January 5, 2010

Our first "review": Percy Street Barbecue

Being from “the South” gives us some authority on good barbecue—and in the 5.5 years we’ve lived in Philadelphia, we can’t remember ever having it here. The opening of Percy Street Barbecue in November grabbed our attention- big names (Erin O’Shea and Michael Solomonov—yes, please!), interesting location (part of the South Street restaurant revitalization movement), and the promise of southern barbecue’s innate qualities: cheap and delicious.

The arrival of two male friends visiting from out of town gave us the opportunity to try it out after Christmas. Super easy to find, within sight of Whole Foods near the corner of 9th and South. It was fairly busy on a Tuesday night. We hate waiting for tables (popular restaurants that don’t take reservations are on our hit list), so thankfully that wasn’t an issue. If you did have to wait, there is a bar at the front of the restaurant, which seems rather out of place. Most of the restaurant exudes backyard eating- picnic tables, chalkboard menus (which are slightly redundant as you also get a paper menu), rolls of paper towels instead of napkins—not a place for a bar. The music selection made us a little sad, since we heart country music and never hear it in Philly. Apparently those picking at the juke box don’t share our love. We sat by the huge windows lining the street- it would be awesome in the summer, but with temps in the 30s it was a little chilly.

The server introduced the restaurant and explained the Texas-style concept to us- all of the meats are smoked for hours, which explained the smoky smell that stuck to our clothes after we left (don’t worry, it’s totally worth it). The menu is split into meats, sides, and desserts; the most economical way to experience it is through the combo meal. The “family style” serving of the food doesn’t make it a problem if everyone at the table wants something different- a larger shared dish will be provided if two people order the same side or the same meat, and the bread is piled together, but otherwise you are basically ordering for yourself.

We started with the housemade sweet iced tea- impossible to find in the North- which was served in a liter bottle ($4), perfect for splitting, along with two mason jars with ice and lemon. Apparently mason jars add to the experience… but the tea wasn’t worth it. Maybe we just have too big of a sweet tooth, but sweet tea is supposed to be SWEET!

All four of us ordered the combo meal ($15) with the brisket- you can specify whether you want lean brisket, “moist” brisket (what a nice word for fatty), or a combination of both. We all tried both, but next time we would get the lean- there is plenty of flavor, and nobody wants a mouthful of fat. Each person gets a half-pound of meat, sliced thin and long like bacon. The basket is accompanied by a few dill pickles and raw white onion slices, and the table was given a pile of white bread slices and housemade barbecue sauce. One tip: make a sandwich. Yumz. Second tip: ask for more pickles. You can never have enough pickles. The meat was smoky and just tender enough, and the barbecue sauce was ahhmazing- not too vinegary or too spicy.

Being twins, we ended up ordering the same two sides: sweet potatoes and collard greens. These came in two larger bowls for us to share, while our two dining mates had their own bowls. The sweet potatoes were whipped, almost too whipped… and a tad sweet. Definitely delish, although we’re not sure they are always on the menu. The collard greens were.. well, collard greens. We like vegetables and anything green, so we loved them. We also sampled the green bean casserole and the macaroni and cheese- classics, pretty much how your grandma would make them. The macaroni and cheese had a good crust on the top, and was a surprisingly large portion. The sides, if ordered separately, range in price from $3-$6.

The boys both ordered dessert, which of course we stole tastes of, both the German chocolate cake ($6) and the root beer float ($6). The chocolate cake was not traditional- two layers of dry chocolate cake sandwiched a peanut butter layer. Peanut butter? What? We love peanut butter, but it wasn’t German chocolate cake. The root beer float was delish- who knew that Yard’s root beer was so good? (PS you can also order it plain) Also probably more suitable for a summer night.

Overall, we all walked away raving about the food. It pains us to pay $15 for a simple barbecue meal, but the service, ambiance, and special touches made it worth it. Plus, this is Philly. We’ll be back soon, and really want to try the burnt brisket ends (limited quantities so you have to be lucky to get these!) and the pork belly. It would also be super fun to do “the Lockhart”, a REAL family style meal for the table with a sampling of all the meats and sides, and one dessert per person ($24).

Percy Street BBQ


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