When you think southern BBQ and comfort food, Montreal may not be at the top of your list. But just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Saint-Laurent Boulevard is Icehouse, the result of Texas native and now Montreal based chef Nick Hodge bringing a little bit of the deep south to the far north…
“I opened Icehouse as an expression of myself; it’s the type of food I like to eat and it’s just so much fun to prepare,” says Hodge, who splits his time between Icehouse and his more refined, upscale southern inspired eatery, Kitchenette. He explains that the concept behind Icehouse is a tip of the hat to places where he grew up eating.
“Open air, barbecue-pit, picnic table joints, converted from neighborhood ice shacks were common in Texas.”
Icehouse offers southern delicacies such as fall off the bone tender ribs slathered in homemade Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce, as well as a teeth-shattering fried chicken served with hot-out-of-the-oven cornbread. The ribs are highlighted with pickled watermelon rinds, which will leave a sticky mess all over your fingers and, in my case face, cheeks and nose. Both generous orders are dumped from a metal bucket on to the butcher paper lined picnic tables and are served with a helping of slaw and smashed potato salad.
The pièce de résistance and Icehouse’s claim to fame is their lobster burrito. Stuffed with generous chunks of lobster, corn, homemade fritos, black beans and drenched in a tarragon aioli, the burrito is the size of a newborn. A melange of textures and flavours, the burrito tasted like that feeling you get when you accidentally discover porn on basic cable late on a Saturday night. Heart racing, face-flushed with a stupid grin on my face, I bit into the burrito and felt things shifting on a cosmic level – everything I knew about burritos was being rewritten like when Marty McFly made out with his future mother and his siblings slowly disappeared from his Polaroid picture.
Not to be overshadowed by the fact that you’re eating off of butcher paper with your hands – reminiscent of lobster and crab boils and messy communal dining; the food does certainly subscribe to a level of sophistication only someone with an understanding and emotional attachment to southern cuisine is able to foster. The fact that Chef Hodge walks the aisles of the market daily while working with local producers and suppliers facilitates the abundance of fresh and socially responsible ingredients found on the Icehouse menu including a taco list that rivals the repertoire of your Mexican grandmother.
If it’s grabbing a Bourbon spiked lemonade and grubbing on Po’boys and sweet potato tater tots, eating at Icehouse is a laidback affair, “It’s like taking a vacation and being transported outside of Montreal”, says Hodge. “When going to Icehouse, you’re supposed to be having fun.”
Be sure to follow Chef Nick Hodge on Twitter as he frequently tweets about weekly specials.
Icehouse, 51 Roy East, (514) 439-6691
Jason Lee is the stomach behind local restaurant review blog Shut Up and Eat, pop-culture enthusiast, celebrity gossip junkie, and pusher of all things delicious.