Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Bit of Memphis

In Albuquerque?

We learned that since our last visit a new BBQ restaurant opened on Central Avenue out by the University of New Mexico. And it purports to serve real Memphis-style BBQ.

Just what is Memphis BBQ? “…traditional Memphis barbecue is usually smoked pork served in one of two forms: ribs on a slab or pulled. True Memphis smokers…use only the highest quality of meat and let the slow smoking process enhance its natural flavor. This results in pork that is tasty and tender, even without rubs and sauces…. Memphis is probably best known for its dry barbecue…. Ribs are coated with a rub made from ingredients, such as garlic, paprika, onions, cumin, and other spices. They are then cooked in a smoker until they are fall-off-the-bone tender. Typically, dry ribs are served with a sauce on the side…. Memphis barbecue sauce…is usually made with tomatoes, vinegar, and any countless combination of spices. It is generally thin, tangy, and somewhat sweet”

Nearing the saturation point for chiles, rice, and beans, we were hungry for something different, and one noon took ourselves to The Cube. Classes at the University must not have been in session, because I can’t think of any other reason why Chuck and I had virtually the entire cavernous dining room to ourselves.

While there was one very long banquette on one wall, most of the seating was at widely-spaced and utilitarian tables and chairs. While the furniture lacked in aesthetics, I could picture large groups of University students shoving tables together as they gathered for a night of beer and BBQ, while watching the Lobos on the television on the wall.

I am not sure where the name The Cube came from. Is it from the modernistic cube-shaped ceiling light fixtures? Is it from the dimensions of the room which, with its high ceiling, resembles a cube?

The meat menu contains all of the traditional favorites—baby back ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken, and sausage. These, with the exception of the ribs, can be ordered as platters (one or two meats) with two sides or as a sandwich. There are nine hot dog variations, one of which—the Guadalajara Dog wrapped in bacon with chipotle sour cream and pico de gallo—reminded us of a Sonoran Dog without the beans. And there is a half-pound sirloin burger.

I was amazed at the number of side dishes. You could order: baked beans, mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, mashed sweet potatoes topped with butter, 5-cheese mac and cheese, candied yams in maple syrup, potato salad, coleslaw, pasta salad, french fries, chili cheese fries, green chili cheese fries, and collard greens. If BBQ isn’t your thing, you could make a great meal from the sides.

Chuck ordered a two-meat, two-sides platter with pulled pork, sausage, beans (which I also ordered with my meal), and mashed potatoes and gravy. The potatoes were homemade and good and the gravy more
resembled pan drippings or an au jus, but was still tasty. The soupy beans contained bits of shredded meat and were far less sweet than I expected from a place serving Southern-style BBQ. I found that a few squirts of the sweet BBQ sauce that, along with a spicy sauce, sat on each table improved the somewhat flat taste.

The smoked sausage was tasty, but I thought it a bit overcooked. It was with the pulled pork that The Cube excelled. In fact, we have found that most BBQ joints outside of the traditional BBQ hot spots more easily produce good pulled pork that any other form of BBQ. His meat was moist, medium smoky, and had a lot of my favorite pieces—those with the charred bark.

My lunch was the half-slab of baby backs with beans (Yeah, I said I was tired of beans) and mashed sweet potatoes. I am not a sweet potato lover, so I don’t know what possessed me to order them. Am I glad I did. These had been flavored with maple syrup and grated lemon peel, and the latter eased some of the sometimes cloying flavor. I had my choice of ordering the ribs wet (slathered with sauce), dry, or naked. I ordered them dry and then added sauce at the table myself. I would have liked a little bit more meat on the bones, but was pleased that the smoking process had rendered away all of the fat and left the meat moist and tender.

Again, we learned that the Albuquerque food scene is more than enchiladas, chile rellenos, and tacos and give The Cube a solid 4.0 Addie rating.

No comments: