– Story by Allan Reid
From Georgia to Texas, smokehouses—sometimes called rib-shacks—are a US obsession. Inevitably, these are the most rustic of eateries, with owner-chefs boasting the sauciest, most flavourful and tender meat, usually served stacked high on a bun or laid out flat on platter-sized plates aside bowls of baked beans or chilli and, perhaps a dollop of creamy coleslaw or a few tangy pickles just to round out the flavours. You’d think a rack of ribs was high art.
If I have your mouth watering, don’t worry about airfare, just slip down to Jones Bar-B-Que. Too early for lunch? No problem because Jone’s has mastered the art of the bar-b-que brunch.
Yes, brunch, and delivered, if you happen to live or work within four kilometres of its North Park location on the corner of Cook and Grant streets. Jones operates its own truck, thereby assuring prompt delivery, fresh and hot.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, every inch of indoor space has been converted to the production of their “damn tasty” food, as per their slogan. It’s no lie. COVID-19 restrictions forced Jones to focus primarily on delivery and takeout, and with great success. Still, folks like me, who insist on walking in and sitting down, can take advantage of the split-rail coral with its open ranch gate and gingham-covered picnic tables set under sand-coloured umbrellas. The coral sacrifices about a third of the parking lot, but there are still plenty of stalls.
Jones occupies almost all of this former tiny L-shaped strip mall, but they’ve hidden the entrance way back in the corner. The place feels like a roadside shack, utilitarian built of what could be recycled lumber. I pass the washrooms, wall of dried spices and bags of fresh buns to reach the service counter back by the front exit. Kitchen, air, prep and cooling equipment, and yet more shelving for storage are scattered about. A blackboard menu hangs in the window at my back as I place my order.
Brisket for breakfast is a tough concept, but I dove in, choosing the Burnt End Breakfast Sandwich ($15) and a coffee. Only full-test brewed coffee is served. No wimped-out decaf or dainty little espresso drinks here. This is strong, rich, spectacular stuff. I take a table at the back, where I can see the long black smokers, which emerge like a train of oil-drums on their sides, tucked away in the back wing.
My sandwich is a two-fister, thick with chunks of saucy brisket that’s so soft it’s only a shade from becoming pulled. The “burnt ends” are a light char that gives these bits extra flavour. A broken fried egg, molten cheddar and fried jalapeños finish this sandwich, but there is no distinguishable spice, just a rich smoky sweetness and the robust beefiness of the brisket.
My only complaint is the definitely-not gluten-free bun—a misprint on the menu that is also replicated online. The bun is also far too soft, the lower half disintegrating into several pieces with my first bite, hunks of brisket littering the paper-lined tin pan on which it was served, aside an overflowing paper basket of Tater Tots. Tots aside, almost everything else is made in-house, and most of it is available to purchase: from Louisiana Hot Sauce to Pickled Red Onions or Jalepeños, Pork or Beef Rub, Green Sriracha and much more.
There’s a whole lot of southern comfort goin’ on down here.