Spin-offs can be a dangerous thing. Just asked the legendary Jackee who couldn’t even find success in a pilot on the heels of the late 80s comedy 227. Richard Grieco may agree, given his to attempt to leap from 21 Jump Street to Booker and falling flat on his face. Electric Mud BBQ is a newish eatery cut from the cloth of the highly successful Grand Electric. The theme seems to be an attempt to capture the vibe of its Parkdale brother through its own twist on loud music (in this cases old school blues), trendy snack foods and of course a cash only policy.
The decor is as unique as Grand Electric’s and although not as big or elaborate (which isn’t saying much), there is an open kitchen and seating at both the bar and tables of different shapes and sizes.
Most importantly, the menu is a spin on soul food, with offerings which include fried chicken, slaw, ribs and shrimp ‘n grits. It was in line with the Otis Redding spinning on the turntable as I grabbed a seat at the bar. Like Grand Electric, there is a mix of current and cool cocktails and well as 4 regional microbrews on tap. I opted for pints of a good IPA.
I’ve often said you can’t go wrong with a fried egg on everything, which lead me to order the crispy pig ear salad. The egg was perfect and sat atop a delicate matrix of delicious pork cracking. The seasoning was reminiscent of the spicy squid at Grand Electric. It’s a unique, mind-blowing flavour that keeps me up at night as I lay flipping through channels and watching reruns of Baywatch Nights.
Fried chicken has often been called a simple dish that’s complicated to perfect. The need for a well seasoned, cripsy coating which protects the juicy integrity of the chicken it houses involves culinary wizardry, a magic much more impressive that the minds that thought that a Ducks of Hazzard spinoff starring Enos would be a good idea. The chicken (2 legs and 2 thighs for $8.50) hit the mark (unlike Enos’ aim) on every level. It was crispy and juicy and seasoned wonderfully. It was served with reserve Tabasco sauce and a side of honey laden with Malden salt although the chicken really didn’t need either. Even the pickled vegetables were a nice touch.
The slaw was fresh and acidic and complemented the chicken well. It was a decent serving for $3.50 and would go well with any of the rich dishes on the menu. Let’s call it the Frasier of food; it made Cheers better but also fared nicely on its own.
There is an inherent danger in putting pie in a mason jar, much like an attempt to make Joey Tribbiani the main character in a sitcom. Electric’s banana cream pie ($5) wasn’t a pie; it was more a parfait with layers and loose graham crumbs on the bottom as opposed to a defined crust. It was a nice few bites but like Joey, was sweet and a bit confused.
With Grand Electric’s pozole (aka dope soup) on my mind, I ordered the crack bread fully expecting the same mind-altering experience. Instead, I was left feeling like I did when Howard Hesseman left “Head of the Class” and was replaced by Billy MacGregor…hopeless anticipation. Even with the elixir of pork drippings and butter as a spread, finishing it would have been like trying to endure a season of “Billy”. Instead of three’s company, in this case the trio of hardish buns reminded me of more three’s a crowd.
The emergence of Grand Electric last year brought “Happy Days” to hipsters and foodies searching for cheapish, snack foods in the midst of a good vibe. For the same reason, Electric Mud BBQ is emerging as a successful spinoff, highlighting soul food as opposed to nouveau Mexican. Unique cocktails, good draught, great food and old school blues will leave people feeling a vibe more like Mork and Mindy and less like Joanie loves Chachi.*
*It makes me wonder if, in fact, if Arnold’s Diner had a couple of spinoffs, would they be called Pork and Mindy and Joanie loves Sriracha?