Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Howdy Podnah's!

It's a little embarrassing to admit, but despite all the buzz when it opened and the subsequent oohing and aahing over its Texas-style barbecued meats, including some mighty fine Carolina pulled pork, we had never made it into Podnah's Pit Barbecue.

This was made worse by the fact that Rodney Muirhead's original place was only a few blocks, nay, a three-minute stroll from home. That and the fact that the residents of my household are fanatical consumers of anything grilled or smoked. And therein lay my shame.

Fortunately the new location of Podnah's is just a hop, skip and a jump farther away in a brand-new building on a corner of NE 17th and Killingsworth known more for abandoned washing machines, drug dealers and gangbangers than good eatin'. Fortunately on most days now all you'll see is 'cue-loving folks lining up for the smoky goodness of the pork, beef, chicken and fish that have been lounging in the smoker since the early hours of the morning.

Open the door and a wall of that smoky aroma hits you. Take a seat at the counter or at one of the sun-soaked tables in the dining room and prepare to be overwhelmed by the choices on the menu. Not only is there brisket, chili, pulled pork, lamb and pork spareribs, chicken, hot links and trout, but then you have to choose between some kick-ass sides (and these are truly great, believe me) like collards bathed in bacon fat, a sprightly black-eyed pea salad, coleslaw, pinto beans, barbecued beans and mac & cheese. Oh, and cornbread that treads that lovely line between moist and just-crumbly-enough. Talk about the horns of a dilemma!

Because it was a late-ish lunch and we were heading out that evening to see what just-returned Chef Cafiero had managed to cadge from his travels in Spain (post to come), we decided to split an entrée of the brisket (smoked for 10 hours) with two sides and a wedge of cornbread. A couple of beers were de riguer, and Podnah's has a very decent lineup of mostly Northwest choices on tap.

The brisket, with its telltale smoke ring, was four very thin slices of not-yet-falling-apart meat, lovely and smoky though a bit skimpy in the portion department when you think of brisket plates at other barbecue joints. The above-mentioned collards were flavorful and retained enough texture to make me want to do this preparation at home soon, and the black-eyed pea salad with crunchy bits of celery was the perfect brightness in contrast to the smoky brisket.

It actually inspired Dave to stop at the store on the way home to get his own nearly six pound hunk of brisket to smoke the next day. Which is a good reason to stop in again and have another inspiring dish in the near future.

Details: Podnah's Pit Barbecue, 1625 NE Killingsworth St. 503-281-3700.


Jerry C. said...

Podnah's Texas Chile is the best bowl of chile in Portland, hands down. Unfortunately their corn bread is a tad dry for my clammy New England palette, but then again, everything is dried out in the American southwest.

I'm fond of their Tex-Mex plate because smoked meats were the staple of Mexican migrant workers that toiled in the central Texas cotton fields. It is a simple smoked brisket served with pinto beans and tortillas. If I want to enjoy brisket as a traditional Lone Star cattleman would, I'll substitute saltine crackers for the tortillas. I'm hopeful that Podnah's will expand into the Texas smoked sausage realm now that they have bigger digs.

Podnah's has a notable collection of literary tomes detailing the history Texas barbecue. The titles range from UT Press to OK Press to Chronicle Press. These ain't those ubiquitous weekend, "BQ-Nation" books but anthro-culinary studies of the methods, materials and events that enabled the Lone Star State to call, rightfully so, Texas Barbecue the absolute best in the world.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Have to try the chili next time we're in. Thanks, Jerry!