Refuel: Pitt Bros BBQ
WICKLOW HOUSE, GEORGE’S STREET, DUBLIN 2.
So the BBQ trend that's spread from the trailer parks of Texas to brownstone Brooklyn, and on to swanky Soho, has finally made its way to dirty wee Dublin.
In Galveston, they're fit to hang hipsters by the hair on their chinny chin chins –the god-fearing, trailer trash, relentlessly yokel bashed for being poor enough and dumb enough to live on beans and brisket. Now their diet has been rehabilitated, what should they feel? Gratitude? Vindication? Nope, they feel resentment. Hipsters are driving up the price of ribs.
Whether you walk into BristketTown in Williamsburg, Pitt Cue in London or Pitt Bros in Dublin, the clientele all look the same: twentysomethings with post-pubescent facial hair, wearing leather jackets and skinny jeans. The music is great – as you'd expect, but what of the food? Aficionados will tell you that BBQ smoking is about two things: what you rub into the meat and the wood you burn in your smoker. A neon piglet hangs above the door. It's not a subtle equation, but it gets the message across: pig + firewood = pulled pork > trendy than thou.
Anyone older than 30 might feel they have too many miles on the clock to belong in Pitt Bros. Those of us who look like mutton dressed as filet mignon just about get away with it. It helps that the waiters are friendly and enthusiastic, when fashion and food collide, you often get condescending and aloof service. This, thankfully, is not the case.
Another plus – the place looks great: dropped ceilings made from wooden pallets, exposed brickwork and reclaimed metal on the walls, barrels, troughs, meat hooks, farmyard detritus redefined. A giant orange BBQ neon welcomes you to Funkytown – while bottles of American craft beer chill in a Belfast sink.
The theme continues on the tables: rolls of kitchen towel, tin cans of cutlery, squeezy sauce bottles with P-touch labels saying: "THIS IS HOT SAUCE" and "Carolina Sauce". The first is proper hot and tangy, the second squirts redundancy. No gimmick is spared – you can pull your own cone just like in Neon a country mile up the road, and the menu is almost identical to Bison Bar.
Brooklyn lager for Ui Rathaile, and for me, a glass of the house white – an easy drinking Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc.
Our food arrives in white, enamelled trays – the kind they use for entrails in field hospitals. The meat loses its heat on impact with the cold surface. Half a chicken had been rubbed with a chilli spice mix that you can see, but cannot taste. The skin is baggy and the chicken huddles inside it. The tenderness you expect from slow-cooking is not there.
Macaroni and cheese is a dish that food snobs love to loathe. I was converted many years ago by a bubbling casserole of layered pasta, Gruyere, butter and breadcrumbs. Made properly, mac 'n cheese is comfort food par excellence. Regrettably, Pitt Bros' take on it is insipid, milky, and under-seasoned.
Ui Rathaile was having a better time of it. He'd ordered the Pitt Master's combo: two meats served in a neat crusty bun – not a soft stretchy bap that would soak up the meaty juices. The pulled pork is excellent; it's succulent and sweet with hints of smoke and a spicy footnote. The smoker was most evident with the brisket, which was fall-apart tender, though it should have been carved against the grain. Still, it was good: chewy, but not tough, with authentic "burnt ends".
These two meats came sandwiched between a layer of shredded white cabbage and a crunchy onion ring that was sweet and slippery inside. I looked at my dry and dismal bird and coveted my neighbour's plate. He threw me a couple of fat chips that were floury inside their tough, earthy skins.
What I enjoyed most about Pitt Bros was our competition to see who could pull the best ice cream. Mine was swirly and pert. His was a lop-sided spurt. Sweet catharsis to be sure – but who invited Mr Whippy to the hoedown?
TYPICAL DISH: Brisket and beans
RECOMMENDED: Pulled pork
THE DAMAGE: €35.95 for two mains with sides, one beer, one glass of wine, two ice creams.
ON THE STEREO: DJ remixes
AT THE TABLE: Hipsters