I don’t get out to the Sellwood neighborhood often – most of the time it’s to do a stop at the Portland U-Brew to get ingredients for homebrewing with a stop at Dairy Queen for a Blizzard afterward. But, when I heard that the people (Ben Dyer, Jason Owens, and David Kreifels) behind one of my favorite steakhouse/butcher shop in Portland Laurelhurst Market and also behind Simpatica Dining Hall with its kickass fried chicken and waffles brunch and Fri/Sat special dinners was opening up a bbq and fried chicken join called Reverend’s BBQ, I was intrigued.
When a group of PNWBA judges (we are all certified Pacific Northwest BBQ Judges- visit the PNWBA website to find out how you can become one too!) decided to visit, I was lucky enough to be invited to join in. Because we are BBQ judges, we have a pretty high standard for BBQ. We are trained on how to look at BBQ (based on taste, texture and appearance).
We also have judged at many competitions, meaning that we have been able to taste BBQ that has been especially cared and tended to in order to win prizes, so obviously have had a lot more love than what may be produced at a restaurant that needs to produce all that meat in larger quantities for its customers. So I try to give a little leeway on that knowing how much more needs to be produced and in a way that the restaurant can make a profit.
At the same time though, we do have certain expectations! I do realize that our visit comes as they have only been open for a little over a week, so there may be execution that is being worked out.
The location of Reverend’s BBQ is 7712 SE 13th Ave, in an area which is a like a little neighborhood downtown, open 4-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 4-10 pm Friday-Saturday. They want to cater to the local families here, and you can definitely feel that in the atmosphere that is cool but casual and friendly upbeat service. Many of the booths are big wooden benches to easily pile a family and maybe even two families into, although there are also some seats at the U-shaped bar (nice ones with a back!) as well a few high top tables with stools for adults.
There were a couple open tables when we arrived at 5:30, but a couple hours later there were people gathered in small groups waiting for a table to open up. If you really do live nearby, you might consider just doing takeout, though I wonder how they handle the sauces that are usually on the table (I assume they package some up in little containers for you).
The sauces on the table when you dine in are to allow you to “customize” what kind of BBQ flavors you want with your meat- Missouri-style sweet or spicy red sauces, South Carolina gold mustardy sauce, or a North Carolina vinegar-based sauce with caramelized sugar, vinegar, and black pepper as your options. I actually am a Carolina BBQ fan- so my favorite were the latter two sauces, but I am guessing the Missouri-style ones are will be the hits for most people.
We shared two dishes of appetizers because there were only 3 to an order- specifically, three halves of Deviled Eggs with Brisket Burnt Ends & Picallilli, so not even two eggs, you get 1.5! I did like them, particularly the Picallilli, but I’m still wondering why 3 halves, is half an egg a tribute to the BBQ gods?
The Picadilli is also available with their Chicken & Sausage Gumbo that comes wth Okra, Trinity & White Rice and is topped with the excellent picalilli, but I didn’t have any so can’t comment. Besides the deviled eggs other appetizer options included cold-smoked oyster shooters, beer battered onion rings with Ozark Sauce (those did look good as I saw it pass by on a server’s tray to another table), a smoked sausage plate with cheese and pickles, and fried zucchini pickles- with remoulade.
The 7 of us decided to order all of the BBQ meats on the menu, which are available by the pound. The other option would be to order BBQ Plates, which include your choice of one of the Meats, 2 Sides and white bread by request. I think ordering by the pound is a much better deal than the plates since they vary from $13-$16 for the plates, and for literally that same amount of money you can get a whole pound of the meat- the only thing the plates give you is a smaller portion of meat that you have traded for two small sides. Or, order by the pound and make your own plate- that’s what I would recommend personally – I mean look at my beautiful plate.
The sides themselves include at $2.95 small/$5.95 large orders of Chopped Slaw, Collard Greens, or Creamy Potato Salad or at $3.95 small/$6.95 large orders of BBQ Beans, Mac & Cheese, or Seasoned French Fries. All these sides but the beans are either vegetarian or available vegetarian. We tried the small sides of chopped slaw (too fine a chop made it mushy), collard greens (tasted watery to me), BBQ beans (satisfactory, I did like the texture that bordered on a bit of creaminess but wished it had more depth of flavors) and the Mac & Cheese (the best of the four sides in my opinion- not very cheesy, but topped with potato chips!).
Anyway, back to the meats. So we tried all the meats, and we will ignore the BBQ Surata Tempeh which is also there in case you decide to bring a vegetarian to a BBQ restaurant. Wait. OMG I totally have to do this to F, heh.
