Monday, August 9, 2010

Barbecue and Soul Food


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If you read this page with any regularity you know I have great affection for both pizza and barbecue. Food of the people? I think so - and maybe that's why it appeals to me so much. While the regional variations of pizza (Slice counts over twenty different varietals) far outnumber that of barbecue (four: Texas, Memphis, Kansas City, and Carolina) there certainly is a varying degree of quality when it comes to Cleveland.

I've been combing the "mom and pop" places for the last couple of months for a diamond in the barbecue rough. If you haven't read Smokestack Lightening by Lolis Eric Elie then you really are missing out on what it means to appreciate these spartan outposts that dot most every urban area across the entire country.

While I've found that most everything I've visited has had glimmers of sparkle hear and there, I have yet to see the entire package. People can make fun of Famous Dave's (a chain) all they want to but if we're talking Cuyahoga County, they are the best in terms of an entire meal.

Red Walter Bar-B-Q
8425 Cedar Ave
Cleveland, OH 44103
(216) 791-1420

One huge irritation of mine is the amount of half-assed fried fish and fried chicken these "barbecue" places do. This place was selling fried fish like it was going out of style. In the half an hour a waited for my shoulder sandwich I bet I saw fried fish orders outnumber cooked meat 4 to 1. Is that an indictment on the store? I would say no, they're apparently giving the customer what they want (which doesn't say much for the customers I'm afraid).

Red Walter is carry-out only, but don't worry I don't think you'll be going there. Cole Slaw that was pre-made (the finely chipped kind they serve at Arthur Treacher's), severely soggy fries (a common theme with all three of the places I went to), and a pork shoulder sandwich that represented the word "bland" about as well as it could have ever be expected. The place was doing a bang up business in the late afternoon. I don't know why - but they were.

Red Walter Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Mt Pleasant BBQ
12725 Kinsman Rd
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 561-8722

I stopped in here on a Saturday afternoon. Mt Pleasant BBQ is actually the site of the first Whitmore's. The shop has been here since 1942 and for being there so long is surprisingly clean. I talked to the guy at the counter about how they cook their ribs. By the sounds of things it's just straight charcoal for two hours and their done. Thinking that it didn't really sound like my thing I opted for the Po Boy deluxe. The deluxe has shredded pork or beef on it (whichever you want). I ended up eating the sausage, pork, and cole slaw which I thought were all good. I didn't care for the baby food-like candied yams or extremely soggy fries. I'm not rushing back, but at least I didn't have to see fried fish flying out the door.

Mt Pleasant BBQ on Urbanspoon

Angie's Soul Food
Harvard + Lee Road
Cleveland, OH

I'm going to make this short, there's one reason I would come here: the specials. I had the neck bone stew and loved it. While it was probably too salty for most people, I thought it was great. Did I mention that people love to eat fried fish in Cleveland's inner city? Fried food was all I saw going out the door.

If there is a case to be made for the value of good ventilation this Angie's outpost is it. When I walked in there were five people waiting for their to-go orders. Why? Probably for the same reason I was - the air was so full of frying grease it damn near pushed you out the door. It was thick and it was bad.

I thought the collard greens were okay and the fries were extremely soggy. Their specials are very atypical and that is what will bring me back. I recommend calling ahead so that you don't smell like grease after waiting for your food.

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