A couple weeks ago I posted a query about Chicago interpretations of pulled pork. One place suggested was Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop in Hyde Park, which I went to today for lunch.
I had enjoyed Dixie Kitchens Cajun food a few times in the past, but had never gotten their pulled pork. One thing that discouraged me from ordering it before was the description on the menu: N.C. pulled pork: BBQd pork done the Low Country way. Low Country refers to the coastal areas of SOUTH Carolina and Georgia; I feared that the cooks might be as confused about bbq as they are about geography. But Chowhound gave me the push I needed to check it out for myself.
For $6.95, you get the pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw on the side and a choice of another side (I had greens). It was a good sandwich. Heres what was authentic about it, from a North Carolinian perspective: adequate but undistinguished hamburger-type bun, the cole slaw, to be added on top of the cue, and the best part hot sauce from eastern North Carolina (Scotts, from Goldsboro). So, what about the pork? It was very tasty, but not N.C. style. The primary flavor in the pork was tomato, with only a little vinegar and hot pepper included. My waitress couldnt tell me how it was prepared, but I would guess that they braise a pork shoulder in liquid, like a pot roast, until the meat falls apart. (In NC a whole pig would be roasted in a pit, basted with vinegar and hot peppers, no tomato.) Ample use of the vinegary hot sauce improved the balance of flavors.
Other food notes: I found the greens oddly bland, but again this was remedied by use of another condiment brought to the table, vinegar with strips of pickled jalapenos. Really outstanding were the 4 freshly made corn cakes (complimentary) brought in a basket as soon as I was seated. Im a big fan of hushpuppies when theyre done well but Id say Dixie Kitchens corn cakes are an even better use of cornmeal.
Ambience, etc: Service was excellent, efficient and friendly. The décor is heavy on antique signs and objects, in keeping with the bait shop theme, producing a kitschy effect that I actually like when its not churned out by Lettuce Entertain You, Cracker Barrel, or other corporate entities. The place was packed with a typically Hyde Park mix of well dressed African American businesspeople, scruffy graduate students, and (today) families with children celebrating Pulaski Day with a bowl of gumbo.
In short, Id recommend Dixie Kitchen, especially if you find yourself in Hyde Park and want an alternative to Thai food.
Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop
5225 S. Harper Ave.
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