This is one in a series of articles in the feature called "Let's Eat" which focuses on the local food and dining scene. This time we touch base with Lou Dawg's Southern on Main Street West in North Bay.
Lou Dawg's owner Ryan Ivy is settling into the new normal this summer, along with the rest of us.
The BBQ joint has had an up and down ride since it had just opened, was getting its feet under it and then faced the COVID pandemic. Unlike others who found it was possible to do curb-side and take out only, Ivy closed shop entirely for a few months, finally re-opening in early July.
"The time was right and we're glad to be back," he says.
Lou Dawg's prides itself on being a true authentic BBQ eatery - meaning it has meat smokers running near 24 hours a day on-site, as well as the infamous "low & slow" cooking methods and commitment to consistency in their sauces that would rival a pharmaceutical company's quality control.
One dish that's getting noticed is their chicken wings. "Our wings are smoked first, then fried. No breading or anything like that, just smoke them full of flavour and then fry and crisp them up," adds Ivy.
Another smash hit with diners is their deep-fried mac and cheese, which comes in pre-formed balls, fried to perfection. "We can hardly keep them in the kitchen. They're a wonderful little cheesy-ball staple and people love them."
Ivy says their signature ribs use the St Louis approach which allows for big meaty individual ribs, because it uses an overall larger cut of the rack of ribs to begin with, followed by long periods of time in the smoker for flavour and tenderness. He explains that in the United States, different areas have different styles of BBQ - for example, Texas is big on salt & pepper rubs, while the Carolinas have more vinegar's in their sauces and in Louisiana they go for a Creole influence.
One part of their menu that's been a huge hit is the veggie and vegan section.
"it's all about the vibe of inclusivity. You don't have to be a meat-eater to enjoy hanging out here. Some people are trying it out for the first time and loving it. Others cannot believe that it is not meat," explains Ivy.
"That's because we didn't just throw a few veggie and vegan options on the menu as an afterthought, We didn't want middle of the road options, we wanted great options. We pay just as much attention to these items as the meat items," he adds.
For example, to replace pulled pork, they found jackfruit to be the perfect solution.
"Jackfruit is in the durian family. It's large, spikey and ugly. We take off the exterior, and the fruit comes out in small pods, almost like strands simulating pulled pork. We carefully season it the same way and use the same sauces. You're getting genuine BBQ when you et it," explains Ivy.
Lou Dawg's Southern BBQ is currently howling seven days a week downtown, with a patio out front at 167 Main West, and a second patio in the rear on Oak Street overlooking the waterfront.