(Guest post by The Boyfriend)
In the months that Julie has been writing this blog, we have both learned that the quickest way to ignite a firestorm is to make unfavorable comments about local establishments that have a loyal following. A couple of months back, for instance, Julie mentioned that the bread on a sandwich that we purchased at Taste of Cincinnati was stale and that the meat wasn’t particularly flavorful.
Hilarity did not ensue.
Name-calling occurred. Taste buds were insulted. Family genealogies were challenged (not by Julie, but by anonymous commenters). “This place is the real deal! You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. You don’t know anything about food.”
To see if we would change our minds about the food, we made two separate visits to the establishment. We both concluded that our initial thoughts were justified, or at least were not wildly off-base.
To true fans of the establishment: If we disagree, sorry. If you love the place, great. Enjoy.
This episode has been in the back of my mind for the past few days.
A few months back, Julie and I had lunch at BBQ Revue on Madison Road in Oakley. We were less than impressed, but Julie never did a formal review. During the ensuing months, in conversation with friends who are BBQ Revue fans and in the comments section of wine me, dine me, the place has been mentioned several times. As with the previously mentioned incident, our less-than-favorable experience was met with incredulity.
“You don’t like BBQ Revue? That place is awesome! You must be crazy. You don’t know anything about barbecue.”
After Julie’s mini-review of City Barbeque, a couple of commenters again sang the praises of BBQ Revue.
Because of the burning need to settle the BBQ Revue question (and because I was hungry and live five minutes away), I decided to have lunch there on Tuesday.
On our first visit, Julie had the pulled chicken sandwich while I had the pulled pork sandwich. We both had the same complaint: What we were eating was no better than standard crock pot barbecue. (Aside: Doesn’t it drive you mad, the countless ways to spell barbecue, barbeque, BBQ, Bar-B-Q, Bar-B-Que, etc.?)
Not that there’s anything wrong with crock pot barbecue. I’ve made it myself dozens of times, and I’m sure I’ll make dozens more times in the future. BBQ Revue’s version might have been made with genuine, on-site-smoked meat and the restaurant’s own sauce. Still, it was standard crock pot fare. (Check the internet and/or your stash of cookbooks. I’m sure you’ll find scores of crock pot barbecue recipes. Most will involve some combination of pork butt, store-bought barbecue sauce, onions, and Liquid Smoke, cooked for several hours in a crock pot, and then chopped or pulled.)
The typical comment from friends or from commenters here on the blog ended with something to the effect of “You need to try the ribs.”
On Tuesday, I did both. I had the ribs, and I got a pulled pork sandwich to go.
Nothing I tasted or saw on Tuesday caused me to re-think my original impression of the pulled pork sandwich. Barbecued pork, chopped or pulled fine and mixed with sauce, simmering in a warming tray. In other words: crock pot barbecue. In the ten minutes it took to get it home, the sandwich bun had become soggy from the mixture of sauce, grease, and/or juice. With real chopped or pulled barbecue (sauce added after the fact), this shouldn’t have happened.
As for the ribs, I must say that I wasn’t a fan. The meat was quite tender, though not falling-off-the-bone tender. Prior to smoking, they were covered with a dry rub, heavily laden with pepper (cayenne, I suspect). The end result was incredibly spicy. The sauce that was served with the ribs was also very spicy and hot. Again, I think the sauce was pretty heavily loaded with cayenne pepper.
What makes for good barbecue is the perfect marriage of meat and smoke. Whatever sauce or rub that one chooses to use should enhance that union, not hide or overpower it.
I thought that the ribs were best without the sauce. With the sauce, I almost couldn’t taste the meat.
I saved all leftovers for Julie to sample. She basically concurred with my thoughts.
It’s probably worth mentioning that BBQ Revue has received numerous awards and accolades, including City Beat’s Best Barbecue award in 2004, Cincinnati Magazine’s Best Barbecue award in 2001, and The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Best Ribs award in 1996. Who am I to argue with such an impressive trophy case?
So to the fans of BBQ Revue: If we disagree, sorry. If you love the place, great. Enjoy.
(P.S.–Just after I finished this post, I found the following comment from one of Julie’s readers: “re: BBQ Review [sic] I’ve never been crazy about the ribs nor the pulled pork. However, the brisket and chicken are phenomenal. Give it another try…”)