Imagine somewhere in Uptown, right in between Oak Lawn and the Arts District, had a gigantic patio, shaded under greenery, full of tables, chairs, ephemera, and a huge covering. You would imagine that place would be absolutely rammed at lunchtime, that to get a table you'd have to know someone, or punch someone, or know someone who you could punch.
This is not the case at Sammy's Bar-B-Q. Sammy's Bar-B-Q, gorgeous patio and all, is the Marie Celeste of urban barbecue.
When I arrived at Sammy's, at prime lunching hour, I figured the place was closed. No one was in the parking lot. Not a soul was in evidence on the gigantic shady delightful patio. Heading inside, down past the necessary and expected huge pile of wood, there's a door that sticks pretty badly which opens into a delightful old-school wooden barbecue place, like a much larger version of the OG Sonny's on Inwood. It felt a bit like I was breaking into someone's house to get food. There are faded signs on the walls, a lunch-line with trays, you know. Typical lunchtime barbecue stuff.
I wanted to like the place. I do, in fact. I like the place. It's a great location, one that's central but because of all the shading and the relatively obscure street feels out of the way. The patio is amazing, and the restaurant itself is "totes adorbz," as the kids probably said once seven years ago and for some reason we still attribute it to them. If this place could serve good barbecue, I could see myself hanging out here a lot.
But that brisket. Flavorless, tough grey strips of lean meat were sliced thin and put on my plate, with chewy caps of fat, and my request for sauce on the side became a request for sauce on the meat. Which, it turns out, was for the best.
Biting the brisket confirmed my fears. It didn't taste of anything. The outside wasn't even blackened with smoke. It was sad to go to a barbecue place and have the meat not taste at all smoky. I could see the smoker. It had smoke coming out of it. Either that or there is a very small and consistent fire at the back of the restaurant; I can't be sure, I guess. The ribs were small, and though the meat came easily off the bone, there wasn't really enough of it to be sure how it tasted. The sausage was generic barbecue sausage -- it could be smoked, it could not be. It could just be the sauce. Who really knows?
The sides were actually great, screaming "home-cooked." The cheesy potato thing was delightfully ramshackle, and tasted like something mom/mum might make, and the zucchini corn bake was excellent in texture and taste, an innovative and interesting barbecue side. These two things were undoubtedly the highlight, unfortunately.
It would have been great if this was an undiscovered gem. There's virtually no press about it. Every time someone asked me about barbecue downtown, I could have been all, "Well, what about Sammy's?" They would have stood, mouths agape, as I told them about the amazing barbecue that they've probably driven past a thousand times. Well, no. I will not be a hero this week.
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