Sunday, May 11, 2014

Percy Street BBQ Review

When I moved to Philly in 2010, I noticed a severe lack of BBQ options in the city. One of the few bright spots in this drought of slow-cooked porcine/bovine goodness? Percy Street BBQ. I took the GF here on one of our earlier dates and remember enjoying their pulled pork, brisket, and ribs. 

In partnership with Chef Mike Solomonov of Zahav, Executive Chef / Philly Pit Mistress Erin O'Shea is at the helm here. Formerly of Marigold Kitchen (review to come!), it's clear that Chef O'Shea combines her technique and love for quality ingredients with the best of the South - essentially contemporary Southern cuisine. But don't take that to mean that the menu is fussy or overpriced. The familiar flavors are all there - though elevated enough to have you wondering what your taste buds have missing all this time.

Since Percy Street's initial explosion onto Philly's ever-expanding food scene, a second outpost was debuted at the Comcast Center a few years back, though it's now defunct. But that's OK! Because when you're essentially the mecca for BBQ in Center City, Philly, focused attention at one central location is not a bad thing at all! 

The vibe is certainly laid back at Percy Street BBQ - Happy Hour features drinks with a heavy emphasis on bourbon and well-priced dishes from the kitchen including turkey tails and BBQ fries! The music is an eclectic mix of Supertramp to The Meters.

Did I mention there was an emphasis on bourbon? In fact, earlier this year, Percy Street BBQ was able to get their hands on a vertical collection of the highly sought Pappy Van Winkle wheated bourbons. The initial rush to get into this event prompted a line around the block. And alas, I was just a few people back when all the tickets for the Pappy pours were sold out. Admittedly, I was disappointed as I have only managed to get my hands on the 'Lot B' 12 year and was excited to try the others.

A few days later though, Percy Street BBQ's GM, Justin, contacted me as there was a small amount left, with the exception of the 13-Year Rye. So on this visit, I took a trip to the back room and was able to enjoy a vertical tasting of the 10, 12, 15, 20, and 23 Pappy line of bourbons - neat (pun intended!). Look out for the review of this fine selection of wheated bourbons. 

But let's not forget about the food. In addition to the wide selection of bourbon, the focus is definitely the BBQ. So with a paper towel on the rack and a jug of water on hand, let's dig in!

Pimento Cheese

Our meal started off with complimentary pimento cheese spread in place of bread service. Perfect start to a proper Southern meal.

Restaurant Week [$35 for two]
Brisket, Ribs, Chicken, Mac n Cheese, Cornbread, Collard Greens, Pinto Beans, Coleslaw, German Potato Salad

It was restaurant week in Philly earlier this year and Percy Street BBQ was offering what was essentially their Lockhart deal at a steal (normally $19.50 pp). They even offered to sub out a meat selection for pulled pork, but we opted to go with the standard offerings. In addition to the RW menu, as you can always expect with me, there were a few supplemental a la carte add-ons that I couldn't help but order. FYI - I've listed the a la carte pricing for all items.

Skillet Cornbread [$5]
Cheddar, jalapeno

This is one (of many) must orders. In fact, I was inspired to try my own hand at baking these a few weeks later, though they were nowhere near as good. Percy Street BBQ's iteration was incredibly flaky, moist, and cheesy - there was some heat from the jalapeno that was a nice complement as well. I could easily eat a pan of these.

Crispy Pork Belly & Oyster Stew [$9]

This was an a la carte addition and what an addition it was. Easily one of my favorite bites in Philly (yes, I'm putting it on par with Vetri's spinach gnocchi), this was a generous meld of unctuous pork belly that were crisped to provide great texture, interspersed with a rich broth filled with oysters, potatoes, peas, and carrots. I almost wanted to end the meal there because I couldn't imagine any bite being better.

BBQ Brisket Fries [$8 / $5 Happy Hour]
Brisket, cheddar sauce

Happy Hour at Percy Street BBQ is from 5 to 6PM and offerings include 1/2 price Wild Turkey Rye and $5 chicken biscuits, turkey tails, and of course, BBQ brisket fries. The fries were crisp and well-seasoned, with cheddar sauce interspersed throughout and moist, succulent pulled brisket piled on top. Need a reason to stop by for happy hour? Here it is.

Mac & Cheese [$6]
Cabot extra sharp cheddar

Regular readers know that mac n cheese is a must in this belly's repertoire. This was a great rendition, creamy, with sharp cheddar notes providing some bite. The upper crust was as expected - nicely crusted and provided texture.

Brisket, Chicken, & Ribs

The meats were served on one plate - piled high. The ribs were succulent and sweet. Several BBQ sauces were on hand, but were rendered almost unnecessary as the ribs speak for themselves. The chicken was juicy as well, with the skin rendered down crisp. 

Both lean and 'moist' cuts of brisket were offered and it's clear that the low and slow method is used here - not overly perfumed with smoke, the meat was fall-apart tender. Huge cuts of Texas toast were also on offer, with an onion marmalade jam littered atop. House-made pickles and watermelon radishes were provided as accoutrements, a nice attempt at providing a countervailing balance to the heft of this platter. But let's be real - you're seeking a proper food coma when the dish is ordered.

German Potato Salad [$4]
Warm bacon vinaigrette

This was definitely one of my favorite warm potato salads - creamy with bacon essence balanced by the acidity of the vinegar. Get a bowl, sit back, and inhale. 

Coleslaw [$3]
Red cabbage, sesame, apples

The cole slaw had bite, with the sesame providing additional texture and the apples providing some sweetness to balance out the light vinegar-mayo base.

Collard Greens [$4]
Smoked ham hocks

The collards were cooked down well and nicely smoky, accented by crisp bits of ham. If all veggies were like this, I would have more on my dinner table.

Pinto Beans [$4]
Brisket burnt ends

The pinto beans were not mushy by any means and had hints of smoke and sweetness. The burnt ends were not as apparent as I would have liked, but this was a pretty solid iteration of this oft-enjoyed side.

Pork Belly Sandwich [$11]
Spicy pickled carrots, cilantro, BBQ sauce

Being who I am, I couldn't help but order the other pork belly dish on the menu. The classic bahn mi flavors were there - cilantro, fresh pickled veggies, and crisp baguette. The star of the dish was clearly the pork belly though, just check out the succulent hunks of pork! The BBQ sauce on this sandwich was minimal at best, but for me, that was perfect so as not to detract from the porcine delight.

The GF was pretty much done by the time we got to the platter of brisket, ribs, and chicken, and it was at this point that I was waving the white napkin. But our server, Justin, stopped by to bring over two complimentary slices of pie to finish us off. 

Key Lime Pie [$7]

One of my favorite pies, Percy Street BBQ's key line was on point- the crumbly, buttery crust provided the necessary richness to offset the sweet tartness from the lime. I'm not huge on desserts, but consider me sold - every time.

Pecan Pie [$7]

I typically stay away from pecan pie because it's usually too sweet. I appreciated that Percy Street BBQ's rendition of this classic Southern treat was not overly saccharine and had balance, with the pecans and crust having great texture.

What a meal. Service was impeccable - friendly and catered toward the diner without being imposing. Even the extra steps taken by the managers and servers to kneel to be on the diner's "level" when conversing and taking your order is appreciated - evidence of the restaurant taking the extra steps to properly train their staff. But in the end, it' all about the 'cue. From the brisket to the bourbon, you couldn't ask for finer quality and execution.

FTC Disclaimer: Portions of the meal were complimentary. However, my opinions are mine alone and as such, are unbiased. 

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