Can we all just agree on a few things? Barbecue as an American cuisine has a definition, a set of criteria, however loose those standards might be. We don’t need to argue about where it comes from or which region boasts the best meats, rubs and sauces, but there have got to be some kinda rules here.
It has to be really, really good. There must be hours of loving care and, hopefully, some smoke involved in the process. And it should be a little rough around the edges, right? Do we want to eat at a barbecue joint in a fancy hotel-casino? Do we need franchised ’cue restaurants in yuppied-out shopping centers? There’s something pure and honest about pulling up to a little hole-in-the-wall that might not fit into its neighborhood, ordering a plate of slow-cooked meat and unhealthy accoutrements and then telling everybody back at work you just found the best barbecue ever. Even if it’s not.
- Restaurant Guide
- Harry-O’s BBQ
- 3355 Spring Mountain Road, 564-7427.
- Daily, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
- Suggested dishes: Harry’s Combo (ribs, chicken and hot links with two sides), $12.95; catfish sandwich, $4.95; hush puppies, $2.95.
Harry-O’s BBQ is exactly that kind of place. For the last five months, Georgia native Harry-O has been doing his thing next door to the infamous Sand Dollar Blues Lounge at the gateway to Chinatown. Before that, he cooked in an even smaller joint Downtown near the Olympic Garden strip club. He’s been around long enough for people to know him, and long enough to accumulate an eclectic group of signed celeb photos. (I like to sit at the table under the pics of Corey Feldman and Beyoncé.) Usually the place is staffed by two, Harry-O and a polite if not so speedy server/cashier who talked us out of drinking tap water. She’ll take your order and holler it back to Harry-O, and he might come out and ask what you think of his barbecue, even though he already knows.
All the greatest hits are here: pork ribs, chicken, pulled pork, chopped beef brisket, hot links and fried catfish. Harry-O’s barbecue style is subtle. Noticeably absent from this place is a smoky smell, but the meats are tender and flavorful. The chicken is particularly good, served mostly in leg quarter portions, hot and juicy with a nicely seasoned, crispy skin. Sandwiches are plain, meat on a bun, but easily improved with sweet and spicy barbecue sauce at your table or, if you try the wonderfully crispy catfish sandwich, hot-pepper sauce. The ribs are meaty and moist with a nice rub crust that’s not too salty.
Side dishes are pure Southern comfort. Mac and cheese, potato salad and coleslaw are just fine, but the corn bread and hush puppies, little fried bowls of corn-bread dough, offer more satisfying tastes and textures alongside a slab of meat. On a recent visit the restaurant was out of collard greens, and it wasn’t surprising; it’s still a new location and obviously operating under a philosophy of minimalism. Take Harry-O’s for what it is, and accept that slow service or little mishaps are small prices to pay (along with the actual small price) for consistently tasty, home-style barbecue.