- Jess Elizarraras
But as tempting as it is to try to forge a fiery connection between 15th-century religious auto-da-fes and current-day barbecue (a religion all its own), I’m only talking about a few items at recently opened South BBQ & Kitchen — not burnings at the stake or bonfires of the vanities. But the kitchen’s willingness to commit even minor infractions of the sacred code of sides speaks to potentially heretical ambitions. I’m talking first of the green bean and tomato salad. (For the record, the addition of chicharron to mac ‘n cheese at 2M is another happy heresy.)
Green beans at a ‘Q joint, though they may taste just fine, are normally cooked to military mush in color and consistency. But South has presented a perky salad of crisp beans with halved cherry tomatoes, crumbled cotija and slivered almonds; it’s worthy of a white tablecloth establishment. The garlic butter roasted green onions also stray notably from the norm. Try them, too.
The "loaded" tater tot casserole, seemingly tarted up with tiny bits of meat and other seasonings, comes across almost like orthodoxy — at least in comparison to the above. Here’s where I confess to an unnatural fondness for tater tots, and accordingly would like to see a few crunchier bits in this mashup. But otherwise, aces. Same goes for the deeply satisfying borracho beans; they are among the best in town.
A scattering of sliced scallion is about the only unexpected component in the otherwise catholic South Texas potato salad; it’s mustardy, yet mild, and might serve as a perfect foil for some of the house’s pickled, roasted jalapeño with carrot. And it also serves as an appropriate introduction to the barbecue itself. There are no canonic deviations to be expected in South’s chapter-and-verse renditions.
Starting, where one must, with brisket-by-the-quarter-pound (there are no combo plates), South’s Angus is sourced from Colorado, and it’s supremely tender. There’s not a lot of difference between the lean and the fatty, and some folks might prefer cuts with a little more tooth to ‘em. But there’s no faulting the simple salt-and-pepper prep, the just-smoky-enough flavor, and the classic bark-with-a-bite.
Just as good, if not better, are the gloriously meaty pork ribs. They sport a more complex, slightly sweet (without being trickily fruity) glaze and are tender to a perfect fault. Tenderness is rarely a problem with pulled pork, but flavor sometimes is. South’s shoulder, with its mix of chunks and shreds, does not disappoint on any count. If there’s anything added to this, it’s not immediately apparent, though you might feel free to anoint with a squirt or two of the house’s tangy barbecue sauce — just to try it. Nothing really needs its blessing, though.
Not even the peppery, smoked chicken leg quarters, my least favorite of all the meats tried — and yes, I did try them all. (There is no sausage, at least for the moment. I would hope for some in the future. And no turkey — no great loss in my book). These would be winners if they were just a little bit less dry.
Word seems to be getting around about this South Side spinoff of the East Side’s Dignowity Meats. On my first visit, I sashayed right up to the order window. By the second, line-control stanchions had appeared (as had picnic tables outside), and there was a healthy crowd just after noon. I didn’t do a visual plate check, but would have to imagine that the green beans had made an appearance on at least some of them. They, and everything else, seem to go just fine with only slightly transgressive Willie Nelson played loud on the sound system.
South is a BBQ joint that also touts its kitchen in the title — and rightly so. Sides such as borracho beans and green bean salad are on a par with the excellent brisket and pork ribs.
South BBQ & Kitchen
2011 Mission Road, (210) 437-0070
Hours: 11-5 (or sellout) Wed-Sun
Cost: $16-$20 per lb.
Best Bets: Brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, borracho beans, tater Tot Casserole, S. Texas Potato Salad, Green Bean & Tomato Salad