Recently opened in Napa off HIghway 29 at the Trancas Street exit is BarBersQ--a new BBQ restaurant in the same shopping plaza as Target/Trader Joe's/Osh Hardware Supply (Bel Aire Plaza).
I ate there a few nights ago and enjoyed it. Let me preface this by saying that I am a Napa local, I work in the food industry, but I have the stomach of a chowhound and am unmoved by hype (unless it is backed up by good food!). I also grew up with BBQ in the Midwest and South, so I have some strong opinions on the subject.
The first thing I noticed was that the space is rather crowded, like something you would expect in NYC. When you walk in, you are only a few feet from the unfortunate diners seated at the tables closest to the door. Seating is so tight throughout the restaurant that there is barely space for the servers to pass between the backs of the chairs at the bar and the row of tables that runs the length of the bar.
The best part of the meal was an appetizer of cheddar biscuits with ham and pepper jelly. They were so delicious we ordered a second round, but found that the ham was cut too thick in the second order to be particularly eatable. They were also $8.50 per order for only two biscuits about 1.5 inches across, split lengthwise with less than an ounce of ham on each.. If the biscuits were slightly bigger, or the cost was slightly lower I would be significantly more satisfied.
I was amused to see a grilled cheese on the menu. It stuck out as the “vegetarian friendly” entrée option among the carnivore fest of pulled pork sandwich, corn-fed ribeye steak, and roasted chicken. There are a few other veg friendly options, like the “wedge” salad of iceberg lettuce, but it’s really all about the meat.
My companion had the pulled pork sandwich, which was small but under $7, and a side of fries (totally unimpressive—obviously frozen foodservice type and unsalted). I tried the half rack of bbq pork ribs. At $14 I was expecting a more impressive plate than I got. The ribs were laid unsauced on a white oval diner style plate with some cabbage and carrot slaw to make the plate look less naked.
There were plentiful sauce options on the table in a round sauce caddy filled with squeeze bottles. None of the bottles were labeled, but I heard diners at the next table explaining that the red top was hot bbq sauce, the blue top was mild, the white top was vinegar based. There was ketchup (for fries) and tabasco. I tried all of the BBQ sauces but was still confused as to there being any difference between the hot and mild. The vinegar based didn’t taste as vinegary as I would have expected (I’m a girl who has spent some time in the Carolinas). All of the sauces needed some salt. Disappointing that a BBQ restaurant can’t get sauce right.
They did, however, get the meat right. The ribs I had were delicious, cooked perfectly with right combination of sink-your-teeth-into-it-ness and fall-off-the-bone-ness. The pork on the pulled pork sandwich was tender and you could taste the quality of the pork. The lady at the next table had the ribeye. It looked so good I was seriously tempted to reach over at try a bite.
There are several options for sides that you can add on a la carte, but at $5 a piece it can add up to a costly dinner. We didn’t try any (except for the fries, which were unimpressive).
I do wish we had room to try dessert. By far the most ordered the night I went was the apple pie, which are two fried pies/turnovers that are dusted with powdered sugar, garnished with fresh mint, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. It looked so good I would be interested in going just to try it! I was asking our server about desserts and he said that all the desserts were made in the kitchen. But one of the dessert items listed on the menu reads “Model Bakery Chocolate Layer Cake.” Hmmmm, maybe he meant they are all plated in the kitchen? I made a note to investigate that one on my next visit.
Any one else been? I’m curious to hear what other hounds ate.
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