I’ve always dreamed about opening a restaurant. It seemed like a natural way for things to unfold what with me spending so much time in them, the joy of cooking and so on. Of course, I lack both the experience and vast funds necessary so I chose the only realistic alternative: keep on eating and become a blogger! *triumphant fanfare*
Not that I didn’t have a plan for if I did open a restaurant mind. We love adopting American culture here in Ireland, but I was always puzzled by the lack of an all-out American style barbecue restaurant, in Dublin or anywhere for that matter! Maybe I’d just spent too many evenings watching Diners, Drive ins and Dives, but I just didn’t understand how dishes like sweet pulled pork, smoked brisket and racks of finger licking, sticky ribs hadn’t already become a feature while other niche markets like gourmet burgers, burrito bars and grilled chicken were already exploding. No matter, I’d spotted the gap and if I won the lottery or somehow gained magical cooking skills, it was mine. Well, it had been until I was walking down George’s Street and noticed three neon red letters that spelled BBQ, framed by an equally neon pig shaped street sign.
And so I discovered Pitt Bros BBQ Project, the barbecue venue Dublin had been waiting for and I had been dreaming of running. Dammit! Ah well, at least I now had a good source of barbecued meat to soothe the pain, and that is exactly what it did. That was in 2013, and I’ve since eaten there at least five times. What better place then to visit so I can get back into the swing of writing? Not that I’m looking for an excuse to eat my weight in barbecued meat or anything.
This time, I went with my good friend Damien who is a confessed fan of barbecue but for whatever reason had never heard of Pitt Bros. I’d be lying if he was the first friend I’ve forced to go there, but thankfully none of them ended up regretted the kidnappings! And given the queue running out the door that greeted us when we arrived, I’m clearly not the only one doing it. My advice: try to avoid lunch time and dinner peak hours unless you can get there early or don’t mind waiting; I’ve never seen the place with a table to spare at either times and reservations are not taken so you might have fifteen/twenty minutes to kill. That said, the atmosphere is always buzzing and it’s a great place to have a social gathering if you can manage it.
When you do get your seat, things work very much like they do at say Nando’s where you pick what you like but order and pay up at the counter. It’s a straightforward system in a restaurant that takes a similarly straightforward approach with its food and menu in general. You won’t find starters, mains and desserts here, no specials or drinks menu, all you get is just a single page with ten meal options and seven sides. It’s pure, uncomplicated barbecue and comfort food, exactly as it should be.
Yet still it’s hard to choose something! Every time I’ve been I find myself agonising over whether to get a bun filled with pulled pork or just a plate with a few big slices of smoked brisket. Even after that there are other items I’ve yet to try like their ribs, sausage, half chicken or burger. When everything tastes good, it’s a problem in itself! This time I eventually went for the brisket on its own while Damien opted – on my insistence – for the Pitt Master’s combo, a bun (courtesy of the not-too-distant Bretzel Bakery) filled with brisket, pulled porn and a fried onion ring. Both come with some pickles and slathered in the house barbecue sauce, of which you can apply more at your leisure from the squeeze bottles on every table (hot sauce and a Carolina dressing included!). All meals also come with at least one side included as well, so please, for the love of all things that are delicious, do yourself a favour and try the macaroni and cheese. I won’t even describe it, it is just one of those dishes every city has that you simply have to try at least once.
As for the meat, it’s as tender, crumbly and absolutely delicious as you’d expect from a fourteen hour, overnight stay in a smoker. My brisket fell apart the moment I took a fork to it and it was deceptively filling, every bite an explosion of hearty, barbecue goodness. Damien absolutely loved his Pitt Master’s combo, though he did a better job at polishing off his food that I did! Serves me right for ordering a second side. Speaking of which, all of the barbecue support acts like slaw, fries and corn on the cob are there, in addition to some of the more decadent sides like burnt end beans or bone marrow mash. There’s even homemade lemonade on offer, along with a respectable choice of craft beers and some wine available if it takes your fancy.
All the while, none of this food will set you back any more than twenty euros. Okay, I’ll rephrase it, if you want to stand any chance of clearing your plate, it shouldn’t cost you any more than twenty. All of the main meals clock in between ten and fourteen euros which is tremendous value, considering they come with at least one side anyway. Want another? It only sets you back €3.50. Oh, and everyone gets a free soft serve ice cream for dessert! But be warned, the machine has a bit of a kick so you might end up covered in it if you aren’t careful.
One other thing that desperately deserves a mention is the smart design that’s gone into the restaurant. You can tell whoever’s behind it has a genuine understanding of what barbecue means, as everything from the steel drum light fittings and wooden log counter front to the tin plates and rolls of kitchen towel at each table gives off exactly the kind of relaxed and rustic vibe you’d expect of an actual barbecue gathering. I can’t think of one other restaurant in Dublin where the look and feel goes so hand in glove with the food it creates, and it’s a wonderful, oft-overlooked thing to see.
So that is Pitt Bros in a semi-nutshell. Vegetarians beware, meat loves rejoice! They may have dashed my dream somewhat, but in doing so they’ve made authentic barbecue much more accessible to the Dublin public and filled a niche that was painfully wanting. If you haven’t already been, go now. And if you know me, take me with you.
Pitt Bros BBQ Project
Unit 1, Wicklow House,