Previous mention of the place here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/759237
Thought I'd start a new post since the other one had a lot of sub threads into other bbq places and talk about when they would open. Figured this post could focus more on their bbq moving forward as they're now finally open.
We were there on Friday too, same as weinermobile and servorg. It must have been a super secret CH gathering. So secret even the attendees didn’t know they were in one. Wish I had known, would have liked to have said hi to both of you.
Overall our experience was a mixed one. We generally avoid going to places within two weeks after they open and our visit here reinforced why we have that rule for ourselves. I’m going to go into a little more detail into the service than I normally would. Mainly because it didn’t bother us that much, I can see where some of the glitches I ran into would color the experience for others. If the food is good and the service is friendly, I'm usually good to go and rank other things far below the food. But I do think most if not all the service factors are just due to the newness.
We walked in a few minutes before our reservations, checked in with the hostess and was asked to wait until our table was ready While we waited off to the side, two parties of the same size as ours with no reservations walked up and were immediately shown to their tables. The lead hostess then turned to us and told us that there weren’t any tables currently available and we would have to wait. She then offered to seat us at the cocktail tables instead. When I passed on it, she persisted in trying to convince us the cocktail tables in front of the windows next to the door were really nice tables. We still passed and ended up getting seated about 15 minutes after our reservation time. I think the lead hostess was kind of clueless about what she did but the assistant hostess was more on the ball. She apologized repeatedly to us when she finally sat us, but never quite specified what she was apologizing for. Just kept on saying, sorry. We were more amused than anything else and told her don’t worry about it.
The experience with the hostess was indicative of the type of service we would receive all night long. Friendly well meaning and eager to please but inexperience and opening jitters with the servers just not getting into the flow yet. Our waitress was like an enthusiastic puppy with all smiles but clearly was still learning the ropes and trying to remember all the talking points of the menu.
We had looked at the menu online previously so sort of had an idea of what we wanted. We asked about the beef ribs and there was none available. To me, bbq is mainly about pork ribs, so the best choice for me was the grand sampler with the spare ribs, baby backs and quarter chicken. I’m generally not a big fan of bbq chicken having had so many horrible versions over the years, it’s one of those items that has a much smaller window of error in my opinion. Since, I had also wanted to try the brisket, I asked about swapping out the chicken instead for the up charge. On all the sampler plates, you could swap out one of the items for ribs for a $4 up charge. But I was told no go and the only way to get brisket was to order a full plate with the sides included. We then inquired about getting dark meat for the chicken since we don’t care for white meat as a rule. We were told she would check with the kitchen and let us know.
The cone of house made potato chips made it’s appearance along with a side of the standard bbq sauce. We liked both well enough but nothing outstanding or bad there. Just solid potato chips. The sauce wasn’t super tangy or complex to my taste buds, but tasty enough to dip the chips into once in a while. Gauging by the tables around us, we figured there would be a long wait and set expectations level that way to avoid any disappointment while we just caught up with each other after a long work week. We weren’t mistaken about the wait.
We had not ordered any appetizers, only the sampler plates and drinks. The food was delivered by a runner and both our plates had the wing breast combo. The waitress had never circled back to let us know if dark was a possibility or not. We shrugged it off and dove into the food. After the obligatory photos of course.
So you’re probably think good gawd, several hundred words into it, he’s finally talking about the food and how was it? The chicken was outstanding. It was probably one of the best bbq chicken I’ve had. As someone who is indifferent at best to white meat, I found the breast super moist and juicy. The skin was not rubbery, good rub and just tasty without greasiness. I was pleasantly surprised with this turn of events given my attempt at swapping it out for the brisket. However the ribs were less satisfying. I’ll preface this by saying that I loathe fall off bones ribs. I like my bbq with some bite. For my tastes, the best texture is where there’s some resistance as you bite into it and as it pulls away but it’s soft and juicy after you get past that resistance. I don’t want a stewed meat, I want bbq.
That said, these ribs although not tough, you had to work at it to get to the meat. I picked up a slab and had difficulty sawing through with the knife to get to a single rib. Gnawing on a rib to get to all the meat would be a challenge to some. The bark was definitely on the tough side. Decent smokiness and the dry rub balanced, not too much black pepper as some places tend to do. But the meat like the rest of our experience was uneven. It was on the dry side with some pockets of goodness. But my slab had chunks that was flat out badly done. I pulled off a chunk that was completely dry with a burnt crust. I tried pulling the meat apart with my fingers and it was just a dry stringy mess. I’m not sure if the photo can convey how dry and stringy it was. But parts of the same rib would be decent enough. It was almost like the slab was oriented too close to the fire and part of it was dried out as a result. I ended up not finishing all my ribs, I can’t recall the last time I did that.
My wife had the exact same plate as I did and her ribs were a little better, still the same tougher texture and juicy but on the drier side. But not dried out parts like my serving. The kitchen has to do a better job monitoring the food and temperature.
Sides were the mac and cheese, bacon cheese grits, collard greens and black eyed peas. The mac and cheese was solid, good blend of cheese not gummy. Collard greens had that small bite of bitterness in the after taste, well stewed. Black eyed peas were creamy and good richness to it. Did not care for the grits. The texture was very thick and gummy almost like school paste. I could just about stand my spoon up on it, scooping out a spoonful, it was a glob that just stuck to the spoon even upside down.
We also continued to have lingering new business service issues. When the food was delivered, I asked for some hot sauce to go with the mac and cheese. It still hadn’t showed up by the time we were a quarter of the way into the meal and when the waitress finally checked on us. I asked her for it and we were about halfway through the meal before the busboy showed up with a thimble of the hot bbq sauce instead. I gave up trying to ask for it figuring that by the time any hot sauce showed up, we would be done. As we were finishing up the meal, another busboy showed up with another thimble letting us know here was the sauce we wanted. We thanked him and said we already had ours and suggested it was for another table. I’m guessing they don’t have hot sauce and give the hot bbq sauce instead. But at that point, I didn’t feel like asking the waitress if that was the case.
Overall, I thought the food and place has potential. I’m chalking up any bad parts to it being new. The people were friendly, the place looks nice. The kind of setting for a nicer upscale bbq meal. I did have some trepidation about the quality of the food given that they had two disparate cuisines coming out of the same kitchen. But I think if they can smooth out the consistency problems, they can be a solid option for the neighborhood. I wouldn’t classify it as a destination place or even a must go if in the area. But I’d probably give them another shot in another month and hope the food and service improve.
The bill was $65 after tax. Which leads me to the one thing I couldn’t excuse on this visit. The sodas were $3. This crosses the line into gouging for me. I don’t blink at paying $2 or $2.50 for sodas and ice tea even though I know how big of a profit margin it is for a restaurant. But at $3, I absolutely feel like it’s gouging. To compound it, the sodas were served in these small coffee cup sized bell jar type cups which were full of ice. That meant a lot more extra work for the waitresses and busboys to fetch the glass and return with the refill. And I’m not even a huge soda drinker since it’s more of a treat for me, I always have water on the side to drink with my meals. But at $3 a glass, why not just have a larger glass for the customers, who cares if they end up not drinking the whole glass. Less work for your staff and at that price it’s already a healthy profit for the place.
Thanks for reading the long discourse, but wanted to give a fair accounting of our experience.