You can bet I was excited when I got the invite to the media preview for the new City Barbeque in Durham! I’ve chased down que in Lexington, brisket in Texas and ribs in St. Louis but it’s always great to have a local spot for delicious barbeque. And as a fan of City Barbeque in Cary, I knew their food was pretty darn good but I welcomed the opportunity to be reminded of their great smoked meats and Southern eats, one more time!
Up front I meet up with Corey, the regional marketing manager for City Barbeque. It looks like there will be a dozen or so lucky bloggers and media people here for the preview event. From the outside, the new Durham location looks very similar to Cary: low squat ranch-style building with rough-hewn wood giving the exterior a Texas feel. Inside you’ll find the order and meat prep area where your meals are made to order. A humble dining room paneled with barn wood where you can grab your drink, condiments and sides, City Barbeque has some great local touches here. Banners from all the local schools are pinned overhead, sports memorabilia and even some stadium seating from the old Durham Bulls Ballpark are up near the ceiling rafters!
Up front our preview event is kicking off and we’re greeted by City Barbeque’s General Manager, Tim Zombech and Director of Training, Frank Pizzo. We’re given some backdrop on the City Barbeque story, (founded in 1999, 25+ company locations in OH, KY, IN with 3 in NC) and their passion for bringing all the great barbeque styles across the country for your dining pleasure.
After their presentation we set off on our restaurant tour starting off with the meat prep area. On the counter I spy two beautiful looking hunks of meat, a smoked brisket and pork butt. The meat is smoked for 12+ hours covered in the secret City Barbeque rub and it smells great! The brisket is cut against the grain for max tenderness and I’m pretty much salivating as samples are passed around. A quick taste and you get the happy eye-roll when the meat and fat hits your tongue, yum! Note that City Barbeque is not just a restaurant but can easily cater your group and corporate events.
Our next stop is the smokers. City Barbeque uses gas-fired beasties along with a lot of local hickory wood for a milder smoke flavor. It’s fun watching the briskets and ribs rotate on their racks covered in bark and one rib rack is pulled out to sample. Some sauce is slathered on and the bone I’m given is great! Good pink smoke ring around the edges and it’s cooked to tear off the bone consistency. Note: If you like burnt ends, try the Double Smoked Brisket TaQos!
Next up is the kitchen where they cook up favorite sides like potato salad, corn pudding, mac and cheese, hush puppies and more. City Barbeque Durham will also be doing local seasonal sides just for their location. And let’s face it, good meat needs to be paired up with great sides to make the meal complete, awesome! And in back of City Barbeque we’re brought to the wood loading side of the smokers where there’s plenty of hickory wood (from Hickory, NC) stacked up to give the meat that great flavor. As you can guess, we’re all pretty much starving now and ready to eat!
The group heads into the dining room and we’ve got a fantastic display of City Barbeque’s plates and sandwiches. They’ve got the City Sampler, over-flowing with brisket, sausage and turkey, a great looking More Cowbell sammich with brisket, peppers, onions and provolone along with a beautiful smoked pork butt with fat cap on display. And then we head to our tables where the feasting begins!
We start off our meal with a large plate of smoked chicken and a slab of ribs, delish! The chicken is juicy and tender with a dark rub that works well. While the City Barbeque rub looks a bit dark and heavy, it’s actually got a mellow and milder flavor to it. We move to a plump, spicy sausage and great looking sliced turkey. The sausage reminds me of what I tried in Texas (beef-pork) and the turkey has a very visible smoke ring on the edges indicative of the low and slow smoking method.
But of course man and woman can not live on meat alone. I sample quite a few of their sides and loved the crisp hush puppies and corn pudding. City Barbeque’s corn pudding does the custard and corn but adds crispy corn bread crumble on top, nice! The mac n cheese is also quite good with tangy cheddar flavor and the potato salad is super fresh, well-prepared and with a hint of sweetness. We end with a tasty peach cobbler for dessert, a perfect finish for barbeque…
And as you can guess, we were all stuffed silly at this point and time. Boxes are handed out and leftovers are packed up in doggie bags (Thankfully I have no dog! Uhm, leftovers…) Thanks are extended to the City Barbeque team for throwing such a wonderful and filling media event for us. I’ve had the chance to eat on my own dime at the City Barbeque in Cary and my experience for this preview mirrors my meals there. City Barbeque is doing well above-average smoked meats with excellent quick-casual services. With meals in the $7 to $16 range, you should be able to enjoy their perfectly smoked meats and fresh sides without breaking the bank. So enjoy, enjoy it Durham! City Barbeque opens today (Sunday, 5/22). You’ve got a new contender on the list for best barbeque and smoked meats for the Bull City…