Sorry it has been so long since my last review. Since Dec 30 I have tried to stay on my Providia diet and I have been doing very well. I have not weighed yet, but I have dropped one pants size. So that's a cause for celebration. Why not take one day off for a crazy day and do a BBQ review? I plan on sticking to the diet as long as I can, but there will be times where I just need a little pork fat to balance out all the veggies!!!
So we are up in Cincinnati and just north of town in West Chester is a place one of my buddies has been bragging about. The only other place is Burbanks, which we have already done, and there is a Dickey's, which is a chain that we reviewed in Dallas last spring. So I wanted to do something new this time and City Barbecue was selected.
First off, this is in a mall area location and is in a pretty nice section of town. It sits right next to a Bonefish - which is one of my new favorite places to eat right now. But it doesn't help the authenticity. I mean, you guys already know I am looking for almost condemned buildings to eat Q in and this is just the opposite. But there is rule book that says good Q can't be found in a clean building. So if you like things like good hygiene, this is definitely the place for you. City BBQ has several locations around the Cincy area, but I was told this was one of the better ones.
The staff was friendly. When you walk in, you order at the register and then they bring out your order on the other side of the register. You then take your food to the table. Sort of the style of a subway resturant. You get your own drinks and you get free refills. One positive note: they have sweet tea and its not that bad - especially for a region where its hard to find it natively. So I'll give them that.
As I said, the staff is friendly and actually encouraged pictures. We decided to get the Deluxe sampler platter, which had the best selection. We got 1/2 lb of brisket, 1/2 lb pulled pork, 1/4 of a chicken and 1/2 slab of ribs. It came with two sides and two loaves of cornbread. We ordered baked beans and slaw, with an extra side of their corn pudding. This was for two very hungry people who have been deprived of real food for a month.....
And the food looked really good... See below...
The star of the show is the brisket, which surprised me. It was very tender and did not need any sauce. There was a lot of flavor to it. But it was missing a key ingredient - hickory or mesquite smoke. The pulled pork was the same way. It was good, but light on the smoke. The chicken and ribs were already coated with their sauce, which was a shame as I like to experiment with different sauces. They were both slathered with it. The good news is that it was a very nice and flavorful Kansas City style sweet red sauce, and I liked it. The ribs were not cooked long enough or else they were cooked too fast. Again, no real smokey flavor on them, and they were not as tender as I would like them. Because of this, the ribs had more fat on them, and I just don't like my ribs like that. The chicken was very moist, which I did enjoy (we got white meat). I believe the lack of smoke is probably due to health codes or zoning regulations dealing with smoke and how it can be used within a resturant in this area. It tasted like they are cooking the meat over coals at a closer distance, very similar to what we experiened in north carolina.
On to the sides. The slaw was crisp, but the cabbage was a little bitter and overpowered the creamy sauce. The corn pudding had a good flavor, but it was a little too oily. The beans were the best side and had pieces of brisket in it. I did not care for the corn bread. It was more like a cake. Definitely a yankee style cornbread. Some of you may like that style, but it was not to my tastes.
City offers several sauces; a regular red, a hot red, a sweet mustard sauce that taste like it has relish in it, and a clear vinegar with spices for the north carolina tourists who need that swill to make their life complete.... They also offer Texas Pete hot sauce, which is probably the best choice for the pulled pork. Of course, no sauce is needed for the brisket - which is a good sign. Since the ribs and chicken are glazed to high heaven with sauce, you really don't have another option. This is something I think needs to be addressed. Why would you offer two kinds of red if you plan on pouring it on before the customer gets it. Let me decide which sauce I want. If you are like me, then order it naked and see if they can oblige you.
All in all I would equate City Barbecue with a good chain like Famous Dave's. It is still chain Q and regulated. Smoke added to the cooking - I would suggest hickory for the ribs and brisket, and a mix of 50% pecan wood and 50% hickory for the pulled pork. This would kick this Q into high gear. I would also suggest cooking the ribs slower and on a lower heat for longer. If you don't have the time to do it longer, then move to baby back ribs.
I would give City Barbeque a 6.5 and consider it along the same lines as Famous Daves. For the casual Q eater, who might just as well hit Bonefish on Friday night - this stuff is fine and will definitely satisfy the hungry jack in you. For the die hards out there, I would probably still choose Burbanks simply because of the collard greens and the constant blues music. City - do yourself a favor and get some hickory wood burning in that place and kick it up a notch. If I can just see a bunch of smoke in the room I might be happier...
Until I break my diet again - send me some more suggestions to try out. I will be traveling more this year and I need some pointers on where to go when I am out and about.