Pour Farm Tavern is a funky 2-level bar in downtown New Bedford, across the street from the Whaling Museum. It's a dimly lit, old school joint with a long bar and an assortment of vintage rock memorabilia, esoteric art and beer signs. With a huge beer emphasis and hard-to-find menus, it's somewhat of a surprise that they even offer food at all, much less barbecue fare, but they do. The downstairs level is all barstools and high tops. The often-closed upstairs level is more cozy. Outdoor seating is available out back in warmer months.
The Pour Farm Tavern menu presents a streamlined tour through pub food classics, with cheese and fried foods the primary focus. There's clam chowder, a much-discussed Mayflower Porter chili, chourice and cheddar, fried mozzarella, chicken fingers, rings, fries and chili cheese fries. Most of the non-appetizers are sandwiches, including a burger, a veggie burger, chicken, pastrami, falafel and a Cuban. Two of the sandwiches hit barbecue turf: pulled pork and a brisket cheesesteak. "Smoked on site" babyback ribs can be had as a half rack, full rack or as part of the BBQ sampler that includes a half rack with pulled pork, brisket and one side.
Pour Farm Tavern was the second stop on a southern New England BBQ and burger crawl. I was joined by the only contributor to National Barbecue News who once stuffed a pork loin with his own sausage (sorry girls, he's married).
Onion Rings: Onion rings are becoming a habit lately. If it says "handcut' on the menu, it's an automatic order. If not and a quick server inquiry passes the they're-not-frozen test, it's an equally done deal. At Pour Farm Tavern, the onion rings are hand cut to a thin slice and made with a beer batter just dense enough to avoid being too puffy. Still, they remained fairly light aside from the greasiness of the quick drain. Salting was very light and they still had a strong burnt-in-a-good-way flavor from the batter. A little less grease and a little more seasoning would push these over the top, but as is they were pretty good onion rings. The thick, creamy cucumber dip with dill was too mellow, geared more to a spicier vessel.
Ribs: A half rack of babybacks on a 3-meat combo ($14) was a generous deal, and equally generous was the profusion of paprika-heavy finishing rub that gave the ribs a Memphis treatment. This added a little texture to the bite on top of the crust that was already there. Moderate smokiness was also there, coming in third in the troika of flavors also including the rub and headed up by the classic brick red barbecue sauce (used with restraint). Doneness was well beyond done, leaving meat that tore easily and slid off the bone with minimal effort. Your enjoyment of these ribs may depend on how tender you like the meat and how tangy you like the sauce. If your answer to both is "very," you're in for a treat. If not, you may not want to bother, but at the very least the slightly spicy, more than tangy flavor profile is a natural complement to the strong beers on offer. Think of it as a chance to viva some of the difference.
Pulled pork: A baseball-sized pile of neon orange pulled pork packed the punch of vinegar and spice, doubling the flavor the intensity of the already intense ribs. Tenderness was similar, coming in overcooked and finely chopped. I didn't notice the smoke, but it was hard to get past the attention-hogging tartness of the condiment. I liked the inclusion of bark and that beyond the saucing, there were some peppers and other tidbits in the mix. This is another item that's a natural for a beer pairing, and I'd probably like it much better on a sandwich (it's offered on a griddle toasted sweet roll, probably Portuguese) than I did on my plate.
Brisket: A couple of slices rolled over onto themselves flashed some crisp outer edges and pink interior, but it didn't take a news flash to dedeuce that this was some very tough, leathery brisket. Smoke was minimal. This brisket stood in stark contrast to the first two meats, abandoning sauce and flavor. And that observation about the other two meats being a good match for the beer? Not the case here.
There was no choice of sauce or any sauces on the table, but a small bowl of old school brick red sauce arrived with the sampler combo. It was the classic sweet-tangy blend that was first popular a good thirty years ago.
Only one side came with the BBQ sampler combo. Cole slaw was crisp to a fault and borderline tough, not having blended with the condiment that looked and tasted like a bottled fruity vinaigrette salad dressing.
I like the bar fly vibe of the place and the friendly service.
The Bottom Line
Pour Farm Tavern serves up a style of ribs that was in vogue during the 1980s, yet manages to avoid being boring. Flavors are strong, tenderness toggles from way over to way under and the enjoyment mileage varies with the driver. This driver will probably keep driving without a stop next time, but it's worth a try if you walk in open minded and thirsty.
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