Tucci's Q American Bar-B-Que
325 NE Russell
Tucci's Q is the new kid on the barbecue block (setting up shop in what was formerly Doris' Café on Russell), yet has shown surprising strength coming out of the gate. The menu, while not all-inclusive, hits a majority of the basics--all at a reasonable price. The service is also friendly and surprisingly snappy (I've seen the skeletons of patrons at some barbecue joints turn to dust waiting for their orders to arrive).
And while these attributes are the foundations of a good Southern restaurant, the holy trinity of barbecue (meat, sauce and sides) are the truest test. For example, Hush Puppies: Little deep-fried balls of cornmeal, infused with onion, corn and sometimes jalapenos--they are God's perfect starch. Tucci's Q swerves off the beaten path with their Pups. While sufficiently corny and oniony, they're constructed using what appears to be a pastry gun, giving them a longer, squiggly (and kinda dirty) appearance. Nevertheless, it's a subtle, delicious taste that is further improved upon with their jalapeno-honey mustard dipping sauce.
Tucci's "Mess O' Greens" was another surprising side, which in most cases would arrive as mustard greens, but showed up at my table as kale. Now, though most right-thinking people despise kale, Tucci's correctly cooks the shit out of it, bringing all the flavor to the top. (Try these with their North Carolina Vinegar to make a good dish even better). Cole slaw is another Southern standard, yet consistently tastes different from joint to joint. Even the slaw in Tucci's varied during the two times I sampled it; one batch was perfectly seasoned and sauced, while the other landed on the dry side. However, both were acceptable examples that were light and subtly sweetened.
The "Bar-B-Que Beans" come in two varieties, both needing work. The "smoky" version (without meat) tasted more like watery pinto beans, and missed the caramelized heft to which I've become accustomed. And while the "meaty" style lived up to its name, the dish was gloopy and thick. But in the words of a very talented chef who excelled in giving backhanded compliments, "It wouldn't choke a horse."
Speaking of meat, Tucci's thoughtfully goes all organic in their selection, and while my Virginia Pulled Pork was a tad on the dry side, the day was saved by the delicious, succulent "Texas Style Beef Brisket." I do not like Texans, and I especially don't like their brisket. However, I loved this dish. A word of warning to the big rib lovers, though--Tucci's serves Baby Back Pork Ribs, which are on the tiny side... but what they lack in girth, they make up for in tender juiciness.
And now I'd like to say a word about "generalists." I dislike them. I dislike them even more than Texans. Ordinarily barbecue restaurants that serve more than two types of sauces (mild and hot) are "generalists" and exhibit a lack of faith in their primary sauce. Though Tucci's serves four types of barbecue sauce (classic, killer, mild, and mustard), all they ever need is the classic, because it is wholly excellent. Rich in tomatoey goodness, with just a slight lingering kick, the classic sauce becomes a fast and long-lasting friend to the meat with which it's served. And if a good barbecue restaurant is represented by its sauce, then Tucci's is a good friend to have around.