SugarHouse Barbeque Co.
2207 S. 700 East, Sugar House ; 801-463-4800
Memphis-style smoked pork ribs are the signature dish. But the smoke gives just about everything else an addictive boost.
Cuisine: American, Barbecue
Hours: M-Th, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; F-S, 11:30 a.m-10 p.m.; Su, 1-8 p.m.
Corkage: $ 0
Reservations: For large parties only
Recommended Dishes: Chicken wings, pulled pork, brisket, baked beans.
August 18, 2010
SugarHouse Barbeque Co. serves it dry
By Vanessa Chang
If thereís one thing that distinguishes American food from other cultures, itís our love of meat. Or more specifically, our reverence for barbecue.
This summer, Iíve been to my fair share of grill outs, something that most of us refer to generically as ďbarbecue.Ē But I rarely encounter real barbecue ó marinated/seasoned meat slowly cooked in a sauna of wood smoke until it falls off the bone with the barest touch.
Like many people, I rely on barbecue houses to conduct my meat worship. Be advised that not all such houses are created equally, not necessarily in quality, but also in origin. Regionality is often discussed in ethnic cuisine, but in barbecue, itís the fundamental debate.
Which regional flavor is best? That depends on your personal preference about meat, marinade and sauce. What is quantifiable is the succulence of meat and overall flavor.
At SugarHouse Barbeque Co., the ribs are Memphis-style and flavored with a dry rub. That is, a slab of pork ribs are massaged with dry seasonings that infuse the meat with flavor, yet the flavor is less strong than when meat is than smoked barbecue that is slowly cooked.
Here the portions are appropriately generous, and the regulars are fiercely loyal. On a bad day, you might encounter dry ribs and so-so sides, but on a good day, thereís plenty of flavor lurking in the cuts of pork and poultry.
Some local barbecue lovers I know swear by SugarHouse Barbeque for its authenticity and quality, while others favor other venues. My experiences have come out somewhere in-between, but I have found their dishes notably better during weekend dinner versus a mid-week lunch.
Lunch at many barbecue venues is a cut-and-dry affair with the objective being to turn tables during the shift and just survive until dinner. For me, that was the problem: The cuts were too dry.
At SugarHouse Barbeque Co., service can lag and youíll feel forgotten, but in the meantime, you can marvel at the other diners who polish off their plates of pulled pork sandwich on pale buns ($6.29) and still manage to make it back to the office for the rest of the work day.
Dinner, especially on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, offers a marked difference. The baked beans flecked with pork ($1.99) are piping hot, with each bean fluffy and tender. The ribs ($10.49 to $20.99) have been transformed into a flavorful offering, served at a right temperature, although still a touch too dry.
In the evening, the restaurantís back patio beckons. Itís an extension of the larger, welcoming space inside, only with views of the sunset colors and a fresh air chaser for your cold beer.
Inside and out, the atmosphere is appropriately casual. After all, youíll have to get down and dirty to get to the ribs; even more so if you squeeze on any of the house sauces. Thereís a vinegary option, spiked in flavor and color with cayenne pepper ó great for those who avoid sugary notes in their Ďcue and ideal as it serves to perk up the brisket in the Smoked Platter ($12.99). The mustard sauce was well suited to the superb smoked turkey on the same platter, and the Dixie Chicken (wood-smoked and tender, $7.49-$10.49).
Given the large portions, I couldíve made a meal alone from the Combo Appetizer Plate ($8.99), which included a pile of tender, fatty (yes, thatís a good thing) Tennessee Tangos rib tips and the cherrywood smoked chicken wings.
The humble wing turned out to be the showstopper. As my table included a group of buffalo wing aficionados, we were skeptical. But these wings didnít need any dripping sauce, as each was moist, tender and savory from the smoke and seasonings.
The wings were the reason I returned for a weekday dinner. Flavorful, but the vitality was missing, a little long in the tooth and dry. Not wanting to give up, I returned on a Friday and was reunited with the initial goodness.
In this barbecue house, all things may not be equal, but weekend meals will give you something to truly revere.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.
June 25, 2004
By Nancy Hobbs
Barbecue joints have a distinct advantage when it comes to attracting customers off the street: the tantalizing aroma of sweet and piquant spices, mixed with the scent of a hot coal fire, wafting beyond their walls into the neighborhood. It's all that is needed to excite salivary glands and set stomachs roiling.
