination of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with generous smatterings of salt.
Currently, Rally is offering $9 lunch deals on selected items, like the pulled pork. It’s also giving away Leafs tickets in a series of contests. That’s all great, but we’re telling you, it’s hard to pay attention to anything other than those ribs — 110 inch projector screen and all.
Rally Sports Bar and Smokehouse, 1660 O’Connor Dr., 416-551-7356