Thursday, January 6, 2011

The New Pit in Town

Going out for really good Souther-style barbeque often leads to severe disappointment.  In fact, unless you live in one of the barbeque hotbeds in the world (all in the US and most in the Southeast) you're much better off to find someone with a Weber "Bullet" or some such smoker and make friends with them.  The fact is, without charcoal, real wood and lots of time you just can't get the flavour and texture you can at home.

Having said that, I was really glad to see Peckinpah open its doors before the Christmas break.  Located at the corner of Water and Carrall in Gastown, Peckinpah is offering "Carolina" style barbeque.  They never quite claim which Carolina they mean ... and there are several.  But from the sauces I tasted they seem to be doing a blend of the two dominate flavours in the Carolinas:  tomato and vinegar.  All of the standard meats are there:  pork butt, beef brisket, pork ribs and sausage (no chicken as of yet).  

I could get picky and claim that some items were not truly "Carolina" barbeque, but since we're here in Cascadia I find the motto "beggars can't be choosers" more appropriate.  Whether "authentic" (HATE that word) or not, Peckinpah serves some terrific "Q".  All meats are offered as sandwiches or as platters with the usual array of sides:  baked beans, coleslaw, "southern greens" (collards or something damn close), corn bread and creamed corn.  

The meats arrived rubbed, but unsauced.  Sauces (tomato and vinegar) are at your table so you can choose how wet you like it.  You get one side with a sandwich and two with a platter, so of course my lunch companion and I ordered two platters (brisket and pork butt) so we could try as many sides as possible.  

The pork butt was my favourite.  Nicely pulled into strands, rather than coarsely shredded, which to me is a sign of carelessness.  The brisket was perfectly cooked as well, but both lacked any of the bark you get from burnt rub.  I'm not an expert on the commercial smokers, but this is one of those things I think you miss when you don't use charcoal and wood chunks.  You also miss the smoke ring and the deep smoky flavour that comes with it.  The meat was delicious, just not overly smoky.

The collards were the best of the sides.  Cooked with bacon fat they were also the only green thing on our plates.  The beans and coleslaw were fine, not great.  You should fill up on meat anyway ... it's barbeque, not a salad bar!  

A couple other small issues were the lack of hushpuppies and pecan pie on the menu.  The former seems to be a contentious issue with ownership (some are for them, some are against them) and the latter is forgiven because of the Pumpkin bread Pudding that did make the cut.  The bar menu also features a nice variety of bourbons.  Translation:  a Maker's Mark makes everything better.

I still stand by my assertion that you can make better barbeque in your own back yard.  But if you don't have a backyard, or hell, if you don't feel like waiting 12 hours for the butts to smoke, at least now you have a better option than anywhere else in Metro Vancouver.
2 Water Street, Vancouver, BC
(corner of Water Street and Carrall)


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