On the way to an event this crisp spring afternoon our GPS took us an unusual direction. At first the route looked pretty normal, but as we continued onward I found myself in quadrants of our little city that I had never ventured into before. At each familiar cross street Joshua asked “Didn’t you want to turn there?”, to which I simply replied that I was “doing what the little woman in my ear told me to do” (I was wearing my blue tooth head set at the time), and really I felt like it was just better if I listen to her (which really isn’t a terrible philosophy for a happy long term relationship to begin with).
It was at one such point that we found ourselves approaching a small, unassuming, building with an old looking sign that read “His Place“. We had a chuckle about the name, imagining what kind of establishment that could possibly be, when I noticed the small print below the name on their sign “Chicken and Waffles, Ribs, and Soul Food”. Well, color me intrigued. We both made note that we would have to give that place a try sometime, and proceeded with our GPS’s confusing game of high-stakes, automobile Simon Says.
After our event concluded, my monthly transgender support group meeting, I started asking around about who might be down for having late lunch/early dinner together. It’s common for a decent number of us to do exactly that after the meeting, but today it seemed like everyone had someplace to be. So a little glum not to have dinner with my pals I resigned myself to simply head home with a handsome gentleman (life is rough some days folks).
About five minutes into the drive I looked over at Joshua and said “You know I really am hungry though”. He recommended some fast food place and I crinkled my nose. That’s when the light bulb went off, why not swing back by that quaint little ribs place and see what they are all about? Josh being inclined towards culinary adventures, assented very quickly and I proceeded to set the GPS back up to get us there instead.
One thing that struck me when I walked in the door was how much activity there was for 5:30pm on a Saturday. While it wasn’t packed, we were far from the only customers. Suddenly the small sign that I saw on the front door, and had dismissed, made more sense: We can not seat groups larger than 10 people on Sundays. Clearly, this little spot had been discovered by the church going crowd.
We were promptly greeted and showed to a small table where a delightful young woman who introduced herself as “Brooklyn” came over with a big welcoming smile. We ordered some drinks, and I asked Brooklyn “If you were going to tell someone to get one thing on the menu, what would it be?” without missing a beat she said “Ribs”. This was a young woman with conviction! I thanked her, and a few minutes later she was back around with drinks and to take our order.
Now, I asked for this young woman’s opinion, and I intended to take it, but I also wanted to explore what else the menu had to offer. So Joshua and I made a pact to share our delectables with each other and both ordered a chefs combo plate, which allowed us to pick two different meats and two sides. Josh got the smoked turkey and pulled pork with green beans and dressing. I got the ribs and beef brisket with mac and cheese and potato salad.
The waitress cheerfully headed off towards the kitchen and Joshua and I were left to take in the atmosphere of the place, and chit chat. The place is only sparsely decorated by modern restaurant terms. There is not acres of kitsch on the walls like many chains (think Applebees, Buca di Beppo, or Hooters), nor was there the stereotypical “this is a bbq place” decor. No paintings of pigs riding Harley’s and barbecuing their kinsman adorned the walls. Instead the place had a few tasteful art pieces on the walls, and that’s about it, which I found refreshing. They did, however, still have a TV in the corner displaying the game, much to my disappointment, but that seems to be the trend in every restaurant these days. There is no escaping it.
The food didn’t take long to arrive, and we were wowed. These were not skimpy portions of meat. If memory serves, each meal was $15 (although this was one of the more expensive meals on the menu) but came with nearly double the amount of meat you’ll find at other places around town for similar prices. We thanked Brooklyn, and dug in.
Now initially, even though Josh and I were sharing, I thought he got the raw end of the deal. After all, we all tend to eat more of what is on our own plate, and I had mac and cheese and potato salad, in addition to two beautiful hunks of meat. However, it turned out to not be entirely one sided.
Green beans! Bet you didn’t think that’s what I would be excited about. These were possibly some of the best green beans I have ever eaten, and I snagged more than a few of them from Joshua’s plate. They had seemingly been stewed a little, but they weren’t mush like I often see from green beans cooked in this fashion. They were tender, but had some body of their own. And it appeared they had been cooked in some sort of stock, so each bite was moist, but extremely flavorful. I could have eaten a whole meal of just those!
