BBQ Tour 2. Soulfire
So I continue on my little BBQ measuring-up / comparison tour. Blue ribbon last night, Soulfire tonight. Soulfire got both very good and very mediocre reports in the previous threads, so I went there tonight to see for myself.
I've decided to try to get (as close as I can) the same meats at each different place I make it to. So, tonight was brisket, pulled pork and ribs. Same line-up as BR. Overall, the 'cue was excellent - very good, solid and better than BR. They have some language on the menu that describes their meats as definitively not "falling off the bone" - that is, left with a little tooth resistance. The important part is that someone is paying attention to these little, yet important, details and it shows.
The sliced brisket was moist, indeed not falling apart, and had a beautiful 1/8 in layer of smoky, firm fat left on the top. Nice deep brown spicy crust surrounded of a thin pink smoke ring. Very good. The ribs were less successful - they were the weakest offering of the three. I ordered the thicker spare ribs instead of baby backs. They were quite firm to the tooth, yet a little dried out. Generally they needed a little more cooking time along with some moisture. Pretty underwhelming.
The show-stopper was the pulled pork. Absolutely outstanding. Pulled, not chopped, meat tossed with a perfect amount of NC style vinegar sauce that included a little hot pepper kick. The pork mix was right on...soft interior mixed with some smoky, rendered fat as well as chewy, crusty, barky exterior bits. Great texture composition. The best thing about it was that it had a deep, intense pork flavor. Like pork flavor on steroids. Awesome.
Sides of baked beans and collard greens were also very good. I'd give the nod to BR with their beans, but Soulfire's were good - deep caramelized color and flavors with beans that were - again - not cooked mushy. Collard greens showed the same cooking-time restraint. Flecked with little bacon pieces, tender but not mushy and retaining good vegetable flavor. I typically find collard greens overrated...mushy, flabby, watery and a waste of time. I demolished the whole portion.
Finally, speaking of portions, I liked my platter's volume very much. 5 slices of brisket (about 3 inches wide), no more than a cup of pulled pork and 3 ribs. Quite a contrast from a lot of places. I like not overeating or leaving tons of food behind on a plate. It's much better to eat smaller quantities of excellent food than giant mega-portions of poor quality.
Hope to get somewhere else before the long weekend's over.
I posted a very positive review of Soulfire some months back and I just so happened to give it another visit this weekend - excellent again. My spareribs were wonderful. Perfectly textured bark, quite moist, just the right amount of fat and a deep smokey flavor. Just killer. Tried a fried chicken wing as well, and it was nearly as good. Of the sides, I thought the potato salad, collards and beans were all very good. Just a very solid performance, end-to-end. Definitely the best BBQ I've had in the area.