Bark and the BiteI had a chance today to try Bark and the Bite in their permanent location in St Paul. I don't really expect to find southern BBQ in this area. Usually it's Kansas City or St Louis style, heavy on the sauce and long in the holding box.
These guys set the bar pretty high. The sign outside says "Smoked meats and Southern Eats", which is a tall claim to make in Minnesota. Not that it can't happen, but it usually doesn't.
|A rare quiet moment!|
I was prepared to be disappointed. I often am in the upper midwest when it comes to claims of 'southern bbq', but was pleasantly surprised. The pork was very, very good! Properly moist but not 'sitting in liquid in the bottom of a hotel pan wet', great bark, and a very subtle smoke. The kitchen was too busy for me to bug the cooks about wood type, but I would guess a mix of hickory and oak. The portion was very generous, and the bun was a tasty brioche.
Sauces - they have a range of sauces, from a cherry bourbon to a serrano-garlic-vinegar. Missing completely is the cayenne-vinegar that I lust for, but that's not the end of the earth. I chose the serrano, which was flavorful, interesting and certainly a keeper.
Sides - The hush-puppies were tasty and the proper consistency, although a little smaller and more of them would be better. The potato salad at the next table looked great, and the guy eating it liked it just fine. There's a wide range of potato salads, and i find most are pretty OK. I didn't try the greens. $4 for a side is pretty high cotton, and more than I wanted to go. I'll try them as the side next time.
I am always hopeful that someone in the midwest will actually get slaw right. Like potato salad, there are a wide range of options. Unlike potato salad, not all work. In this case, I found the cabbage was cut so coarsely that it did not absorb the dressing (vinegar and mustard seed?). Coleslaw should be reasonably finely shredded, or preferably grated, sauced with enough time to soak in the flavor. It shouldn't require more than a cursory chewing. Maybe next time will be different?
It was interesting chatting with the couple of tables around me. Nobody was *from* Minnesota! North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama. Everyone was looking for a taste of home. Each had their own take on true bbq, and while none felt we were eating exactly what they would have gotten at home, we all agreed that it was excellent.
The decor is still an open book. It's casual, lots of wood, and slightly sterile. I think that will change as they age in to the spot. Love the screen door up front.
At any rate, I give these guys high marks for making the jump from a successful food truck to real bricks. Hopefully folks find their way off I-94 and onto Marshall Street.
Meat - A; Sauce - B; Sides - A and C; Staff - friendly, knowledgeable; Charm - still developing.