Review Date: 08/26/15
Visit Date: 08/22/15
The little cottage of a barbecue joint called Brick & Tin is a former donut shop with counter service for takeout only. Country-folksy decor makes it look a little like a dollhouse. Printed menus are available on the counter; a specials board to the right lists additions and deals. There's a small bench for sitting while you wait, but no tables for indoor dining. A tall smoker in the fenced-in area immediately behind the building puffed near clear smoke during my visit.
The compact menu features five meats: babyback pork ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken thighs, smoked turkey breast and burnt ends. All are available on platters with two sides; the boneless ones can also be had as a sandwich. Cornbread is a $1 add-on. The menu has no multi-meat combos, but they'll happily do one for you upon request, as "several have asked." To make things more flexible, they offer single rib and single chicken thigh options as specials.
Joined by a well travelled barbecue aficionado, I hit Brick & Tin around dusk for an early weekend dinner.
"Burnt Endz": Technically, the burnt ends are an entree ($10.99 with two sides), but since most barbecue joints offer them as appetizers, let's slot them here.
According to the counter server, burnt ends are "brisket, taken from both the point and the flat, but not burnt like at most places." We ordered it unsauced with sauce on the side. The drab, stiff, gray meat had only faint moisture coming from traces of sauce used in cooking. Otherwise, the meat was both dry and extremely chewy, requiring the same kind of effort it takes to down large chunks of steak cooked well past well done. Flavor didn't bring much (any) smoke or surface rub (there may have been some that penetrated, but I couldn't taste it). Also absent from the surface was bark. Not any, and that's one of the hallmarks of burnt ends. The server wasn't kidding about not being burnt: these looked, felt and tasted like they never came within ten feet of a fire. Usually there's at least one redeeming feature, but these burnt ends had none. I wouldn't consider getting them again, with or without sauce.
Ribs: A pair of babybacks, tried in a makeshift combo of ribs and pulled pork ($12.99 with two sides, essentially trading two of the normal four ribs for some pulled pork) improved upon the burnt ends, but only slightly. Color was again absent, though bark did make a token appearance on the surface. Flavor didn't bring much—again no smoke or rub—but texture compensated with a clean bite, tender without falling off the bone, and some nominal moisture that leaned more toward steamy than juicy. I still didn't get any flavor here, even from the meat itself, which felt old. The sauce did all the heavy lifting.
Pulled Pork: A dainty portion of pork continued the theme with more gray meat, minimal (near zero) bark, minimal (near zero) smoke and minimal pork flavor, but this time there were some positives. I have to give credit: this was some very tender (without being mushy), luscious (in spots) and even silky pork, feeling pleasant to the bite. Someone who likes a sweet sauce and doesn't mind getting flavor only from the sauce might like this pork a lot, especially in a sandwich.
Chicken: Available as a dinner but tried as an individual piece ($2.19), this brought a tightly rolled specimen with less-than-crisp skin coated with barbecue sauce. Under the sauce, the skin showed some overdue brown color. And under the skin, the meat had not only an attractive pink tint from smoking but some mildly smoky flavor. It was tender but a little dry, especially for a thigh.
Here we have a highlight. There's only one choice, and it's a reddish brown, sweet and tangy number that looks straight out of Central Casting, but the flavor is deep, complex and doesn't taste like it came off a supermarket shelf.
Cole Slaw: This looked like a bagged mix that you add your own condiment to, but the homemade-tasting condiment was creamy and thick, possibly via sour cream.
Mac and Cheese: Creamy. Tight. Ordinary.
Baked Beans: Soft. Soupy. Not too sweet. Studded with raw onion.
Greens: Some of the leaves here looked like parsley or kale, differentiating the dish from the more familiar straight collard greens. Regardless of composition, this was the best item of the visit. Not overchopped and neither over- nor undercooked. Tasty broth was neither too vinegary nor too sweet; it successfully took the bitterness out of the greens without obscuring their flavor. Cooked onions and bacon bits helped out too.
Cornbread: Plain and jalapeno versions are both available ($1 per cellophane-wrapped block). Both are sweet, cakey and very moist. The jalapeno version is a bit saltier and the peppers add more than just an accent of heat.
A menu description just below the meats says, "All of the above have 'just enough smoke.'" So they're obviously either aware that people are commenting about the light smoke or are keeping the levels light by choice. While I may not prefer a lighter profile, I can at least respect the decision.
The Bottom Line
The sauce is a good one, but unless you live for the sauce and not for the meat, it's too much of a crutch. All of the meats came up short—sometimes vastly so—on texture, flavor or both.
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