his place is a keeper. With a common owner at nearby restaurants La Lousianne and Claremont – both mid-level concept restaurants, La Lousianne is Cajun textured, Claremont is a good neighbourhood bistro – Bofinger sticks its digits into the smokehouse and pulls out a pungent mess of good eating.
Good barbeque has nothing to do with fast flame gas grills. Boys will be boys and grills will be grills; but smokin' demands a man's attention ... 12 to 18 hours at just the right temperature with just the right combination of hard woods for flavour and charcoal for a slow, slow burn. Too high and we are roasting. Too low a temperature, well you don't want to go there. But Bofinger gets it just right. Here are the basics for BBQ 101, as we rarely taste them in this town: pulled pork, a dynamite BBQ chicken, beef ribs, pork ribs, beef brisket, wings and burgers. That's it. Simple food, but spend overnight in the kitchen smoke oven and you'll be ready for a dip in the sauce too.
Main dishes get a choice of one or two sides. There is rib-sticking macaroni and cheese, decent but under-whelming baked beans, a tart cucumber salad, coleslaw, bean, and potato salads. Choose the dish you want, say a plate of 3 pork ribs (you could go for 6 but remember, the pig is on the plate) and add one or two of the sides. There are brews from St.-Ambroise street and bottled fruit juices while iced tea and sodas come with the meals and are at a self-serve tap – as much as you want. Bofinger has a few salads and desserts as well but more could be done in this line. Sandwiches are great. There is a hefty Cuban BBQ pork sandwich, a poboy that is less New Orleans and more corner deli but still tasty with layers of cold cuts, and a great smoked burger that comes with enough toppings (hot peppers, pickles, guacomole, onions, mushrooms, etc. etc.) to make this a super veggie special sans patty! But since the big feature at Bofinger is BBQ, come hungry to eat meat.
Pork ribs with a side of slaw
A hamburger with all the fixings (there is a thick beef patty somewhere in there) plus sides of mac 'n cheese, and cucumber salad
After you've chosen your platter, now comes the big decision. Which sauce to add? They range the BBQ map from a vinegary Kentucky to a sweet and mustardy South Carolina version and, my favourite, a simple Texas slow cooked smoky sauce. There are also two whoop-ass versions – Memphis Magic and Atomic Alabama – both long on heat and better on Bofinger's wings than the smoked meats. For added heat, check out Bofinger's wall of flame with dozens of different hot sauces. Gastro emptor.
The menu still needs a little work. It should have a combo plate with a bit of everything; also more than a few undistinguished desserts (with maybe some of that luscious bread pudding and chocolate pecan pie from La Lousianne, up the street); oh yeah, and an espresso machine that is not just for the boss!
Bofinger has plenty of tables and booths inside where it's bright, airy, and noisy. Each table has a roll of paper towels and the booth partitions can be removed so you can get a large group together. There are several tables outside for alfresco munching on one of the widest sidewalks on Sherbrooke. St. Bofinger has only counter service and it can get packed at noon and dinner time. The crowds are so thick that there are no plans to take credit or debit cards. ("It slows us down too much," said one server.) So it's cash only. Thankfully, you won't need to spend much. It's hard to spend more than $10 on a meal here. Our meal of an all-dressed burger with two sides, and a plate of ribs, iced tea and a beer came to $25 taxes and tip included. There are meat and rib packs to go for 6 or more people ranging from $35 to $99.
Service is great, and the place is good for those with ambulatory problems. Everything is on the ground floor.
Oh, and this is not to be confused with Montreal style smoked meat parlours such as Lester's or Schwartz's, where the brisket still carries a Yiddishe Romanian tam; instead Bofinger finally gives us a taste of how pork, beef and chicken get served south of the border. Yee-haw! – Reviewed by Barry Lazar (June/07)