Pat’s BBQ
155 West Commonwealth Ave (2125 South), South Salt Lake, Utah
Price: Moderate
As a former vegetarian of 12 years (the last four as a pescatarian), I am still reveling in my recent return to the land of carnivores. Every menu has become a wonderland of murderous choices. Aside from the occasional fine dining spot and ghetto ethnic hole in the wall, most of the meat I eat is a little disappointing. The chicken too dry, the beef too tough or just plain flavorless and pork that tastes rancid. I am not saying that I regret my lifestyle choice. The shit I’ve been cooking at home for the last nine months has been amazing (the task-masters at SLUG won’t let me write about my lamb burgers with cayenne and garlic roasted asparagus, or grilled sandwiches on fresh baked sourdough bread with manchego cheese, 2 year aged prosciutto, and drizzled with fireweed honey). I have come to the decision that most restaurants in Salt Lake suck. Lately, I have been considering just eating meat at home and maybe at the occasional upscale place, that is, until I had my first experience with Pat’s BBQ.

My wife (still an herbivore) was out of town, so a buddy and I took the opportunity to visit one of the meat-only places I want to go to, but can’t––because like all married men, I fear the words “Of course you can go without me. I’ll be fine at home alone tonight,” which really means, “I don’t want to sound like a bitch in front of your friends, but you’d better find someplace I can go too.” We found the place with no problem. It’s the first street south of 2100 South on West Temple. When we walked in, we were a little confused as to where to go. The take-out counter was on the right, but it wasn’t entirely clear where the dining room was. Within a few moments, we were greeted and told to head down the hall and seat ourselves wherever we pleased. The dining room, dubbed Howie’s Hall (named for the pig on the logo) was a large open room full of picnic tables and a high ceiling with a stage at the west end for live music. The atmosphere was maybe one step more formal than a large family reunion, with people grabbing their own water and chatting away with the other groups sharing their large tables. A large and inviting patio is just adjacent to the hall, but we opted for the cooler, air-conditioned interior. Jeremiah Maxey was setting up to play the Thursday open mic night. He sounded great and having only one arm made the performance even more amazing. The Pat’s website has a full calendar of live music.

We grabbed a couple of menus. Daily lunch specials range from a BBQ meatball sandwich ($8.35) on Mondays to burnt ends ($9.85) or rib tips ($8.85) on Fridays. There was also a decent selection of side dishes, including coleslaw, potato salad and mustard greens for $3, as well as jambalaya for $3.50. The entrees available were pork ribs ($3 per bone, $8 for a quarter rack, $13 for a rack and $21.35 for the whole rack) a few sandwiches ($8.35) and an assortment of two- and three-meat combos for $13 with your choice of pork ribs, chicken, beef brisket or pulled pork. All entrees come with cornbread and a side. They have a selection of Budweiser and Uinta beers on tap and in the bottle. Kids items were significantly smaller and only $6.

I had the three-meat combo with two pork ribs, a piece of chicken and two slices of beef brisket with a side of Creole black beans and rice. My buddy had the combo, too, but got 4 oz of pulled pork instead of the chicken and a side of jambalaya. The food came promptly and looked amazing, smelling of fat and smoke. Sauce was at the table in two squeeze-bottle forms—Sweet Heat in red and House in yellow. I started with the beans and rice and was delighted to find them a bit spicy, but rich and creamy at the same time. It was hard to decide which sauce to use with the pile of flesh on my plate. The Sweet Heat was both perfectly sweet and slightly spicy. I have never tasted anything like it. The House, while somewhat milder, was so rich it filled my whole mouth. The ribs were cooked to perfection and almost melted in my mouth, while the brisket was just dry enough to highlight the char. The chicken was succulent and smoky, and the cornbread was, by far, the best cornbread I have ever had—it needed no butter or honey because it was already sweet and buttery rich. It also had the amazing ability to retain its shape without crumbling each time I grabbed for it.

I managed to finish about half of my meal, which was fine by me because it meant I had more for the next day. While not quite as good leftover, it still did the trick. Needless to say, I am looking forward to the next time I have a chance to grab a bite to eat without my wife. I love dining with her, but I am pretty sure that they put meat in everything (maybe even the cornbread, which could be why it was so good). I don’t want it to be all that long before I get back to Pat’s, my new favorite place to stuff myself silly.