Pat's Barbecue & Catering Co.
155 W. Commonwealth Ave. (2125 South), South Salt Lake ; 801-484-5963
Seriously good barbecue, especially "burnt ends" at lunch on Fridays. Live music most nights.
Cuisine: Barbecue, American
Hours: M-W, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Th-F, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sa, noon-9 p.m.
Recommended Dishes: Pulled pork, baked beans, cornbread.
January 17, 2007
'Burnt ends' are a smoke-infused stairway to hog-lovers' heaven
By Lesli J. Neilson
SOUTH SALT LAKE -- While my husband and I were dining with friends recently, the conversation, as is often the case, turned to great food places. Being that my friend is a fireman -- and a great cook -- I listened intently when he began telling me about Pat's Barbecue & Catering Co. in South Salt Lake.
The real intrigue came when he said, "I go there with my buddies on Fridays -- it's burnt ends or tips day."
Little did I know, I was in for some serious 'cue.
Off the bat, I must offer an apology and a confession: Non-meat eaters will most likely look at this review with disdain because Pat's is all about meat. It even has a pig for a mascot.
And, when people ask if I eat meat, my response is, "though I like vegetarian dishes, I make up for all the vegetarians with my carnivorous ways." I especially have a soft spot for pork.
There's just something primevally pleasing about being able to hold a piece of meat in your hands and gnaw on it with delight, without people so much as giving you a second glance -- mainly because they're doing some gnawing of their own.
And so, it didn't take much convincing to get me to Pat's.
As is the case with most barbecue joints, there's little fanfare when it comes to décor and this place is no exception.
The nearly-four-year-old restaurant used to be a warehouse -- it's a maze of small and big rooms with concrete floors and high ceilings. Pat's has two dining areas. The back of the restaurant -- nicknamed Howie's Hall after that mascot -- also sports a stage for live entertainment, featuring some great musicians at lunch Monday to Friday and dinner Thursday to Saturday. If you like a less ebullient atmosphere, opt for the narrow, and calmer, "west wing" along one side of the restaurant.
Blond-colored picnic tables are outfitted with paper towel dispensers, buckets of individually wrapped plastic utensils and bottles of "sweet heat" (the spicy red one) and house sauce (the milder yellow one).
Lunch and dinner menus are nearly identical, save for daily lunch specials (check out the board near the cash register for more specials), an additional side dish at dinner, and lunch items are a couple of bucks less than dinner.
Pat's does smoked pork ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket and chicken.
One night, my party and I ordered the pork ribs ($23.50, whole rack; $15.50, half rack; $10.50, quarter rack; $3 per bone) and the three-meat combo ($15.50) -- a choice of two pork ribs, one piece of chicken, two slices of beef brisket and four ounces of pulled pork.
The 12 ribs that arrived were tinged with pink and incredibly tender. They exuded an intoxicating hint of smoke, after having been smoked in apple wood for five hours.
The combo platter is a good option for those "can't deciders." The smoked chicken breast was a bit mealy and the brisket a tad lean but with good flavor. Smoked pulled pork was the best of the three, especially with a hit of the house sauce.
As for sides, for dinner you get two: Not including special sides, there are baked beans, red beans and rice, garlic mashed potatoes, coleslaw, potato salad and jambalaya (the latter is an additional 50 cents and available only Wednesday to Friday).
Baked beans were complex and just how I like them -- savory, sweet, smoky and tangy, while red beans and rice packed some heat along with moist cubes of pork.
Garlic mashed potatoes were reminiscent of the heaping mound from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and heavy on the garlic, but were cloaked in dark gravy and a sprinkling of curly parsley. Refreshingly crisp coleslaw needed more vinegar and salt. My plastic fork stood upright in the sturdy but well-made jambalaya with smoked chicken, tomato and spicy smoked sausage.
Only the potato salad didn't resonate well; it was too sweet for my taste.
I marveled, however, at the sweet, buttery cornbread for three reasons: 1) it didn't need doctoring in the form of butter or honey; 2) it didn't crumble when you picked it up; and 3) I didn't mind that it wasn't warm.
When it came time for dessert, I'd heard there was bread pudding on occasion. At that dinner visit, cornbread was going to have to suffice. Maybe I'd have better luck on "burnt ends or tips" day.
Pat's draws an eclectic crowd, especially at lunch. Add the lively music and "burnt ends" and it makes it all the more difficult to go back to work. Though the pork tips -- smoky and salty with a good ratio of fat to meat and a peppery exterior -- were to be taken seriously, I fell hard for the burnt ends, ridiculously tender brisket "caps" which take a week to prepare and are smoked for 16 hours.
They are some of the most succulent nubbins of meat I recall eating, next to pork belly, which is a different beast altogether. No wonder the kitchen turns out more than 100 orders at Friday lunch.
Dessert offerings on a regular basis, in the way of that Jack Daniels-spiked bread pudding and sweet potato pie, are in the works. Somehow, I have a feeling that Pat's popularity isn't dependent upon dessert.
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.