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Archive for December, 2006

It’s strange how a restaurant’s space affects the diner. Fancy food seems to taste better in an elegant setting and likewise, rustic food is better enjoyed in a rustic space. This is why West Ashley’s new BBQ establishment Home Team is throwing me a little bit. In fact, I want to call this place an instant classic, but wait.

In the newly renovated Bunch’s Garage (next to Bait and Tackle), this new BBQ dig is the antithesis of all classic BBQ temples (Sweatman’s, Big T’s, Lexington BBQ…to name a few). Inside it’s so clean that it’s almost antiseptic and there is a wrap sandwich on the menu to boot (wraps are the worst food trend since sun dried tomatoes and asian-fusion and I hate them). Sounds like sacrelige to all purists, and this to me is where it gets tricky. I’m not sure if I’m just aggrandizing a good BBQ restaurant, but it seems like the pit master here is both tipping his hat to grand old tradition (BBQ is arguably our only native cuisine) with incredible, sublime BBQ while irreverently goofing off (and arguably showing off) in it’s face. Apart from the wrap, and another example of its irreverence for that matter, Home Team serves a mayonnaise based BBQ sauce that is remarkably good. Stripped to its bare bones, with all of the temporal elements of ambiance and feel aside, I think that Home Team has some of the best BBQ anywhere. Just without the classic BBQ shack feel.

The meat at Home Team is pit roasted with a dry rub and served with no sticky, tricky, or even worse, sticky-icky sauce. What results from the rub and slow cooking is truly sublime, with rich smoke and pork flavor, very subtle sweetness, and nothing overpowering. And it absolutely does not need sauce. To call it tender would be an understatement. It’s downright soft, so tender that it’s almost strange. The pulled pork, ribs, and even the chicken all taste the same both in flavor and texture; delicious. In fact, I’ve never had BBQ chicken that could compete with pork and this one certainly does. The sides are great as well; I like the collards, squash casserole, and creamed corn. But who cares about the sides, it’s all about the BBQ. Anyhow, enough fawning, time will tell where Home Team lands in the great BBQ realm of the Carolinas, though with lines already out the door, I am comfortable calling it an instant classic.

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I grew up in west ash so needless to say, avondale and other old neighborhoods make me nostalgic with their grit and non-pretentious old Charleston character. West Ashley Bait and tackle was also around in my youth and was a good place to get fishing and crabbing supplies or even a sandwich if you so dared. Anyhow, my point is that I am biased towards this place and I think the new owners have done a great job preserving its old charm while converting it into a great restaurant/bar.

As a bar, B &T is superlative; it is smoke-free, has good, inexpensive beer and liquor, good live music (mostly bluegrass) and a truly friendly, down-home staff. Strike up a conversation with any of the barteders and if you are not freaky or disgusting, you will find them to be charming, witty, and friendly. The crowd is clearly local and seems to gravitate around the music playing on any given night (blue dogs’ member projects are a good example).

As a restaurant, B&T does a great job as well, serving the highest quality bar food that has quite obviously been prepared with care. One of my favorite parts of this rustic and rewarding eating experience is the message from the chef on each table that basically says cool-out while I spend time making you a generous portion of delicious food. The eastern NC style bbq plate is great, though they often run out of it. The pork stands up to any place that “specializes” only in bbq. The burgers are also up there in the local burger realm (poes, gene’s, apparently o’malley’s, ac’s…) The sides are uniquely good too–the collard greens are perfectly balanced with pepper vinegar and ham-hock and are a truly soulful and proper rendition. The tater-tots are deep fried to crispy perfection and seasoned with sea salt and make me dread the day when the ban on trans-fat reaches Charleston and all crunchy fried goodness disappears from our restaurants (the anti-trans fat movement deserves its own discussion). Anyways, definitely a great neighborhood bar and well worth a try.

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