The strong aroma of smoked brisket fills the dining room of Manning Avenue’s newest restuarant Smoke (291 Harbord St., at Manning), which is in soft-opening mode this week. The 70-seat space that houses the southern barbecue restaurant underwent a huge makeover from its former incarnation as Aftermath Cafe. For one thing, a giant window has been put in so the dining room looks out to the street, creating a more open and neighbourhood-friendly vibe than the fortress it was before.
“We’re calling it a blue-collar southern barbecue joint,” says owner and first-time restauranteur Francesco Grandi. “Everything here is simple and pared down. We have communal-style picnic tables. Our walls are actually made of smoked wood. All our meat comes dry so there’s no sauce.”
Diners do have the option of adding house-made sauces in interesting flavours like orange soda and root beer. At the tables are little barbecue brushes to slather the sauce on ribs, briskets, and steaks prepared by chef Tony Gallippi.
Nearby residents have previously been somewhat resistant to liquor licence applications at this intersection in the past (more on that here) but Grandi and Gallipi had the neighbourhood’s support. “These are people who have lived here for 20 or 30 years, so of course they’ll be curious when someone new moves in,” Grandi says. “But as soon as they met us, they realized all we wanted to do was open a restaurant. Now, they’re all eating here.”
For now, Smoke is open for dinner and takeout with plans to open for lunch in the new year.—Karon Liu