Monday, March 19, 2012

Put Your Money Where the Pork Is: Astoria's Butcher Bar

I was pretty hungover a few Sundays ago. That, combined with a long day of working in the kitchen with nothing but water, Gatorade, and prayers as fuel, will make a girl very hungry. I knew exactly what I wanted for dinner that evening: comfort food. Greasy, creamy, crunchy, salty....anything that would put my tender tummy at ease. I met up with two of my Astoria friends, Mr. Blue and his roommate, Chris, and we tried to create a game plan. 

First, we decided to go to to Queens Comfort, a ridiculous spot over near 30th Avenue that has a very delicious Chicken and Waffles, but they had closed up their kitchen for the night. Failboat. Then, Mr. Blue's roommate suggested that we go to Butcher Bar, since he had to pick up some pulled pork that he'd ordered for a dinner party they were throwing the following night. I'd never been, or even heard of the spot, so I was pretty excited to try it out. 

When I walked in, I was greeted with Al Green, thick wooden dining tables, and a shiny glass display case teeming with thick sausages, massive pork shoulders, and ribeye steaks, rippled with fatty marbling. Butcher Bar isn't just a restaurant, it's also a butcher. Chris was actually picking up pork shoulder that he would be turning into pulled pork tomorrow. All of the meat sold there is either local, grass-fed or organic, and they cook all the meats that they sell. But behind all the buzz words, was it any good? We were fitting to find out.

After a detailed study of the menu, I decided to get corncakes for the table, and a burnt ends sandwich for myself (my favorite part of barbecue).

The cakes were served nice and hot, with a little cup of honey butter to slather on them. Light, cake-y, and not too dry. Nice to start the meal with. I wished they were a little bigger, but it was probably better than they weren't so I couldn't spoil my dinner.

My burnt ends sandwich was supposed to come with coleslaw and pickle, but because I'm not a fan of either of those things, I declined them for fear of wasting them. The owner, Matt, then came over to check on us and asked if I wanted to try either their mac and cheese or sweet potatoes on the house, so I wouldn't miss out on a side. I thought that was really sweet of him, so I chose the mac and cheese.

The burnt ends were a great balance of smoky crispness, juicy meat, and melting fat. With every bite, a hangover-curing elixir of meat juices and fat flooded my mouth.

The macaroni and cheese, though, was a bland. I like mac and cheese when it's made with a mix of really sharp and mild cheeses for contrast and flavor. I also like a crispy top on my mac for an extra hit of texture. It did win some points with me for its creaminess and the smoky paprika on the top.

Mr. Blue and Chris both had pulled pork and rib platters, with potato salad and baked beans, respectively. I didn't get to try their ribs, but the pulled pork was excellent. The right balance between smoke, sweetness, and spice. Only too often do I eat pulled pork that's drenched in some sickly saccharine red barbecue glop.

I snuck a bite of Mr. Blue's potato salad, which was a real winner. Creamy, but not drenched in mayo, with hints of tarragon and lemon. I'm strictly a German potato salad person (I have a love/hate relationship with mayonnaise), but for this one, I could convert.

You know we couldn't end dinner without a sweet treat. For dessert: apple pie!

Flaky crust, filled with spiced, almost caramelized apples...yeah, I made very short work of this pie.

Overall, I loved the food, the service was top notch, PLUS, I got to have some of the pulled pork at the boys' dinner party the next day, and that was bangin' too! Butcher Bar is a win all around.  

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