As several other successful Manchester operations, Red’s started out in Yorkshire and has two of its three branches in Leeds. The Manchester one occupies prime space on Albert Square – between the Chop House and the Slug & Lettuce. I suspect no expense has been spared in turning an elegant Edwardian building into a southern American dive (although, thankfully, the excellent mosaic entrance area has been spared the moderniser’s pickaxe).
The design has been pretty successful in creating a BBQ dive – the decoration, the tables & chairs, even the look of the staff, reminded me of places like Woodmans BBQ in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. And the food isn’t bad. Not as generous as you might get in places like Woodmans. Not as generous as I’d like for that matter. But a pretty good taste. Not as good as an American BBQ dive but certainly as good as an American BBQ chain restaurant. And, unlike a proper dive, youre not going to be eating off paper plates with plastic cutlery. Reds is doing well. We got there at about 7.30 to find it packed and a 45 minute waiting time – we went to the Slug for a drink.
Main course plates are priced at around a tenner and include your choice of two “humble” sides or one “divine” side. So, that’ll be a plate of North Carolina pulled pork and one of Texas beef brisket.
Let me deal with the pork first. It’s good. Not much flavour of smoke but certainly tender meat. It comes with some apple sauce, crackling and a very nice coleslaw (dressed but no mayo). There’s a range of sauces on the table and I was pleased to see my favourite mustard based South Carolina style in amongst them. Goes well with pig. I chose a “divine” side of sweet potato fries. Not divine but not at all bad.
The beef also lacked smoke but was otherwise fine. It comes with a red onion pickle, gravy and the slaw. A “divine side” of very thick cut Texas cheese on toast might not seem like an ideal accompaniment but it worked. My partner also ordered a mixed salad.
For dessert, chocolate peanut butter cheesecake was just the thing if you felt the need to significantly increase your calorie intake. It came looking quite elegant on the plate – so no attempt at authenticity there. My order was for banana pudding. I sort of only ordered it by way of research. When I was in Galax, Virginia, last year, it was the only dessert on the menu and, in truth, I didn’t really like it – it was overly sweet and just sloppy. Would Red’s be better? Nope, ‘fraid not – just sweet slop, topped with sloppy meringue.
Would we be going back? Probably not in any great rush – although if I get a rush to my head for pork or brisket, then I wouldn’t be ruling it out. It’s certainly a cheaper, quicker journey than to the western side of The Pond.