Last August I posted a review of The Stockyards burger but for some reason I always seem to overlook The Stockyards when thinking of a place to eat. Maybe Corey Mintz was right that St. Clair, just west of Christie, is too difficult to get too. Luckily, I’ve been in the neighbourhood in the past few months and have gone back to sample more of the menu.
This fried chicken ($13.50) is easily the best I have ever tasted. Fried chicken has two contrasting components a crispy, sometimes even crunchy crust that needs to be seasoned with a perfect touch and the chicken. A careful balance of timing needs to be struck between the two because not enough time in the deep fryer results in a flabby, doughy crust and too long makes for overcooked chicken. At the Stockyards they have found the sweet spot that produces the perfect crust and chicken with just a hint of pink and a seemingly inexhaustible juiciness. The portion size is so generous that if it weren’t so good–or if I had more self-control–it could easily make two meals.
I touched on the fries in my earlier post. I have found on the two visits when I had fries that they were over-seasoned. On nights when the demand for fries is slow I’m sure they’d be happy to mix a lightly-seasoned batch. This advice applies particularly if you’re going to use your fries for their most godly purpose: to catch the already-seasoned drippings from an order of fried chicken. The other side I have tried, the tower of onion rings ($5), reveals another spot-on use of deep fryer voodoo. The batter is a crsipy and flaky combination and the onions are cooked well enough that don’t slither free from the crust on the first bite.
I finally tried the porchetta sandwich ($9) which some argue is the house specialty. This is sandwich heaven. Everything that is best about the pig is featured on this piece of baguette. The mustard-laden sauce does a great job of tying the elements together and smoothing the contrast between the belly’s fat and the skins crackle. The rapini (add $1.50) is essential for its slightly bitter, green flavour because without this note the sandwich would be too rich. A few cuts with a knife after it’s sauteed would keep the rapini from all exiting the sandwich with the first bite, though.
For a quick-service counter setup the service at the Stockyards manages to standout positively. On all of my visits a server has been by promptly to offer water. It’s easy and simple but for me water is a good part of what a restaurant’s service rises and falls on. At the Local Company a request for water brought over-priced bottled; at Harbord Room and the Black Hoof tap water comes first thing after customers sit down. I’m also impressed by the patience exhibited by the woman who takes orders from diners turned into jabbering, indecisive buffoons when presented with such a selection of meaty goodness.
Something needs to be done about the ventilation at the Stockyards. I have no complaints about the smell of beef patties frying on a flat-top griddle and have set off many smoke detectors in my few years of cooking but a visible bank of smoke that lingers between the ceiling and the cooks’ (and diners’) heads can’t be good for anyone. The problem might have been particularly bad on my last visit for some uncontrollable reason and as the weather warms they’ll be able to leave the door open but for now it’s probably not the best place to take a vegetarian.
With the streetcar running this far on St. Clair West it is now much easier to get to the Stockyards for their somewhat eclectic, well-executed selection of specialties. The menu is available online here and from the talk around the griddle on my last visit it sounds as if they’ll be happy to take phoned-in pickup orders.