Until I was about 18, the word barbeque only conjured up memories of potato salad, hamburgers with the consistency of shoes, the smell of rain and disappointment.
It wasn’t until I got my lips around some ribs when my eyes widened and I had an epiphany moment similar to a baby tasting sugar for the first time. I wish someone caught it on camera. From then on in everything changed- I only want my meat slow cooked, smoky and dripping in juice.
Honestly, this style of food from the United States is the only thing that might tempt me over there, but in the meantime here are a few places you can get stuck in this side of the pond.
Vegetarians look away now, this is going to get sticky…
There is something primal about tearing some well-seasoned flesh off the bone with your bare teeth- it sets something off in the Neanderthal parts of our brains that just makes us want to wear fur, play with fire and relentlessly hump each other. No? Maybe that’s just me. Anyway, ribs are great, ribs are swell and I could sit and eat ribs all day as long as I had some ice cold beer to wash it down with.
We bang on about the ribs from Cane and Grain all the time, but for good reason. Their St. Louis Pork Belly Ribs are heavenly, and with a choice of four sauces to choose from (plus the odd special) to smother them in, it is really hard to say no. If you want something on the larger side, I would look no further than the Slow-cooked Beef Ribs from Red’s True Barbeque. They are smoked for a whopping eight hours in-house and are a total game changer- the meat will fall off the bone and melt in your mouth like meaty butter. Side these with Tikki Salt Fries (Cane & Grain), Deep Fried Pickles, Burnt Ends and Pickle-backs (Reds)
Ahh, chicken wings, the drunk food which has served us for millennia. When it comes to wings, I feel that there are a few categories which will divide even the closest of pals. If you want crispy wings that are smothered in sauce, I would suggest El Capo. If you want crispy wings with sauces on the side, I would go for poultry experts Yard & Coop– they have a great range of sauces available for dipping such as Ranch and Smoking’ Aces (scotch bonnet and horseradish).
If you just want as many wings as possible, then head on over to First Street and pull up a pew at Bunny Jacksons. They come in hot and barbecue flavours (just to keep things simple), and will only cost you 10p each on a Wednesday. Spend a fiver and you will receive fifty to gorge on…sounds like a challenge to me.
Off the Bone
I hear that for some people, bones can be one of those squeamish things that send chills down your spine. If that is the case, the thought of gnawing the meat off a bone as I suggested above will fill you with more dread than standing on the edge of the canal at four in the morning waiting for The Pusher to come find you. But fear not. Where there is barbecue there is succulent meat which will fall off the bone and remain 100% fragment free throughout your entire experience.
It seems everyone in the English-speaking world has had, or has heard of, pulled pork and it is safe to say that it is one of the best things to come out of the states after, of course, the Space Shuttle and Microwave Popcorn. If you want to sniff this out, I recommend heading up to Oldham and heading to the Old School BBQ Bus. Once a travelling caterer and street food trader, now more of a permanent thing, this bright yellow US school bus serves up fantastic, authentic American grub, all smoked and slow cooked right in the bus. Their 16-hour Pulled Pork is incredible, and served up alongside pink slaw, fresh rocket and smothered in OSB BBQ sauce, it cannot be beaten.
Everyone loves a burger, right? Beef patties, dripping in grease, smothered in cheese slotted comfortably between two lumps of bread- what is there not to like? Now when it comes to burgers I can hear you all excitedly waiting to hear me give a shoutout to Instagram favourite Almost Famous but I’m going to tell you now that they aren’t going to get a mention out of principle. If you pile anything three feet high with cheese sauce, hash browns, Nutella, pickled eggs, entire pigs and fried chicken it is definitely going to taste good- including, I expect, an old man’s foot. Less is more as they say!
With that in mind, the best burgers in the city have to be from Hawksmoor. The Hawksmoor Hamburger, with added short rib on top, will set you back £14 quid (and they even have a kimchi one, for those of you who are addicted after my last food guide.) Moving away from the traditional, Solita is amazing too- and I am told their Chorizo Burger topped with red peppers, pepper jack cheese and tomato aioli is fantastic. Oh and top tip- order some fried jalapenos on the side, you won’t regret it.
A barbecue list would not be complete without a mention of steaks. Simple, elegant, and most importantly chucked full of iron-rich meaty goodness. There is nothing to hide behind with a good steak- just good quality meat and excellent cooking as the keys to success.
Gaucho is not only decorated head to toe in cow print, but they are most certainly some of the best steaks around. The meat is shipped over directly from Argentina (which is supposed to be the home to the best beef in the world) and is cooked over coals on a grill. I know this doesn’t exactly fit the American barbecue vibe completely, but just as a fun fact, a Gaucho is the Argentinian equivalent of a cowboy. So there.
For more South American vibes you can check out Cau, or if you are after something that would make Fred Flintstone jealous, might I suggest the 16oz T Bone steak from Smokehouse & Cellar or the whopping 800g Australian rib-eye from Grill on New York Street – just make sure to bring your stretchy pants.