Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

He'll bring some of the flay-ver

Caterer-turned-restaurateur doesn't deliver the whole hog at barbecue emporium

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It started as a catering company (Danny's Whole Hog Barbecue) but has graduated into a full-scale restaurant, occupying the huge space that once was home to Hu's Asian Bistro. The decor seems unchanged since that time -- the lovely little waterfall just inside the entrance, the dark woods, the charming Asian lanterns -- but somehow the vibe is no longer Asian. But it also doesn't look like your typical barbecue joint, with none of the usual country kitsch clutter, and it doesn't sound like one either. The noise level is quite bearable, although -- with a sports lounge on one side, and a massive wall-mounted television in one part of the dining room -- I wouldn't count on tranquility on game nights.

Comparisons with Famous Dave's are inevitable. You pay a little more here, and you get a little less -- both in quantity and quality -- but for carnivores who don't want to trek out to Transcona, Danny's barbecued meats and chicken dishes offer a satisfying alternative.

You can order them a la carte, e.g. baby back ribs ($25, or $17 for half a rack), beef bones ($21), rebel chicken ($18) or chicken wings ($13). Those who have trouble making up their minds can opt for one of the combos. The Minors ($47 for two) offers caesar salad, cracked ribs, half a rack of St. Louis ribs, beef back ribs and three sides. My foursome opted for the $85 Big Show, which started with quite a decent caesar salad -- not overly drenched in dressing, and yielding little shreds of cheese. It was followed by a platter piled intimidatingly high with a rack of baby back ribs and beef bones.

The ribs, which are slow-smoked for hours and finished on the grill, were moist, tender and fairly lean, with hints of smoke under the apple butter sauce we'd chosen. But if I were forced to choose one thing only it would be the beef bones -- massive monsters with big, succulent chunks of meat oozing beefy juices, and with not much more than a glaze of the zippy house barbecue sauce (not enough for some, possibly, but just fine for me).

You choose which of the sauces you want, and listing them on the menu or a table card would be preferable to simply reciting them. There are several, and by the time our server had reached the last one we'd forgotten the first. There's also a box containing bottled sauces on each table.

I also liked the chicken dishes, which came on separate plates: meaty, crisply fried wings in a mild but tasty raspberry chipotle sauce; and Rebel Chicken, with moist breast meat under a really crunchy coating, packing a powerful punch from the jalapenos and hot sauce.

Not everything was a success, though. The poutine was dreadful, the fries topped by pulled pork that had no taste at all, and drenched in a downright unpleasant gravy.

There's actually enough meat on the platter to feed five (or to supply leftovers for tomorrow's lunch). No bread, though, and the sides were quite small, some of them better than others.

I can't comment on the beef chili (one of our choices) because we never did get it -- something we didn't notice at the time because the table was covered with so many other dishes. But I did like the baked beans, the garlicky mashed potatoes and, although they were slightly dry, the shoestring fries. The coleslaw was passable, but the dirty rice was just plain rice dotted by a few kidney beans. Other possible sides are baked potatoes, corn niblets, and gravy (yes, gravy is listed as a side). Or, for $3 more, sweet potato fries.

They also smoke their own turkeys and corned beef, but neither meat had a smoky flavour. I tried them in sandwiches, which go for an excessive $13 each, including two sides. The corned beef was bland and sliced too thickly, but there was plenty of it, and it might have made a passable sandwich if they'd hadn't included coleslaw in the filling -- a surprise, since it isn't mentioned on the menu, and not a welcome one to some corned beef aficionados (this one, at least). The turkey filling was skimpy, the meat grey and dry, under a thin film of cheese, and hard (i.e. not crisp) bacon.

Other menu listings include nachos, calamari, sliders, chicken fingers, a few steaks, fish and chips, and gumbo. There are a few bakery-made pastries, which I didn't try, but which had to be better than the one I did try -- the homemade apple pie, with a crust that was burnt at the edge, and zapped to an inedible mush in the middle, with the thinnest possible layer of apples within ($4).

The wine list isn't extensive but it does offer a few good choices by the glass, among them a very nice Trapiche Malbec ($7). They also mix a good caesar, which comes in a little Mason jar, making solid swigs difficult -- you pretty well have to sip it daintily through a straw ($5.50). Service was attentive, friendly and impressively knowledgeable about the food.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

Dining Out

Danny's BBQ & Smokehouse

óè 1747 Ellice Ave., 204-779-7041

óè Licensed

óè Wheelchair access

óè 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2 out of five

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2012 C5

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