Monday, May 14, 2012

Smoky Goodness

It's been a tough couple of weeks. Once every 2 or 3 years the computer systems I support at work are upgraded to the newest version. It's an all-hands-on-deck situation, and requires lots of extra hours. So after a regular work week, I worked 12-hour days over the weekend, and 9- or 10-hour days most of the rest of last week.

This hasn't left a lot of energy to write blog posts, or think creatively about food.

One day last week, though, I took a real lunch break and tried a new restaurant in the 12South neighborhood. Edley's Bar-B-Que has been in business for about 6 months. As with most BBQ joints, the decor is rustic and super-casual -- wood paneling, chalkboard menu boards, food served in plastic baskets. Garage-door windows open onto 12th Ave South when the weather is nice, as it was the day I visited. A deck with metal tables and chairs is on the south side of the building, perfect for enjoying some sun with your BBQ. There is no host/hostess and no wait staff; you order at a counter, pour your own tea or soft drink, and seat yourself. (If you prefer a beverage of the adult variety, there is also a bar.) You are given a number to put on a little metal stand at your table (if your table has one; not all of them did) and your order is brought to you.

The chalkboards posted around the ordering counter list the sides and specials available that day, but the full menu is available on paper at the register. Desserts (pie slices and dessert squares) are in individual clamshell boxes next to the register as well. If you've not been before I'd suggest looking the menu over online before you go, or grabbing a menu and a table first, then go back to order. Otherwise you might feel a bit rushed to decision as other hungry patrons line up behind you.

Edley's offers a variety of BBQ items, from the usual pork, brisket, and chicken to turkey and non-BBQ catfish and shrimp. The brisket is available only during lunch; at dinner they also offer ribs. I decided to stick to the basics this first visit and ordered the pork sandwich; my sides were BBQ restaurant standbys, potato salad and cole slaw. I also grabbed a wedge of fudge pie.

The sandwich was a generous size without being gargantuan, with plenty of chunky pork and a drizzle of sauce. I would have preferred more sauce, and realized later that squeeze bottles adorned some tables,  but not mine. I could have asked to borrow one or go looking for one; I suspected there might be some available around the drink / flatware stand. A few nibbles of unadorned pork told me it was good enough and moist enough to not need to be slathered sauce. I DO like a slightly saucier BBQ sandwich, though, so next time I'll look harder for the bottles.

I don't have a sophisticated BBQ palate - I can't argue the merits of this or that style, this restaurant vs that. I have a few simple requirements for declaring any BBQ a success: First, it can't be dry. Second, it has to have a definite smoke flavor, but not be excessive. Third, there also has to be a nice, meaty flavor to the pork itself -- it can't just be a carrier of smoke and rub or sauce. Finally, if it's a sandwich, there should be a decent amount of meat to fill the bun. Edley's met all of these qualifications. In fact, I would say it's one of the best pork BBQ sandwiches I've ever had, and here's why: The bun. The pork stands on its own, and I would happily eat it solo with a fork any day. Unlike any other BBQ place I've ever been too, though, Edley's doesn't use your garden variety Sunbeam/Bunny Bread white supermarket bun. This was a sturdy, large bun that tasted good by itself. Barely kissed by the grill, with a little brush of butter, it put what would have been a merely good sandwich over the top.

The sides came in little plastic portion cups. At first I thought the serving sizes were a bit chintzy, but by the end of the meal the size of the sandwich more than made up for them. The sides were actually pretty good. I rarely have any expectations about side dishes at BBQ joints -- they often come out of a gallon container from the restaurant supply company, or they just don't receive the care that the star attraction does. I was pleasantly surprised here, though. Both had all the hallmarks of being made from scratch in house. The potato salad wasn't all that unusual -- red potatoes cut into chunks, with a light application of mayonnaise dressing that had a touch of mustard. The cole slaw is not my preferred style -- it had bell pepper, and a vinegar dressing. Still, I enjoyed it much more than I would have guessed. The bell pepper wasn't overwhelming, and the vinegar dressing was not just sour, but also sweet. I like a sweet slaw, but not everyone does -- if this is you, be warned.

Finally, I sampled the pie. The cashier had called it chocolate pie, but it was what I've always known as a fudge pie:  Deep, dark (but sweet) chocolate filling in a pastry crust. Some fudge pie can be very dense, or even approach a brownie-like texture. This pie had a creaminess that was surprising. It was still thick and rich, but smooth as silk and not at all heavy.  The crust was obviously of the frozen commercial variety, but that didn't bother me. My major complaint was that the filling had been poured into a raw shell and then underbaked. This left the crust under the filling more than a bit gummy. I learned a long time ago to fully blind bake pie shells, even if the complete pie with filling is to be baked. Otherwise, you never get a satisfactory crust. Add to the fact that this particular pie hadn't baked quite long enough (the rim of the crust was still beige, not brown), and you get a pie that isn't nearly as good as it could have been with that wonderful filling.

Overall, my trip to Edley's was tasty, and I'll be back to try some of the other dishes.

My wish list for Edley's would include:  Bottles of sauce already on every table; a full menu board that could be easily read while waiting in line; umbrellas on the patio to provide shade when needed; blind bake those pie crusts before filling.

1 comment:

heavy hedonist said...

Your review is great-- making my mouth water with the details, and you know I'm a veghead!