Careful observers know that restaurant locations are sometimes cursed. What was a lowbrow diner yesterday is a highbrow café today and a middle-class buffet tomorrow. One gimmick after another will travel in and out of these locations for years until something special comes along to break the curse.
Hank’s Untraditional BBQ is just that. It’s the kind of place that is unapologetically untraditional and special enough to break this failing restaurant curse.
Located at 1001 Douglas Street—once home to The Melt, as well as a sleepy cafe (and who knows what before that)—Hank’s offers up solid portions of meaty entrees with a choose-what-you-will selection of sides.
My partner and I were drawn in by the promise of $3 Spinnaker beers, but stayed for the fantastic smells coming from behind the counter. The long, narrow restaurant only seats a few so we positioned ourselves at the bar by the open kitchen to watch the one man show.
Menu choices were easy: pulled lamb shoulder on a house-made bun for $10 seemed hard to pass up. For a side, I chose the nearly obligatory mac and cheese despite the extra $4 cost. My partner, feeling less peckish than I, opted for the starter pork chili for only $6.
After an impressive flurry of cooking and movement, the man behind the bar (Hank? I never did ask) presented us with our meals. The pulled lamb was everything I wanted it to be: tender, moist, and flavourful without being dripping in generic barbecue sauce. The caramelized onions and pickled jalapeño added a fantastic sweet and spicy note to it as well.
The chili, though one of the spiciest bowls of meat and beans I have ever tasted, was equally amazing. Unlike the convenient canned variety, the pinto beans still had a bit of appealing bite to them. The flavour of the bowl, though damn hot, had a warm cinnamon spice to it that slowly built on my palette like a Christmas fire.
After we had eaten our mounds of meat and drank our $3 beers, it was regrettably time for us to leave. On our way out, I caught a peek at our man behind the bar finishing off what looked like the daily pasta with a literal mountain of fresh grated cheese. This left me confident that Hank’s will not fall to the same curse that its predecessors did. If it gets the community support it deserves I’m sure Hank’s will find more than its share of business. If not, it will surely thrive from my patronage alone.