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Coincidentally, Po's Ribs and Barbecue happens to be owned by the former owners of Ginger Court, a now-closed favorite Chinese restaurant of one of my most prolific barbecue buddies, who ironically didn't join me here until my fifth visit. The interior, though rather stark, is a lot nicer than the over-the-counter joint I incorrectly imagined this to be. There's a long bar along the "hypotenuse wall" of the triangular-shaped room, with a flat screen TV and about a dozen cozy four-top tables. The outside signage and menu both tout Po's as a sports bar, but the two TVs over the bar (and not large ones at that) form the extent of it.
The compact menu at Po's is mostly geared to bar snacks and mostly with an Asian leaning. Barbecue offerings include babyback ribs, pulled pork and sliced brisket. There's some flexibility with the ribs, available as 2 bones, 4 bones, 6 bones and as part of a 2-meat combo (also 4 bones). Boneless meats are available on sandwiches or combos; pulled chicken is available only in lettuce wraps. Appetizers also include fried items (spicy wings, spicy shrimp, calamari, pork chop with pesto), grilled items (beef, chicken or shrimp on skewer) and Asian style soup.
Several visits hit Po's at dinnertime only, but scattered among Friday, Saturday and weekday nights.
Shrimp salad supplied a few grilled but mostly flavorless shrimp on a bed of overdressed salad.
Pulled chicken with pine nuts took a huge step up, delivering more flavor and more artistry. Overflowing in two large iceberg lettuce cups were ever-so-slightly moistened chicken bits augmented by finely chopped celery, onions, mushrooms and carrots, along with a nice dose of the mentioned pine nuts. I'm not sure how "barbecue" it is, and I originally wasn't sure if the chicken was smoked (it is), but on several visits this dish worked, delivering freshness, flavor, a good portion and the rare privilege of being able to eat healthy at a barbecue restaurant.
Spicy wings are among the best I've eaten in a barbecue restaurant, but they're not smoked. Instead, the wings are deep fried and topped with salt and chile powder, then accented with sliced fresh chiles. The wings are fairly plump and have been hot, crisp, juicy and full of spicy flavor every time. Although these wings are hardly lacking in moisture or flavor, they are missing something: a dipping sauce would go a long way, whether designed for heat relief or as a complementary flavor.
Spicy shrimp receive a similar treatment to the wings, only with a light batter. These were cooked to the right doneness but were greasy and would have benefitted from better draining before serving. Calamari are also similar; the one time I tried this dish, they were cooked and drained properly.
Meaty babybacks are served unsauced even without having to request it. Four babybacks on a 2-meat combo seem pretty generous, and the results have been extremely consistent. The exterior has repeatedly had a crust and the cut sides were bright pink. The bark lacked both crispness and spice rub (it's more of a paste), but the bite was still pleasant, made more so by the very tender, juicy meat. The texture/mouthfeel has been very fresh, as if the ribs had recently come out of the smoker with no refrigeration before serving. Smoke was light—almost nonexistent—but there was a nice flavor to the meat from either a wet rub or a more subtle form of smoke (I was told afterward that ginger and scallion are involved, in a paste similar to jerk methodology). The word I keep coming back to when describing the meat is compelling.
Pork on the 2-meat combo provides enough for a sandwich and then some. It has a high bark ratio, with the dark outer chunks lacking crispness but not lacking flavor. The inner meat was graced with a good amount of pink and a LOT of flavor, possibly from an injection. There's a light heat in the backdrop and a light fruitiness that, like the ribs, made up for the lack of aggressive rub or smoke component. All of the meat was tender and extremely moist without being overcooked. A little steamy? Perhaps. The meat has a light accompaniment that I'd hesitate to call sauce, but it keeps the meat even more moist than what was already in the chunks themselves.
Brisket, ordered only twice, is more reminiscent of classic sliced brisket than the ribs or pork. Surprisingly, it's even more reminiscent of that style than what's offered at many mainstream barbecue joints. A smoke ring and bark were both evident, but the smoke profile was light and the flavorings that accented the ribs and pork weren't as noticeable here. Texture was dry one time, slightly moist another, with a firm but still-tender mouthfeel. I'm impressed that they did this well, but the brisket is clearly the third place finisher among the three smoked meat entree items I tried. It needs more flavor.
A weak spot here. Sauce consists of one offering in a squeeze bottle that
seems to be a store bought Kansas City sauce. Even though it's not my favorite
type of sauce to begin with, I do enjoy this style on ribs at Tennessee's and
similar joints, but at Po's, the ordinary sauce snuffs out the uniqueness of the
meats. The owner is supposedly working on a signature sauce that's more
appropriate for the Po's style of meats.
Cole slaw is a departure from what's offered elswehere, verging on sauerkraut. I think the cabbage may have been cooked, yet it still had a little crunch. I liked it and thought it complemented the meats well. Disappointing soggy baked beans seemed straight out of the can. Asian noodles were not only different for a barbecue side but different for Asian noodles, with a light tartness to them. Green beans here are the Asian variety of stir fried string beans, and they were crisp, hot and tasty. Cornbread is not part of the equation here, either as an included combo item or even a la carte.
The bottom line: I like Po's Ribs and Barbecue, mostly because it puts a different flavor spin on
things. Their brand of barbecue is lighter and healthier than most, and if you
don't care about healthy, their fried wings are worth the trip alone. While I
wouldn't make it my go-to joint, it's a place I plan on returning to with
regularity and it's a place I'd recommend. Just keep in mind that even though
the meats are smoked, if you're Jonesing for some hard core traditional
barbecue, this isn't it.
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