Bar B Q Tonite: A Piece of Pakistan
Written by Mahek Basar
The first time you visit Bar B Q Tonite, you may spend a few minutes searching its entrance. The door to this house of Pakistani and Indian cuisine hides behind the makeshift tent, and around the worn-out parking lot. Located in Mississauga at the infamous 10 and 5 (Hurontario and Dundas, respectively), this Cooksville restaurant resembles the ancient buildings around it. Like its neighbouring tattoo parlor, Bar B Q Tonite too was once a small residential home.
I hop over a puddle of melting grey ice, steering clear of the concrete pothole, as I navigate my way to the restaurant’s single door. One of the South Asian waiters, dressed in black, shows me to my seat: a wooden chair, and a long green table that I share with other customers. The family to my right looks Pakistani. The young mother scolds her son in Urdu, pointing her finger at him. As my Pakistani mother used to also do that, I smile as the nostalgia of my childhood mischief washes over me. On my left, a middle-aged couple are enjoying their date. The man greets another customer in Gujrati, who is headed for a large, boisterous group at the back of the small restaurant.
The three, large windows overlook a busy Dundas St. surrounded by blaring neon signs of “Halal Meat”. The interior of this cozy restaurant contrasts its surroundings. While its location may be defined as “ghetto” by some, its contemporary interior resembles an upscale parlor, with its pristine ivory walls, grey ceiling, and hanging chandeliers.
The menu reflects the restaurant’s name, where you can order barbecued chicken, mutton, beef and lamb. The intense smoke of charcoal wafts from the open kitchen and burns my eyes and lungs. Overlooking the customers, I note they are too loud, giving me a headache, and I regret coming here. At the same time, a waiter walks to my table and places a wooden serving tray before me. The sizzling kebabs lie in a sea of grilled onions and peppers. The smoked reshami kebab is marinated in spices, yogurt, almonds and cream before skewered over charcoal fire. I raise a hot bite of the ground chicken breast to my mouth. Traces of coriander, cumin, and white pepper mix to create a delicious tangy, spicy and sweet kebab.
Besides barbecued meat, you may want to order the mango lassi to drink. This yogurt drink, mixed with a hint of mango will cool you down on any hot day. To wrap up your dinner, order the kheer for dessert. Boiled rice is crushed and cooked in milk, sugar and cardamom to make this pudding. Once, while discussing the paleo diet, I told a coworker I could never try this diet because I could never give up drinking milk. She laughed, and responded by casually informing me, “You [Pakistanis] guys love your dairy”. Looking over my dinner, I realize we sure do love our dairy. Almost every item on the menu is prepared with some form of lactose.
If you want dinner at this restaurant, you should arrive well before dinner time. By 6 o’clock, the small foyer is packed with groups of families and friends. I had to push people aside, and shout “excuse me” many times as I struggled to make my exit through the throng of hungry customers. “They don’t take reservations anymore,” the patron sitting beside me had explained. He was a regular at Bar B Q Tonite since 1997. “Of course, back then it was called something else, and located at Gerard St. in Toronto,” the middle-aged Pakistani man had continued, “I have known Khan (the owner) for years…He used to reserve my table for me. But not anymore,” he said as he regretfully shook his greying head.
This restaurant may be located in an unappealing location, and have an unassuming entrance, but don’t let these things keep you from visiting it and devouring its wonderful food. Because, somewhere between the honking of cars and the sirens of police cruisers, the littered parking lot and broken asphalt, halal butcher shops and beauty salons, lays a small, charming piece of Pakistan. And more than its cuisine, the loud customers, the scolding mothers, and charcoal residues will transport you to the heart of Pakistani culture. Dinner at this restaurant may as well be Eid-A Azha in Pakistan.
Mahek Basar is undergraduate student at University of Toronto, majoring in sociology and molecular biology. She would like to study and practise medicine through a sociological lens by providing health care to underprivileged populations.