By Laura Fries
What kind of place begins advertising months before it opens? That was the question that prompted a recent visit to Porky's Bar-B-Que, a joint on its second location before it even opened. Initially, the owners hoped to open their restaurant on Broadway and Newell - but historic restrictions got in the way. Instead, the much-planned restaurant settled down on St. Mary's Street, in the shell of the former Bob's Smokehouse.
The interior has undergone a significant facelift. It now sports bold forest green and maroon paint, new picnic tables, and giant chalkboard menus. Self-service is the name of the game here: Place your order with the cashier with the gorgeous purple mascara (featured in the aforementioned ads), and help yourself to ice and tea from the industrial-size containers located on the left side of the building.
We went on a slow Saturday and had the place pretty much to ourselves as a few neighborhood folk drifted in and out, fueled by curiousity and the enticing smell of the barbequed brisket. The menu here is nothing but straight-up meat: by the pound, by the plate, and in much vaunted sandwiches. Feeling peckish, we settled on brisket, sausage, and turkey - the cornerstones of modern Texas 'que, with healthy doses of potato salad and pinto beans to boot.
Now, there are those who will argue you to the ground that real barbeque is nothing but salt, pepper, and sweet, long-term smoking. Those folks will be disappointed: All of Porky's meat comes slathered in a sweet, tangy red sauce, whether you ask for it or not. The brisket could do without it - it's a perfectly serviceable slab of meat, charred on the outside, with a mild pink smoke ring. It's basic, nothing fancy, but it disappears quickly. The turkey, on the other hand, was dry. The striations of the meat were evident, and a healthy dollop of the sauce was needed. Thus doctored, the turkey was great, a perfect filling for the slices of white bread that are de rigeur with this cuisine.
The potato salad found no fans among our group: large chunks of potato mashed together with jalapeños, pickle bits, mayo, and lemon. It was healthier than most mayo-heavy blends, but somehow this mixture needs a little something more for my taste. The pinto beans, straight from the crockpot, needed no adulteration, other than a mild breeze to cool them down to an edible temperature. Smoky, peppery, and addictive, Porky's beans disappeared faster than was seemly.
Convention and stuffed bellies prevented us from ordering chicken, ribs, or the other standard sides (coleslaw, creamed corn, and green beans) - but that is no reason ya'll should hold back.
Word has it that the original Porky's locale on Broadway will be opening as an icehouse in the coming months - for all our sakes, I hope they bring a little sausage with them. •
By Laura Fries