There have been a few posts about Camp 31 already, so I thought I'd point to those first:
Now, to the story and review...
March 24 was my better half's birthday, but, for whatever reason, she always likes to treat me as well as being treated herself (not that I'm complaining). So, today she surprised me by driving us to Camp 31 in Paris, Ontario:
A lot of Chowhounds have given very favourable reviews to Camp 31, and I can now say that they were absolutely right in doing so.
So, to begin, it was a glorious day; sunny and warm enough to warrant the opening of the sunroof. A perfect day for a drive. We arrived at Camp 31 at about 12 noon, and, on seeing the place for the first time, immediately thought that it was closed, as there was not a single car in the parking lot. Thankfully, it was not. As we got closer, we were relieved to see the glow of a neon "Open" sign beckoning us in to the smoky interior. We parked, and entered. The first thing to hit is was the smell: a powerful aroma of meat and wood, slowly smoldering and smoking. I immediately began to salivate. We were the only ones there (being 12 noon on a Tuesday), so the lone waitress told us to sit where we liked. We did, in a wooden booth that was as practical as it was comfortable: brown paper and a bucket of crayons to both protect the table from the inevitable grease and sauce splashes and to allow you to release your inner child (or allow your actual child to doodle to their heart's content); a roll of brown paper towels hanging from below a shelf that contained three barbecue sauces, one hot sauce, and ketchup, salt and pepper. Everything was as it should be.
The waitress was friendly and prompt. We perused the menus for a few minutes, then ordered the following:
1 lb. Chicken WIngs, medium
1 full rack St. Louis style side ribs, with baked beans and sweet potato fries
1 3-meat combo, with sausage, pulled pork, and pulled pork (we doubled the pulled pork order, based on other Chowhound reviews) with baked beans and cornbread
I had a pint of Red Leaf Lager:
and my lady had a Corona.
We brought no notepaper or pen, but as there were pens in the crayon bucket, and an abundance of brown paper, we, on first trying the fantastic wings, were determined to write down our first impressions as we ate, so we wrote on the brown paper towels....
First, the chicken wings: DELICIOUS (and I am a self-professed wing junkie) - crispy outside, juicy inside, with a fantastic but not overwhelming smoke flavour, great smoky spicy vinagery sauce (possibly just a little bit too much sauce). Included were carrot and celery sticks and a nice creamy blue cheese sauce. I thought them a bargain at 7.99, my sweetheart thought them overpriced....
Second, the ribs: Absolutely AWESOME! Just the way I like them, with a perfect balance of chewiness versus fall-off-the-bone tenderness. Not too much of either, with crispy charred bits on the exterior, a perfect amount of sauce, and a delicate, yielding pink interior. Not fatty at all!
Third, the pulled pork: GREAT. Everybody raved about it on Chowhound, but I have to say, I think I would return for the ribs, and not the pulled pork. Regardless, it was very tasty, again exhibiting a thoroughly enjoyable balance of tenderness and chewiness - the portion size was large, to say the least, and it had both a good smoke flavour and a good amount of sauce. It made for great sandwiches when we reheated it at home later...
Fourth, the sausage: VERY TASTY. Moist, pink interior. Obviously pure pork, with a nice amount of smoke, a slightly charred exterior, and, overall, a very well-seasoned sausage. Good, not essential. I'd stick to the ribs....
Fifth, the sweet potato fries: FANTASTIC, crispy, lightly cinnamon-floured, and perfect with the blue cheese sauce that we held onto after enjoying the chicken wings.
Sixth, the baked beans: OKAY, not great: kind of run-of-the-mill, really could of used some chunks of smoky bacon or pork to add flavour and body.
Seventh, the cornbread: also OKAY, not great: a little bit dry, and a little bit too sweet for our liking. It was much better at home, when reheated in the oven, cut in half, with chunks of butter melted in the middle of it....
Eighth, the coleslaw: GOOD, sweet, creamy. Decent, but nothing to write home about.
Ninth, the potato salad: GOOD, sweet, creamy. See coleslaw.
And that's it. I'm still full. It was worth the drive to Paris.
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