Matt Dean Petite certainly thinks big, so don't let his last name fool you. The dynamic owner and chef of the highly popular Rock Lobster Food Co. has done it again. Toronto spot Boots 'N' Bourbon opened in December 2013, and although the word "unique" is thrown around when it comes to any major city, this restaurant deserves the title.
This is the place to be for a Nashville-sized drink — Photo courtesy of Abbey Fitzpatrick / Boots 'N' Bourbon
It is rare to see bales of hay around the downtown core of Toronto, but Matt, alongside co-owners Nav Sangha, Mike Homewood and Matt Coulter, makes it work. It is a fitting entrance to a Nashville experience.
Matt Petite explains, "The idea is and always will be to give people a true authentic country experience, and we try to do this in our great food program, which is my take on regional comfort foods rather than classic Tex Mex or smokehouse."
Interesting restaurant items include beer can chicken, served tableside with a can of Coors Banquet up its body that it's roasted in. You can make your own po' boy, indulge in fried pickles or try the following cocktail described by Matt: "Our signature drink [is] a 32=ounce beer cocktail combing Molson stock ale, ginger ale, bitters, smoked lemon juice and shot floating on top of Bulleit bourbon. You drop/muddle the shot glass in as you mix your drink. It's delicious."
Po' boy? Not exactly. Happy boy is more like it — Photo courtesy of Abbey Fitzpatrick / Boots 'N' Bourbon
The country hospitality extends to the service. Don't be surprised if you get a "ma'am" or "sir" from your server. The experience certainly doesn't end with the food. There are free line dancing lessons, live country music acts and an old-timey jukebox to reminisce over classic country hits.
Well, hello there, cowboy . . . — Photo courtesy of Abbey Fitzpatrick / Boots 'N' Bourbon
Let's not forget the mechanical bull. Soon after opening, Boots 'N' Bourbon's Twitter handle got flooded with pictures of people grinning as they tried to hang on for mere seconds. To get inspiration for your next visit, YouTube the John Mayer and Katy Perry video "Who You Love." Making a public spectacle of yourself is always a good night out with your friends. It is also a good way to burn some of the calories acquired by downing buckets of fried food.
Fried pickles at Boots 'N' Bourbon — Photo courtesy of Abbey Fitzpatrick / Boots 'N' Bourbon
Boots 'N' Bourbon is a welcome contrast to the high-class, no-sass attitude of many new restaurants. The lighthearted mood is fodder for a fantastic night out.
Get comfy in your rawhide booth, relax into some country livin' and knock back a few. The cowboy hat is optional (but highly encouraged).
A cowboy hat may or may not help you ride the bull — Photo courtesy of Abbey Fitzpatrick / Boots 'N' Bourbon