That kind of gustatory action has been happening at The SugarHouse Barbecue Company for almost eight years, though the restaurant's earliest customers knew it first as Redbones. Because that name was already taken by a protective Eastern company (a fact learned through legal communication), the Utah restaurateurs chose to rename their establishment. Three years after opening, the name was officially changed to honor Sugar House; the "company" part perhaps signaled bigger things to come.
In the last 14 months, the restaurant has expanded its physical space and, according to shift manager Chris Jensen, likewise more than doubled business, with three smokers in continual use every weekend for on-site dining, catered events and frequent festival participation.
Pork, beef, chicken and turkey are slathered with dry rubs and slow-cooked -- "Memphis-style" -- over hickory or fruitwood coals, then served to hungry patrons for a casual lunch and dinner seven days a week.
If the weather is nice, the large patio at the back of the restaurant is the place to be, with canopies and umbrella-topped tables shading out direct sun. Inside, strings of bare light bulbs and a vintage motorcycle looming over the kitchen are nice touches; several televisions tuned to sports channels hang from ceiling corners.
Our first visit was for lunch, and I'm sure our party of four stuck out like lost visitors from another planet. We waited for a moment to be seated and then, following the lead of those arriving after us, found our own table -- and then our own menus. Lunch is served deli-style -- order at the counter, serve yourself drinks, then set the number on your table for delivery by a server -- but without a greeter or signs, it's confusing.
(At dinner, we were greeted, directed to a table and enjoyed full table service, though our waitress seemed stretched beyond reasonable expectations due to the number of tables she was handling.)
Once lunch was ordered, it was delivered quickly on sturdy, sectioned paper plates, with the barbecued specialty taking center stage and generally two side dishes -- from a choice of eight -- in supporting roles.
The side dishes are made in-house daily, and include barbecue classics such as coleslaw, served cold and crisp with a creamy dressing; cold potato salad, made with red-skinned potatoes and a perfect blend of onions and pickles; saucy baked beans with tender bites of pork and beef; and a sage-infused cornbread stuffing.
Also offered are a cucumber salad, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes with gravy (I refer to them as "smashed" potatoes at home, still with skins and lumpy, not creamy), and Greek oven-roasted potatoes.
Then there's the meat; an Atkins diet delight. Even the small portions -- a third or a half slab of ribs, or a quarter of a chicken -- are generous. Full slabs, which are good for take-out, run $17 for the Signature pork ribs; $19 for baby back ribs.
We tried some of everything, as delivered and with the medley of unmarked bottled sauces on every table. I later asked if there was a reason for not identifying the condiments; Jensen said servers are supposed to explain the assortment as they deliver meals, using the opportunity to connect and interact with customers. That didn't happen on either of our visits, nor, from what I could see, was anyone else getting the tutorial.
Nonetheless, the homemade sauces are delicious, and go a long way in complementing the smoky flavor of the meat. The Signature barbecue sauce, an original recipe of father/son owners Ralph and Bill Smithers, is made and bottled at another site due to the high volume the company uses. (It also is sold by the bottle: $4.95 for a pint jar.)
It adds the finishing touch to any of the meats, but was especially good on the Signature ribs, which are lean and tender, and the baby back ribs, which are meatier and moist beneath the smoky, barbecued crust.
The tender pulled pork, available on a platter or as a sandwich, isn't complete without the North Carolina pig sauce, a spicy, vinegar-based condiment that adds moisture and lots of flavor.
For those to whom hotter is better, there is a cayenne-based red sauce, reminiscent of Tabasco, though not quite as hot; and finally a sweet mustard sauce, good for pork or brisket.
As a starter, the cherry wood-smoked wings were tender and perfectly spiced, though a dip in the accompanying ranch dressing gave a nice cooling effect. The Dixie chicken, served by the quarter or half bird, also was smoked to tenderness, with a sweeter finish than the wings.
As the restaurant's purveyors note, this place is "always smokin'," and definitely draws a crowd. If you're craving a big slab of tender, smoky ribs, follow your nose to Sugar House -- but call ahead for reservations on weekend nights.