A Stack of good food

[attach]7114[/attach]I never order poutine. But watching the man at the next table take the first bite of his overflowing bowl of fries smothered in cheese curds, gravy and pulled pork was like seeing someone who had just attained Nirvana.

We promptly shelved our original plans, for grilled calamari and a salad — both for sharing — and took the plunge. Our waiter smiled his approval.

“You’re going to love it,” he said, grinning. “But it’s a good idea to share.”

He also approved our choice of a sampler paddle of beers, offering us his advice on which ones to try.

For the same price as a pint, you can try four different brews. We found a new fave: a hoppy, full-bodied I.P. lager from Creemore.

We’re in Stack, a barbecue eatery that recently celebrated its first birthday. From our seat we can see the huge Southern Pride smoker where they cook their meats “low and slow.” Dinner, we decide, can’t be anything but ribs and chicken, both “smmmoked”, though we discovered afterwards that this place is becoming the hot spot for burgers too.

Our poutine appetizer is perfect. Share this unless you have the appetite and capacity of an elephant. The fries are crisp, the gravy is rich and meaty, and the curds are plentiful and fresh. The pulled pork has a smokiness that defies defeat at the hands of all the other flavours on hand. If there is poutine Nirvana, Stack has achieved it for $11.

The competition in the rib category in this city is daunting. Toronto is proliferating barbecue joints faster than its mayor can rack up faux pas. And then there are the endless rib fests that seem to be popping up everywhere. Barbecued ribs are the meal of the moment.

Stack’s ribs are meaty, tender and smoked to perfection ($18). There’s a choice of their signature barbecue sauces. We opt for
chipotle Jack Daniels sauce; heat and Tennessee bourbon is a nobrainer.

But I wish they had been a little more generous with the sauce on the ribs. A request for a little extra on the side makes up the shortfall. My guest is making all the right ribby noises: “MMMMmmmm”.

The chicken is a breast quarter ($15). There is no dark meat available, which is too bad because the breast is so dense it hardly picks up the same smokiness, and white meat is hard to keep really moist. I can’t help but imagine a leg and thigh, all smoked up and primed with sauce.

Our helpful waiter, who has been right on the money thus far, suggests we ask for the pepper sauce (grilled yellow peppers
pureed with cumin, turmeric and other spices) with the chicken. It’s his first miss.

I don’t like the combination at all, though my guest says it’s fine. I pull off the skin and start dipping in the barbeque sauce — a
big improvement. That’s a fabulous sauce.

I should mention the sides.

A bowl of baked beans with enough sweetness to qualify as desert is so good we fight over the last forkful. The coleslaw is crunchy and tart, and the garlic mashed accompanying the chicken wins thumbs-up. The cauliflower and broccoli are just cooked enough to still bite back.

Dessert? Who has another inch of space in their barbecue-bloated belly?

Apparently we do, so we order doughnuts, a house specialty. We eschew the ones smothered in marshmallows and chocolate
(smores) and the strawberry (with whipped cream and puree) and go for the simple cinnamon sugar ones, along with some coffee. Made fresh and served hot, these are delicious.

Nonetheless, I have to wonder at the culinary mind that conceived of fat-laden doughnuts as a fitting finish to barbecue.

Stack is comfortable and family friendly, with a Short Stack menu for kids. The food is good and the portions generous. Never mind that you will get your cholesterol hit for the next month, don’t miss the ribs and pulled pork poutine. And leave space for the doughnuts!

Stack, 3265 Yonge St., 647-346-1416. [url=][/url]. Reservations recommended on weekends.