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A pandemic didn't stop Sideroad Smoke from opening in Durham

sideroad smoke storefront in Durham

Sideroad Smoke (above), is located at 162 Garafraxa Street in Durham.


BY LYNNE TURNER FOR SOUTHGREY.CA — The current pandemic didn't stop Chef Jeff Richards from opening Sideroad Smoke, a strictly take-out barbecue restaurant, in downtown Durham.

After working at several Toronto restaurants, Richards was chef at The Great Elvis, working with "great guy, mentor and friend" Chef Anthony Rose when it was named eighth best new restaurant by Toronto Life.

"A month later, the pandemic struck," Richards says. His wife, who "works in weddings," also had no money coming in. So the family moved to his parent's place near Grand Valley. And because he's not "the kind of guy to draw a paycheck from the government" he decided to go into business himself.

Chef Jeff Richards stands behind the take-out counter at Sideroad Smoke.


"Barbecue is kind of my thing," he says. "So I bought a smoker, Dad and I built a commercial kitchen in their barn (and Sideroad Smoke was born.) The first few weeks were hunky dory but then someone complained about us so we decided to close on our own volition."

Richards still didn't want money from the government but he had a family and needed to make money.

He decided to move Sideroad Smoke and found the Durham location — a former bakeshop with, he describes excitedly, "a kitchen in the back with an expensive old-school bread oven from the 1960s or 1970s which I've rigged to become a smoker."

Late in July he took to social media to announce Sideroad Smoke was back and opening "in the small & beautiful town of Durham", urging Grand Valley customers "looking for something to do this weekend (to) drive on over for some take-out and head to a nearby beach for a pulled pork picnic." Richards also announced he was "excited to serve up some Sideroad Smoke ... to our new Durham neighbours."

Artwork above is by Toronto artist Rasa Morrison.


He says he chose Durham because it is a high traffic area with no barbecue restaurants.

He has been selling out every day... the week's menu is posted on social media Monday at noon, customers are urged to pre-order and pre-pay "and they can be in and out in 20 seconds with hot food." Richards always has extra for people who pop in for take-out without pre-ordering but has been consistently selling out every day.

"Affordable, delicious food, fresh and local, that's what Sideroad Smoke is about," Richards says.

Sideroad Smoke is located at 162 Garafraxa Street South in Durham. It is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12 to 6 (or until sold out.)

Photos by Lynne Turner.


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