October 27, 2012

Blue Belly BBQ in Queen Village

Well folks, the great Philadelphia barbecue race has some new additions. Michael Klein of the Philadelphia Inquirer has the details on the two newest spots, Fette Sau and Bubba's Texas BBQ. Even my suburban work town, Ardmore, has jumped on the wagon with Barbacoa.

If any of the above places can match or surpass Blue Belly BBQ in Queen Village it's going to be a delicious race to eat up.

Blue Belly, an entrant from the Giuffi brothers of Cochon fame, opened late this summer. According to its website, Blue Belly brings a Northern approach to barbecue that includes multi-regional styles.

Sounds good to us since we are not barbecue aficionados who argue over preferences and intricacies of the four main types of barbecue. We love all types of barbecue. And Kristy did win a Zokos pot luck contest for her BBQ chicken sliders so we've got some cred.

Inside Blue Belly BBQ
The Atmosphere

Blue Belly is a tiny corner spot at 6th & Catherine with a cool atmosphere. You can choose to sit at the counter, one of a few picnic tables or get takeout (a popular choice according to the host).

We love counter seating so we jumped on the open spots one Sunday afternoon. The chance to chat with the chef and watch our food being made always enhances the entire food experience.

Jerk Chicken and Ribs

The pulled jerk chicken sandwich is one of the best of Sandwich Quest this year. The chicken was tender and juicy, while the jerk was flavor was authentic to what we've had in Jamaica on a few occasions. I still could have used a bit more heat in the jerk sauce though.

Pulled Jerk Chicken Sandwich
The kickers for this sandwich were the citrus aioli and pickled tomatoes, which mixed perfectly with the jerk flavor and made the sandwich stand out. Blue Belly offers a few sauces to squeeze on top but don't bother with this sandwich. It just messes with an already-great bite.

The St. Louis spare ribs fell off the bone, but the hunks of meat stayed thick enough that we still had to bite through them. That’s my preference. The char was nice and crispy and packed a smoky flavor. I preferred the hot BBQ sauce with the ribs, while Kristy liked the sweet sauce. Both of us would skip the vinegar and mustard options.

We asked the chef which of the platters was his favorite. He immediately said the sausage because it is all homemade and rotates constantly in type of meat. Something to consider when ordering.

Delicious Sides
Spare Ribs with corn cakes, mac n' cheese & potato salad

The sides at Blue Belly are definitely worth checking out, too. You get to pick three sides when ordering a smoked meat platter like the spare ribs.

The corn cakes were moist and delicious with the hot BBQ sauce. The mac and cheese wasn't out of this world, but well done for sure. Then again, I did lick the plate clean after adding some more BBQ hot sauce! Potato salad also good and not too mayonnaise-y, which neither of us likes. The french fries that came with my sandwich were fine but nothing special.

A Few Tips

First, expect to wait on busy night. Blue Belly is small and intimate in a good way, but with one main chef cooking all the in-house and to-go orders. You can't rush good barbecue anyway. Second, bring some beer or wine since it’s a BYOB. Finally, call ahead for takeout if you don’t want to wait for a table.

Like many of these new artisan barbecue spots, Blue Belly ain't McDonald's McRib cheap. The St. Louis ribs (with 3 sides) cost $16 and the jerk chicken was $11. But, they also don't taste like McRibs so you have pay for the good food and atmosphere. Plus you do get a healthy portion for your money.

Also know that usually when you dine in, your food comes on big brown papered trays, a fun way to eat potentially messy food. We got confused and ended up with to-go containers like you see in the pictures, but still sat at the counter and ate. Our fault.

So, how much did we enjoy Blue Belly? Enough that we were inspired to check out Cochon a few days later for another carnivorous meal. More to come on that visit.

Outside Blue Belly. Don't know that guy.

View from the counter seating

Blue Belly BBQ  on Urbanspoon

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