Thought I'd hit one of the few BBQ spots that I haven't tried in Portland.
The restaurant is pretty nice for a BBQ joint inside. It's clean, open, and pleasant.
I got there at the end of the lunch rush and made a takeout order and was told it would take 20 minutes. 45 minutes later, I had my food. They gave me a free pecan praline to apologize. 45 minutes, though, is a hell of a long wait for BBQ.
However, for really good BBQ, I'd gladly accept the wait. But Russell Street's Q isn't really good. It's okay, though.
I got the meatapalooza ($15, overpriced), the three meat combo. I chose the pulled pork, baby back ribs, and beef brisket.
The worst of the three were the ribs. The texture reminded me of poached chicken -- not braised chicken, poached chicken. The ribs weren't adequately smokey, imo, and I suspect that they're par-boiled. They were also small and not very meaty. I generally prefer spare ribs, though.
The next best item was the brisket. One of their mistakes may be explained on the back of their menu: "We provide the freshest natural meats, very lean and never fed animal proteings or hormones." It's the lean part that raises my suspicions. This is BBQ folks -- a method of cooking, like braising, where you are, essentially, purposefully overcooking the meat. It needs fat to render and lubricate the sinews. RS's brisket is too dry. It's tender (probably too much so, since it's in lots of little pieces) and adequately smokey. There's a slight bark, but not enough to make up for the dryness.
A little better is the pulled pork. It wasn't really any less dry, but the flavor was a little nicer and the texture a little better.
The back of their menu holds another clue as to why their Q may not be as good as one would hope: "In our pursuit of regional barbecue, we have found that while different meats are regional, the real difference lies in the sauce."
Sauce should not be the first thing mentioned when you talk about your BBQ. It's like basing an opinion of McDonald's french fries on the ketchup. Their passion for sauce was apparent when I received my meats covered in sauce even though I asked for it plain.
Again, it's not bad (it's no Big Daddy's, that's for sure), but it's not LOW or Campbell's. It's mediocre BBQ.