By Sharon McGowan
There is a lot to be said for doing things backwards. Last autumn, Pitt Bros BBQ Project opened its doors on Dublin’s George’s Street.
Its flashy faux-Americana chic décor along with a simple menu of slow cooked, smoked meats and no frills side dishes set the joint up as the new hot spot on the hipster foodie map in Dublin.
The grub is reasonably priced: €12.95 for any meat and two sides, or between €9.45 and €11.50 if you choose a bun meal which comes with one side. There is no dessert menu, simply an ice cream machine where you can fill your own complimentary cone after dinner. You won’t find any fancy napkins, just a roll of kitchen paper placed on each table.
The food itself was decent, but nothing extraordinarily tasty to send you home raving. The pulled pork was tender and nicely flavoured, but it seemed as though something was a lacking a little. The onion rings and fries were fine but the macaroni cheese was such a disappointment. The sauce was almost milky in consistency, lacking the rich, heartiness you expect from classic Yanky comfort food and to describe it as lukewarm would be a stretch. Saying that, the portion sizes are generous, they’ve a decent selection of craft beers and ciders on offer and their homemade lemonade is an absolute winner. To leave happily full bellied for less than €20 including a drink is pretty hard to criticize. Also, given the early nature of this review relevant to the opening of the restaurant (within the first 3 weeks), it is reasonable to put a few of the flavouring issues down to teething problems with the smoking.
The only way to truly rate the young gun, however, is to Pitt them against the old timer (excuse the pun). Bison Bar is Dublin’s original Texan barbie joint. Located a stones throw away from Pitts on Wellington Quay, the whiskey bar installed a smoker and started serving food a year ago. Sitting down to eat in it for the first time earlier this week having sampled Pitt Bros’ months ago was an eye opener. Reading previous reviews a level of similarity was expected, but to what extent was truly unprecedented.
To start, the menus are practically carbon copies of one another with all the exact same meats offered at identical price. There is some variation in the sides offered, but even the actual design of the menu in eerily similar. Even the little details such as the kitchen roll and presentation of the sauces are all too familiar. The line between inspiration and imitation is a painfully fine one, one that Pitts appeared to have shamelessly ignored.
In terms of taste, however, there is no comparison. The combo meal was the fare of the night: 2 meats and 2 sides for €16.95. To make a fair judgment the pulled pork was selected as was the case in Pitts, along with the brisket. After a mere 5 minutes wait, the waitress presented a gargantuan plate of food that was attacked with undoubted eagerness, particularly in the case of the brisket.
It’s rare cut of meat to see on an Irish menu as it tends to be tough if not treated with the proper care and affection. Slow cooked for 14 hours, it was delectably tender and beautifully smoked. The meat was complimented wonderfully by the chipotle and garlic mayonnaise served with the chosen sides of fries and onion rings, both of which were also excellent. As for the battle of the pulled pork, there was no competition. Bison’s offering was far superior, nothing short of a masterclass in smoked meat.
Also, as nice of a prospect as being offered a free ice cream cone after your meal may be, a choice in dessert is always a welcome bonus. At Bison there are just two to chose from: peach cobbler or chocolate brownie. The latter was the night’s choice and didn’t disappoint, providing a decent finish to the meal. The only low point was the cocktail. A Calamity Jack was the selection, an absolutely delicious mix of Jack Daniels, apple juice and strawberry puree let down only by its steep price point. At €8.25 a pop it made for a pricey tipple, but not unlike a cocktail any other city centre bar.
Overall, the original proved the by far the best. For depth of flavour of the meat alone Bison takes the crown, and considering the similar price points there is little or no argument in that case. Saying that, Pitts Bros still offers good fare at great prices and with a little tweaking could certainly provide some serious competition. Sample the newbie before being wowed by Bison to avoid disappointment and see for yourself the beauty of being backward.