Name: Bitterroot BBQ Date: 8/21/15 Address: 5239 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107 Order: The Cowboy Killer platter with pork, brisket, chicken, baby back ribs, 2 links of sausage, couple of beers, flight of whiskey (link to menu) Price: $125
Monk: So for the first time in over a year, all three bros were reunited. Last July, we gathered at Lexington Barbecue (our collective favorite joint) and gave it a 5 hog review. This time around we were all in Seattle for our high school friend Boomsauce’s bachelor party, dubbed the #legionofboomsauce. And, spoiler alert, the barbecue was not anywhere near as good. Not even close.
Speedy: Yeah – I guess I wasn’t expecting much from ‘cue in Seattle, but with all three bros together, we had to at least give it a shot.
Rudy: I was a bit apprehensive, however it seems as though there has been a big migration of good barbecue places across the country recently. Good barbecue is not just reserved for the traditional locations, which gave me some hope.
Speedy: Walking in, I was a bit encouraged. The smoker was a big gasser inside the restaurant, but there was a fair amount of wood lying around (and one guy working stated they went through quite a bit of wood daily) so I was hoping for some nice smoky flavor. I also was glad to see a large combo meal on the menu, especially one with a name like the “Cowboy Killer.” And we ended up spending a little more because we were not allowed to sub out the chicken for sausage, so our solution was to add on two links.
Monk: The other great thing about the “Cowboy Killer” platter was that it got the song “Psycho Killer” stuck in Speedy’s head for the rest of the afternoon. On to the meat…the pork was unanimously decided to be the worst of the meats we tried at Bitterroot. Zero smoke and no flavor. I’m wasting no more words on it.
Rudy: I agree about the pork. I was really craving some good pulled pork, so to say I was let down is an understatement. I’ve had crockpot-cooked pulled pork that was 10 times better and more flavorful than what they served.
Upon first sight I had reservations about the brisket. The biggest red flag for me was that there was NO smoke ring. If they have a smoker and go through all that wood each day, as they stated, they would at least stumble onto a smoke ring. The pieces that I had were slightly dry, however they did have a decent bark and most importantly it was really well seasoned, giving the meat a good flavor. It may not have looked the part, but it tasted close to the part. It was the best of the meats, but it also wasn’t having to clear a high hurdle with that.
Speedy: The ribs were better than the pork, but a step down from the brisket. They were cooked decently, but I couldn’t taste a rub at all, so I was left wanting more flavor. I understand the idea of letting the meat do the talking, but sometimes you need some salt and pepper to give the meat a bigger voice. Overall the ribs are a pass.
Rudy: We ordered the sausage separately because there were no substitutions. It was basically alright. I thought it was a bit dry and crumbly. I prefer sausage where the casing has a snap to it, which this one didn’t have. It was also a little bit spicy for my taste. I like spice, but I thought it the sausage was too overpowering and distracted from any flavor that it might have had otherwise. They could have taken some of the seasoning from the sausage and added it to other meats and improved them all. Speaking of which…
Monk: I’m not the biggest fan of chicken at a barbecue joint, but I think I tolerate it more than these other guys. Also, there were no substitutions for the cowboy killer. I found the chicken to be tender and juicy but – stop me if we’re starting to sound like a broken record – there just was no seasoning and I found the meat to be bland.
Rudy: Bitterroot offered several traditional and nontraditional sides. We tried the greens, cauliflower, cornbread, and hushpuppies. The greens and hushpuppies were pretty good and the cornbread wasn’t bad. The cauliflower wasn’t anything to write home about. I liked the selection but everything was just ok to a little above average.
Speedy: By far the best thing about Bitterroot was the Whiskey menu. They had an EXCELLENT selection, including some very hard to find stuff, at very reasonable prices. We took part in a flight from High West (one of my favs), but I would’ve liked to have gone back to sample some more. And the beer list was not shabby either. It was also nice that they were able to seat our group of ten easily.
Monk: Beyond the whiskey and beer selection, that huge farmhouse table that sat our party of 10 was another highlight of the meal. Notice what we are highlighting here…nothing about any of the meats or actual food.
Rudy: I think the biggest indictment of the barbecue at Bitterroot BBQ was that we had plans of trying another Seattle barbecue place the next day, and based on what was claimed to be good Seattle barbecue, we changed our plans and ate at a French restaurant instead. That’s when you know the terrorists have won.
1. La Barbecue in Austin…and Charleston: Back in May they were named as the best barbecue in Austin by two well-respected food critics, Mike Sutter and Matthew Odam. They moved their trailer to a new spot on Caesar Chavez before announcing that a new brick-and-mortar joint in South Austin is in the works. Pitmaster John Lewis took home first place in brisket in a local barbecue competition and was featured in a commercial for Sun Country beef jerky. Those were all newsworthy, but none compared to the culture-shifting announcement that John Lewis was opening a Texas style barbecue joint outside of Texas. He didn’t pick one of the country’s biggest cities starving for good barbecue. Instead he set his target squarely on a land rich in barbecue tradition that was long ago conquered by pork. Lewis Barbecue will open in Charleston, South Carolina in the spring of 2015.
As punters went wild for barbecue in general, and pulled pork in particular, restaurant chains and supermarkets jumped on the porcine bandwagon. There has been a 35% increase in the amount of US barbecue dishes served in UK restaurants since 2010, according to thefoodpeople, and a rash of smokehouses and diner pastiches have opened in London, Manchester, Leeds, Brighton and beyond. “We are in the midst of a meat-centric tsunami,” says Richard Turner, the director at Pitt Cue Co and the co-founder of rare-breed butchers Turner and George.
6. Barbecue seems to be one of your favorite cuisines, considering you have a very detailed section reserved for it on your blog. What are your favorite barbecue dishes and where do you go to get them?
That’s a big, fun question! We’ve written about more than 300 barbecue joints and really enjoyed a big majority of them. I like the burnt ends at Southern Soul on St Simons Island a lot, and the mustard slaw at Brooks Barbeque in Muscle Shoals AL, and the chopped pork and red slaw tray at Bar-B-Q Center in Lexington NC. I like the Brunswick stew at Turn-Around in Tallapoosa GA, and the chicken mull at Butt Hutt in Athens. Overall, my favorite barbecue is either at Old Clinton in Gray GA, or Scott’s in Hemingway SC, but that could change around the next corner.
North Carolina: OK—it’s not one city, but a whole state gone hog wild for pulled pork at such landmark barbecue joints as Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, Wilber’s in Goldsboro, the Skylight Inn in Ayden, the Pit in Raleigh, and the new Ed Mitchell’s in Durham.