UPDATE: Carolina Kitchen has gone out of business.
Okay, before we even get started with the review, let’s all agree that we will all probably disagree on what makes good BBQ. In fact, we will probably disagree about what the hell BBQ is means. Let me tell you all how I define BBQ. Notice, I said how “I” define it, not how it should be defined.
BBQ is simply the cooking of meat, usually large and normally tough cuts, by using indirect low heat (under 220 f) and smoke generated by a hardwood fire. It was a process that was taught to the early settlers of America by the local tribes. It is also thought to have started in the region now known as the Carolinas. Okay? That is what I am defining as BBQ. Wet soak, dry rub, sauce on, no sauce, tomato based, vinegar based, I ain’t heading into that bees nest at all. Period. Given that background, let’s get on to the review.
Carolina Kitchen is a small little BBQ place located in Redmond, WA. It is very much in the vein of the South Carolina BBQ joints you find scattered about. In fact, it is so close to those, they even have Coca Cola Cake, although for reasons unknown to me, they call it Pepsi Cake. Must be some sort of family cola war going on. I can not attest to the cake, as I have been extra good lately. I will say however, that the table next to mine ordered it, and it looked decadent.
I opted for the brisket sandwich, collard greens and jalapeno hush puppies. I wont go into what else is available, they have a great menu on their website.
First up, the brisket sandwich. The bread was fresh, yet hard enough to stand up to a good sauce soaking. The brisket was good, moist and flavorful, but I could have gone for more end pieces, which I will ask for next time. The sauce I chose was the traditional vinegar based, and it was out of sight. Outstanding flavor, not too tangy, but enough of a bite to let you know it was in the house. Honestly? I could have made do with a loaf of the bread and a bottle of that sauce.
Next up the greens. Now, I am a bit of a collard green aficionado. I could eat greens every single day, breakfast, lunch and dinner included, IF they are prepared correctly. Greens need love. They need time. They are “soul” food in every single aspect of the word. Great greens make you feel like your grandma just gave you a big hug and let you lick the frosting spoon. Man, I love ‘em. These were not great greens. They were good mind you, just not great. And after that sauce, I was ready to get down with some great greens. I’m hoping it was just an off batch.
Finally the jalapeno hush puppies. Dan or Heather, if I don’t get a chance to tell you this in person, and you read this review, please change your hush puppy recipe. Flavor was off putting, and to be quite honest, I think they would have been better served as fishing weights. Way too heavy. Such a small thing, but it almost took away from the meal, which over all was very good.
Now, service. The place has a very nice, friendly vibe to it. Folks are chatting with the staff, talking about local events, etc. Repeat customer heaven. When I entered, I waited by the front door for a couple of minutes, as there was no “seat yourself” sign. Suggestion: Put up a nice “Have a seat, we’ll be right with ya!” sign. Someone finally came over to me and said, “Oh, just have a seat anywhere man”, and then followed me back to a table, where he then walked away. No, “Would you like something to drink?” Not even a “Have you been here before?” Nothing. 10 minutes later, and I timed this btw, the other person running the place came over and asked me had I been helped. I said no, and she took my drink order then started to walk away. I stopped her, saying I was ready to order food as well, since I had more than enough time to think about it. I know, I know, but I was a little put off. I had no problems with the food arrival time. After I ate, I went over to the tiny little bar area, ordered another beer and took time to start talking with the staff. By the end of an hour or so, I knew that the next time I came in, my beer would be there as soon as I got to a table, and menu recommendations offered at once.
Lessons learned: If you get horrible service the first time, don’t give up. Try it again in a day or two. And Carolina Kitchen folks, making repeat customers happy is a good idea. You cannot grow your clientele however, if you give first timers a bad experience. A meal is a lot like a song. We remember the beginning and the end more than the middle. Just some friendly advice should you ever stumble on this tiny blog.
All in all folks, I give the place 3 hogs out of 5. This is a brand new place, 6 months or so, so some growing pains are to be expected. You will not be disappointed with the food. You may however, want to bring a book.