The defiantly slap-dash U-Licious bbq restaurant has been in my neighborhood (NE Killingsworth and 15th) for a year or so, but until this weekend I hadn't gotten up the backbone to go in. This former mobile home may be a bit intimidating but, we must remind ourselves, great bbq does not and should not come on a silver platter. I'm happy to report that despite an authentically spartan ambience that would pop a new vein in Gordon Ramsay's forehead, the barbecue itself is some of the better stuff on offer. Ribs, chicken, and what are purportedly the best oxtails around are on offer, and on this trip I tried the pork ribs ($3 each) and smoked quarter chicken ($3.75, dark meat only). The generous, meaty spare ribs are mesquite smoked—according to the genial sole proprietor James Harris, dapper in his collared shirt, linen cap, and apron—and feature a deeply browned bark with a solid rub that needs no sauce (though it comes with a sweet, distinctly spicy thin sauce that I, frankly, found quite good). The meat pulls off the rib easily—what you're looking for—and even weeps a little juice when flexed. The chicken was similarly dark, heavily smoked, and cooked medium-well. It was firm but not dry, with a flavorful, rendered skin and more of the same sauce. I'll be back for more of the ribs, and to try the vaunted braised oxtails and greens.
By way of contrast, on the way home I stopped in to another inner-NE bbq establishment (a cart which shall not yet be named), and the slimy "bbq" ribs had apparently been baked in the oven. Caveat emptor: where there is barbecue, there should be smoke. Fingers coated in cowslip and mouth full of dispiriting Kenmore pig, I deposited the heavy clamshell out of reach of the dog, whose palate I respect too much for such things.
More photos (including ribs and chicken) after the jump...
It should be noted that at left is not a miniature smoked cow on white bread, but the dark meat quarter of a delicious smoked chicken.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!