Friday, June 18, 2010

Percy Street BBQ - Some Good, Some Bad, But Luckily...Nothing Ugly

Ahhhhhh barbecue. There are few things on this earth better than slow and low cooked meat. It's a method of cooking that requires not only tender, loving care, but also a lot of smoke! I mean, I can saute, roast and boil my heart out in my own kitchen, but I'm pretty sure operating a smoker out of my 5th floor loft apartment is a fire hazard and one heck of a no-no. So when you're in the city you HAVE to go out to a restaurant for barbecue. Unfortunately Philly seems to be lacking in that department. I believe that's why Percy Street Barbecue has gained such popularity.

I realize now, unfortunately, that when Nick and I lived in Richmond we took good barbecue for granted. I guess you don't know what you have until it's gone. I know for a fact that Nick wishes he had eaten more fried chicken and drowned himself in sides from one of his favorite VA restaurants, Nanny's. I mean, this place was in the middle of nowhere but people came from far and wide for some sweet tea out of a mason jar, some fried chicken and all of the southern sides you can handle. I, on the other hand, wish that I had eaten more barbecue. So next time I visit my relatives in North Carolina, my friends in Richmond, or travel to any barbecue centric part of this great nation, I'm going to make a point to do so.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm no barbecue expert. I realize that the cooking methods, rubs, marinades and sauces vary greatly across the country. I also know what tastes good and I have a fine appreciation for lovely pink smoke ring on a piece of beef brisket, so I suppose I know enough to tell you what's what.

Percy Street's interior was cute, plain and simple. I appreciated that. All you need when eating barbecue is paper towels (check) and cold beer (check...and it was served in a little mason jar so they tried to give you that Nanny's-type-feel). The beer selection was alright, though not nearly as large as I would have expected. And the menu was rather straight forward and authentic with very few unauthentic items.

Nick ordered the beef brisket. Percy Street is Texas style bbq so it was dry rubbed and cooked. They leave you to add whatever sauce you deem fitting. He also ordered the green been casserole and the collard greens. I ordered the PST which was a smoked pork belly sandwich with coleslaw and pickled green tomato. For sides I also ordered the collards and a white bean salad.

I wish I had ordered something else. Nick's beef was pretty close to perfect. Even in my crappy picture you can make out the all important pink smoke ring on the meat, which is a sure fire way to tell it was cooked properly. It was smokey, flavorful and tender as can be. My order, on the other hand, was a catastrophe.

I love pork belly. I love bbq pork sandwiches with coleslaw. I love pickled green tomatoes. I don't, however, love ruining a perfectly cooked piece of pork belly by putting all three together on a roll with lettuce. This sandwich just didn't work. I can't imagine that the executive chef actually tasted this concoction before he put it on the menu.

The pork was amazing on it's own!!! So tender. So smokey. So, so, so delicious! And paired with the coleslaw it was good as well. But that pickled green tomato ruined everything. They should have served it on the side like they so rightly did with the pickle and onion on their meat platters. The tomato was so acidic, so tart, so powerful, that it masked every other flavor in the sandwich. After my first or second bite I quickly removed it and enjoyed it on the side, where it should have been all along. But some of that flavor remained on the bun and it's ghost still haunted the sandwich. It was a crying shame. Oh, and nix the lettuce too while you're at it chef. I get that you were going for a blt-ish thing but it just didn't work.

As for the sides....I think they were decent. The collards could have used a bit more "fat". Nick and I both agreed that what we love most about collard greens is the silky way the fat from the ham hock (or pig knuckle, foot or whatever) coats your tongue. These collards were good but missing that extra bit of delightful tongue-coating-grease.

Nick's green bean casserole was good. He said they tried to take it up a step from the traditional mushroom soup based casserole of everyone's childhood and he appreciated that.

And my white bean salad was actually really, really refreshing. It was a cold salad with well cooked beans, apples and cabbage. I would order it again.

As I finish writing this post I'm torn. Nick and I will go back because in all honesty, both of our meats were cooked to absolute perfection. Creating that lovely pink smoke ring or cooking that oh-so-sexy piece of pork belly with care is no small feat. If they can just resist the urge to add too much to something that should be a simple type of cuisine, perhaps their popularity could bring a new wave of bbq to a city that sorely needs it.

P.S. I didn't mention a lot about the sauces because I feel they're a small part of bbq. The meat, in my opinion, should be good enough to stand alone. However, the sauces were quite good. Two thumbs up in that department

Percy Street Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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