Review Date: 09/13/16
Visit Dates: (09/03/16)
Sitting at the end of a small strip mall in a fairly commercial area, LI Pour House isn't just a barbecue joint. The real draw here is the beer selection and a unique serving method that lets you get a good variety in by letting you serve yourself as much or as little of any beer as you want.
Located between the bar area and the beer- and sports-themed dining room (tin signs galore), nearly two dozen taps have names, vital stats (pricing, alcohol content) and tasting notes (shades of J Peterman) conveniently displayed. An electronic device that you wrap around your wrist or your beer glass can be held against the sensor near your desired tap to enable pouring. You then pour as much as you want into your glass; when you release the tap, the display indicates how much you've poured.
Off the main dining room is a game room with additional seating.
LI Pour House runs several weekly specials worthy of investigation: half-off the self serve taps on Monday and Tuesday evenings, unlimited wings and select beers on Wednesday evenings, reverse happy hour on Friday evenings, and half-off a second appetizer every weeknight from 3:00PM to 7:00PM.
Barbecue selections include babyback ribs, pulled pork, brisket, smoked fried chicken, smoked wings, burnt ends and bacon steak. The burnt ends are available as either a platter with two sides (as are all other items) or an appetizer. Pulled pork and brisket are not additionally listed as sandwiches except on the lunch menu, but if you ask they'll accommodate. Unfortunately, there are no 2- and 3-meat combos, so it requires more of a commitment to a smaller selection of meats.
Extensive sections of the menu are devoted to burgers and dogs, topped with barbecue meats and other esoterica. Wings are available smoked, fried and boneless, served naked or with a choice of three different rubs and thirteen different sauces.
I visited LI Pour House for a mid-afternoon Saturday lunch with vegetarian Young Bride and Carnivorous Cousin in tow.
Wings: At LI Pour House, they're available as fried, smoked or boneless, so the smoked route (with a flash fry for crispness) was a no-brainer. A seven-piece order ($6.99) with General Tso sauce was extra crisp to the point of well done, which was a plus on the exterior for its impressive crackle. Inner meat was a bit dry, but that outer crunch, along with just enough sauce to avoid a problem, made it work. Smoke was very noticeable. The sauce was pleasantly sweet with faint heat. As constituted, these wings were pretty good; couple that crispness with more moistness inside and they have the potential to be great on the right night.
Burnt Ends: They're also available as an entrée, but since the barbecue entrées do not include combos, it made sense to try the burnt ends as an appetizer ($14.99). The plate held a generous quantity of very lightly sauced beefy cubes surrounding a central pile of vinegar slaw. It was obvious at first sight that the ends were taken from the point cut (the more desirable fattier section), that the fat was properly rendered and that the meat was very moist. About that moistness: part of it was inherent, but part of it was also steaminess from the way it was held and/or heated. That said, the bites were still very pleasing, with the borderline crisp bark contrasting the gentle, yielding interior. Flavor kept pace with some nice beefiness, noticeable rub and noticeable smoke. Overall, these were some solid burnt ends that had the potential to be great ones if timed a little better to be less steamy and a little more crispy.
Ribs: Very meaty babybacks ($16.99 for a half rack with vinegar slaw and two other sides) presented what looked like a little more than the requested half rack even though it was exactly six well-spaced bones with meat rising high off them.
The outermost rib was dry, but the ribs toward the middle had moderate to good moistness (and some legit juiciness) with some dryness coming back again after a few bites. I call the texture a mixed bag, but I can imagine 100 people trying these exact same ribs, with 50 saying they were slightly moist, 40 saying they were slightly dry and 10 saying they were flat out dry.
All of the meat had an attractive light pink color, a mid-range smoke level and a generally porky flavor aided by very little noticeable rub and a very modest coating of slightly sweet sauce. Overall, these were some slightly flawed but substantial and serviceable ribs with the potential (that word keeps coming up) to be outstanding with a little more juiciness.
Pulled Pork Sandwich: Although it's not specifically listed on the menu (they do have a pulled pork platter and a burger topped with pulled pork), you can get a simple pulled pork sandwich. Keeping the streak alive, the sandwich arrived topped with more of that vinegar slaw that appeared automatically on two of the other plates. But the star of the sandwich was the bun: a buttered and toasted kaiser-shaped brioche. The pork itself was pretty vanilla, with decent feel (neither stiff nor mushy) and decent bark but not much moisture or flavor. The slaw helped and the squeeze bottle of sauce helped more, but unlike the other promising plates, the pork didn't inspire a desire to try it again.
There's a single sauce in a squeeze bottle on the table. It's a fairly thick, sweet and tangy number that's a cross between the molassesy versions you've seen on supermarket shelves for years and the more corn syrupy versions that have become popular more recently.
Seasonal vegetables: On this early September visit, a crisp, buttery interpretation of green beans got the job done nicely with no other noteworthy pluses or minuses.
Vinegar cabbage: A tart, thinly sliced cole slaw with a bit of a funky background. Not bad for the genre, but it gets a little monotonous appearing on nearly every plate.
Onion Rings: For a one dollar upcharge, you can get these with your sandwich instead of tater tots. In upgrade situations like these, the quantity typically takes a hit, but this time that wasn't the case: nearly three dozen rings were crammed onto the plate and piled high. They may have been a frozen variety, but an above average one, with dark batter that had good crunch and a complex flavor that avoided the dreaded chemical taste. The onions within were sweet and moist.
Cornbread: It's not automatically included with a barbecue platter, so you have to use one of your allotted sides to get a trio of cornbread muffins, but the selection is well worth it. Surprise, surprise, since the muffin format is usually not a good sign. At LI Pour House, the cornbread is a highlight, coming in very warm, crunchy on the top (similar to an oatmeal raisin cookie), soft and tender in the middle and bursting with corn kernels. Some melted-in butter would send these into the stratosphere, but as constituted the generous serving of cornbread did not fail to impress.
It's ironic that the beer system gives you the ultimate variety by allowing smaller portions of several different options, yet the barbecue is the complete opposite. It's much harder to try the full breadth of the menu without any combo platters.
Also limiting the variety is that some of the barbecue pricing is a bit on the high side. But that's mitigated nicely if you take advantage of the weekly specials listed above.
Service was friendly. Johanna guided me through the beer pouring process with expertise and good cheer.
The Bottom Line
For Long Island, where the barbecue options are few and far between and the bar has been set fairly low, LI Pour House comes in comfortably above the regional norm. I'd stop short of calling it something worth a special trip, but the burnt ends, the ease-of-parking and the beer selection make it a worthwhile hang that I wouldn't mind repeating if in the area. And who knows, maybe the near-miss wings and ribs will hit paydirt next time.
Yelp reviews of LI Pour House
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