But really, let’s talk about the meat. I know that’s what you all want to know about, carnivores that you are.
The turkey! (Ha, bet you thought we were going to jump straight to those ribs, didn’t ya?) The turkey was an uncharacteristically amazing and juicy version of what is usually just the dry mealy buzzard our relatives pull from their ovens on Thanksgiving day. This turkey was fork tender, extremely moist, and some of the best flavored turkey I have ever consumed. No gravy was required in order to choke down this poultry, and none was desired. The smoke flavor was prominent but not overwhelming, and the taste of the bird itself certainly rang through beautifully.
The brisket was also amazing. The was also extremely tender, no knife needed at all. And this was red meat even granny could eat, because it melted in your mouth. The rub that was on the meat stroke me similarly to the turkey, it was there and flavorful, but did not over power the taste of the meat itself. I was delighted, but then, I do tend to have an unhealthy love of brisket. My ex-brother-in-law always said when he made brisket at home, he just expected me to show up on his porch ready to have dinner, as if by instinct. Sooo… it may have not been too hard to win my affections in this category. Me and brisket have a long time love affair.
The pulled pork, of the four meat dishes, was my least favorite, but Joshua loved it. To me, this one seemed more unremarkable. But compared to the rest, it would be hard to shine too bright. If pulled pork is your jam, I’m sure you are going to enjoy it, as it was more than serviceable.
However, that forces me to talk about the BBQ sauce (I know, I know, ribs… I’m getting there, patience!). Unlike many BBQ joints, His Place only offers one kind of BBQ sauce (although they did off Frank’s red hot, which seemed a little unusual, but Josh was happy about it). The sauce is sweet, and smoky, with no heat whatsoever. I appreciated that last part, as my heart burn has been acting up lately, but I was a little surprised by how sweet it was. Now, given that none of the food really needed sauce, that was fine. I used about a teaspoons worth over the course of the meal, just to mix things up a little, but honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted more than that. If I had one piece of advice to the owner, it would be to offer a more savory BBQ sauce option as well.
Ok, the ribs. I know you are dying to know: They were pretty darn ok. I know, that’s not exactly the raving you expected is it? Don’t get me wrong… they were so tender they were quite literally falling off the bone. And the rub on them mimicked the experience of the turkey and the brisket, it was lovely without being overwhelming. But for me, they were not over the top wowing, not compared to other aspects of this lovely meal.
As we were wrapping up, Brooklyn came back around to see if we would like some desert. After thinking on it for a few minutes, we said “sure, bring us a dessert menu!” to which she confessed there was only two options: peach cobbler and banana pudding. After a moment of pondering she very helpfully chimed up that she ate the banana pudding every day. Well, that sealed the deal. I love both of the options, but it’s been much longer since I had banana pudding.
What came out to us was a decadent, but light, desert that I will certainly be saving room for again in the future. The thing that struck me very promptly as I dug in was that this item was just made, in this container, for us. This was not something they made on mass the day before. How do I know? The cookies were actually crunchy.
For those who may not be initiated into the way of the banana pudding, let me explain some things. Banana pudding is comprised of three ingredients: vanilla wafers, fresh bananas, and banana (or sometimes vanilla) flavored pudding. You layer these three ingredients, and chill. What normally results is a mushy cooky bed in the middle of the dish. It’s not bad that way, it’s how my mom used to do it, so there is some nostalgia there.
However, that being said, that is not what we received. The three main ingredients were absolutely present, but the cookies were crunchy and the banana still had body. While this was foreign to me, it was wonderful and enhanced the experience. The textures were a wonderful contrast that overall made the experience better (sorry mom). Also, lets talk about this pudding for a moment, because it wasn’t that out of the box crap. No no, this pudding had a deep complexity of flavors that Jell-O brand pudding can only dream of achieving. Kudos to the person who made this delectable treat.
We paid our bill, tipped our waitress, and headed out. After all of the gushing, I think it goes without saying that we will be back, and we will be bringing our legions of friends. I just hope His Place is ready for us.