The meats include
- Smoked Pork Spare Ribs (ok technically these are available by the half rack or whole rack not the pound). It had nice smokiness, but I found my rib to be a bit overdone so it dried out and was a tad tough, and that cuts were not always even. I had been hoping for good quality meat for their ribs (after all Laurelhurst Market is also a butcher shop), but these are standard run of the mill.
- Sliced Beef Brisket from Creekstone Farms. If you think these look a little fatty- you are completely right. They were really fatty, and the table talked about someone needs to teach them how to trim. Then we saw another table’s order of brisket and it looked MUCH better. Does that mean when you order you have to specifically ask for “trim the fat”? The meat itself tasted good- but the fat was just overwhelming for me, and I am a self-proclaimed lover of fat. In the back you can see what the downy Chopped Slaw side looked like.
- Fried Chicken (boneless thighs or breasts – the thighs being the dark meat and breast being the white meat of course depending on your preference), pictured is what I went for, thighs. These were room temperature when I had them, which was disappointing because fresh hot fried chicken is so much better. I “fixed” that by dipping the chicken in sauce, which I usually don’t like because I would rather taste the chicken and the batter then sauce- same reason I don’t usually use sauces with really good fries. Especially given how good the chicken is at Simpatica, these didn’t measure up to that level. I wondered whether we were getting older food that had been sitting.
- Carolina-Style Chopped BBQ pork shoulder was my favorite of the meats we had, and was fine on its own or with sauces, I thought it went particularly well with the Carolina sauces. You can see the North Carolina vinegar-based sauce with caramelized sugar, vinegar, and black pepper in the background of the photo.
- Smoked Sausage Trio: includes a Louisiana hot link, French Montbeliard and Portuguese Linguica, all homemade by Laurelhurst. This was my second favorite meat plate of the meal, though honestly chopped pork and sausage also tend to be among my favorites when judging bbq too (the other are ribs)
There are four salad options and also 6 sandwiches in case you want your meat in sandwich form instead, although there is no rib sandwich there is a burger, called the “The Good Reverend’ Burger” that includes Burnt Ends, Pimento Cheese, House Pickles, Iceberg, Mayo, and Crispy Fried Onions.
They offer 8 draft beers which you can order by the glass or pitcher, several which are nice local selections (thanks in part to Travis Motter of Portland Bottle Shop), 5 bottled beers and a cider. You can decide to be Portland-y with options like Commons Urban Farmhouse Ale or Cascade Lakes 20th Anniversary IPA or the Travis Tap (this visit was a Occidental Dunkel) or simplify to Miller, Budweiser, or Bud Light. There are 3 house wines if you really really really misguidedly want a red, white or rose – and Virgil sodas and Sweet Tea. They cutely also list a Shirley Temple right on the menu as an option.
Finally, there are also 9 cocktails, 4 of which are draft cocktails. I tried the draft cocktail of the Sellwood Collins with Vodka, Aperol, Fresh Lemon, Fresh Grapefruit, Vanilla Syrup, Soda, which was refreshing and I liked that it had a strong line of Vanilla flavor to it, and the Pimm’s Cup with Pimm’s No 1, Fresh Lemon, Ginger Ale, Cucumber.
Not pictured is the sip I took of the Ward 8 with Rye Whiskey, Fresh Orange, Fresh Lemon, and House Grenadine and was my favorite of the 3 cocktails that evening. I’ve had better cocktails at Laurelhurst Market and Simpatica, and had been hoping for equally high caliber thoughtful cocktails, though a fellow diner did point out this is more family oriented and less scene-y than the other two.
Finally, we ordered 2 of the 3 desserts. Or really, our table ordered 4 of the Buttermilk Shortcake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream and 1 of the Smoked Salted Bourbon Caramel Nut Bar with whipped cream. Everyone loved the Strawberry Shortcake as the shortcake was light and not too sweet or dense so was very refreshing and a nice finish to the meat-centered meal. The Smoked Salted Nut Bar with Bourbon Caramel had mixed reviews- several people liked it, others tasted a tinge of bitterness from the smoke at the bottom crust of the nut bar.
Reverend’s BBQ is a decent BBQ restaurant that will appeal to a general populace demographic, and maybe that’s what they are aiming for. I had been expecting more because of the other two restaurants in their pocket, but both are also more upscale while being Portland casual, while Reverend’s BBQ aims much farther on the casual line. Personally, I would like to see them pay a little bit more attention to consistency of what is coming out in terms of cut and temperature from the kitchen and making sure everything is seasoned well, but that may be because they are still new.
At least on this visit, I found nothing here that is crave-worthy or I think necessarily standing in line for or going out of the way – but I would also give them the benefit of the doubt and maybe try it a second time, if only to make F have that BBQ tofu and I would like to try that BBQ End burger with pimento cheese.
What’s your favorite kind of BBQ meat?