Moonshine ain’t as Southern as it sounds

Montreal’s barbecue scene is growing. How does the newest contender, Moonshine BBQ, stack up? We found out.

The Champion
If you think that cooking up some burgers on that big propane-powered cast-iron grill in your backyard is “barbecue,” listen closely, because I’m about to blow your mind: You’ve probably never eaten real barbecue.

What most Montrealers do in their backyards and refer to as barbecue is actually just grilling. Barbecue is a much more involved process that takes years to master, which makes it a very hit-or-miss proposition.

Authentic, Southern U.S. barbecue is all about smoke. It’s about cooking things for a long time (often up to 10–18 hours) at low heat, using the smoke of burning wood to give it a characteristic smoky flavour. In other words, it’s cooked “low and slow.”  Different areas of the Southern U.S. have different characteristic features. Texas is all about the beef, and doesn’t tend to use much sauce. The Carolinas, on the other hand, love their pig and tend to be saucier. (Here’s a more comprehensive explanation, in singing hillbilly form.)


There have been several recent additions to the Montreal barbecue scene. Some claim to be barbecue but have never
seen a real smoker, while others are pumping out some serious barbecue. Moonshine, located on Décarie, is the latest addition, and we stopped by to see how it compares.

Wanting to try a little bit of everything, we ordered the Champion, a four-meat, four-side monster that comes served in the traditional way on butcher paper. For the price of $54, it provides enough food for anywhere from two to four people, depending on how hungry you are. If you’re feeling less ambitious, a meal with a main, a side and a drink comes out to about $18 after tax.

The ribs came with a nice rub, and probably less sauce than Montrealers are used to, but that’s how it’s done down south. They had a nice flavour to them, but they were lacking in the smokiness that barbecue is known for. The brisket was fairly moist, but was lacking much flavour. I can only surmise that either they’re using wood that doesn’t give much of it, or they haven’t quite nailed the smoking process. The chicken tasted like chicken — not bad, but nothing special, and certainly no better than the many other chicken places in the city. The sausage tasted decent, with a mild flavour that you can find at any European deli.


As far as the sides go, we got a nice portion of tater-tots, which were good, but didn’t taste any different from what you can get at the grocery store. The same goes for the mac ‘n’ cheese, which was fairly boring. The cornbread was perfectly acceptable, but didn’t really excel. The last side, chili, was beef in classic chili spices served with cheese on top. The chili might have been good if it were served as a main dish, but having a main course of meat, with a side of meat, gets to be a bit much.

What the experience boils down to is this: If you’re in the mood for meat, and haven’t tried good barbecue in the past, you’ll probably enjoy your meal and leave satisfied. If, on the other hand, you know what good barbecue is supposed to taste like, or you’re looking to find out what all the fuss is about, this won’t hit the spot. With other options in the city, I won’t be rushing back, but like any new restaurant, I’d be curious how things taste six months from now. ■

Moonshine BBQ
5625 Décarie, 514-508-5511

Booze: Yes
Vegetarian-friendly: Ummm…
Wheelchair-accessible: Yes
Moonshine BBQ Montreal on Urbanspoon

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