Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review August 2007
By “The Elusive Epicurean”
I grew up in a home where the man cooked. And boy, could he cook. My mom might trot out a cake or pie at Christmas, but it was the man of the house who would grill, braise, poach, roast, and fry on a daily basis. While this was a boon to my culinary education, it has really messed with my love life. (I am currently taking applications if you’re interested.) Add cooking to your Prince Charming laundry list and gasp with amazement as your dating pool shrinks before your very eyes. Ah, well. Until that perfect fella rides up on his white steed, spatula at the ready, at least I can eat out.
Which is where BarBersQ comes in. Recently opened at Bel Air Plaza in Napa, BarBersQ serves up classic barbecue fare-plus a few surprises-in a casual, fresh environment devoid of kitsch. It’s a welcome addition as far as this girl’s concerned.
For this excursion, my dining companion was chosen with care. A hearty appetite attached to a very good friend would be required, for I do not know how to eat barbecue like a lady. Our lunch, which we enjoyed on the patio under the summer sun, began with the Grilled West Coast Oysters with Garlic Butter and Pepper Salsa ($14.50). They were deliciously spicy, and our mood, already good, brightened even more. We were in for a good meal.
And what of the entrée? Was it to be the BBQ chicken ($14.75), or the Cobb Salad ($14.95), or the humble Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($6.75)? The Grilled Pork Chop ($16.95)? The Flank Steak ($19.95)? Maybe next time.
I ordered a half rack of the St. Louis Ribs (half $14.75, full $27.50). My companion ordered the Painted Hills Chipotle-Braised Short Rib Sandwich, served on an Alexis Baking Company Cornmeal Bun with a Horseradish Sauce ($14.75).
Now, you start talking barbeque with folks, and, well, talking can turn to arguing and arguing can turn to fisticuffs. Grilled versus smoked, sauced versus un-sauced, dry rub versus wet rub, charcoal versus gas, Carolina versus Texas, barbeque versus barbecue-none of these questions will be discussed here, dear readers, for my dueling pistols are in the shop. Sorry. So we will restrict our discourse to the single truly great and meaningful question you can ever ask yourself – tasty, or not?
My verdict: Tasty. The ribs were juicy, flavorful, and as tender as possible while still allowing me the primeval joy of gnawing on a bone. There were three BBQ sauces available (spicy, mild, and vinegar), but I devoured my half rack unadorned, just as they came. They were that good.
I wish I could report on the short rib sandwich from direct experience, but my dining companion was in an uncommonly greedy mood and never offered me a taste. (I wasn’t willing to part with any of my ribs, so let’s not be too hard on him.) I surmised that it was good, and, when he was finally done licking his fingers, received verbal confirmation that this was so. He particularly liked the horseradish sauce.
An array of sides are available, including fries, potato salad, collard greens and cornbread ($3.25-$4.95).We chose the seasonal vegetables ($5.75), which on that day meant green beans, squash, and eggplant, all perfectly cooked (still some crunch in the green beans, but none in the eggplant), seasoned, and tossed together. We ended our meal with the seasonal cobbler, made of peaches and topped with vanilla ice cream ($7.50). Delicious.
Yep, I’m a happy carnivore, and you can be, too. But I refuse to end this on a rhyme. No, really, you can’t make me. Okay, fine – just go eat at BarBersQ.