Hankerin' for some good 'cue? Pete's is your place
Special to The Seattle Times
Smokin' Pete's is the kind of joint that has you at hello. Its incomparable smoky aromas compel you from the parking lot; a big case of rich desserts — Key lime pie, cranberry bread pudding, chocolate lava cake, turtle cheesecake, you know, detestable stuff like that — greets you at the door like a guilty conscience.
Inside it's color-splashed and warm as a big fat wedge of sweet-potato pie, which, surprise surprise, they also have. Indeed, Smokin' Pete's seems to have just about everything a person might crave, which is not the least of its charms. The tag line is "regional American and International BBQ," so the menu includes such unlikely bedfellows as crispy Peking-style BBQ duck with plum sauce and Asian slaw, beer-battered catfish po-boy with a side of dirty rice, and good ol' BBQ ribs with cole slaw, corn bread and your choice of hot or original sauce. (The original was plenty feisty and flavorful for this tenderfoot.)
You order at the counter and they make it hot to order, which means you may wait awhile. (You may wait even longer than awhile, as I did for two items that never would have materialized had I not reminded the guy at the counter.)
But will the wait be worth it? Where the meats are concerned — absolutely. Beef — all herbivorous, hormone-free Painted Hills Farm beef — is tender and masterfully suffused with smoke. Sandwiches — sausage hero, chicken salad, roasted turkey, burger and a pulled pork number they call a Slow Joe — can generally be counted on, as can the mains: brisket plate, Slow Joe plate.
The sides are bland and far from memorable. Perhaps, in this age of Atkins, a temptation-free piece of cornbread is just the thing. Still, even hardened carnivores want their cowboy beans, mac 'n' cheese, potato salad, dirty rice and cornbread to offer some complementary verve. Pete's do not.
Wines, beers, and softer selections (Kempers, Tazo Teas, Sobes, Nantucket Nectars and San Pellegrino Limonata, to name a few off the thoughtful list) need no improvement, and neither, to my chagrin, do desserts.
Brisket sandwich: Now this is brisket: juicy, moist, lean and supremely flavorful, piled hugely inside a very capable hoagie roll that soaked up sauce on command but still held up masterfully to its load. The aromatic barbecue sauce, regular octane, still shot a little smoke out my ears. It came with one side order, for which I ill-advisedly chose the boring cowboy beans. (Next time I'll go with either the collard greens, with bacon and tomato, or the escarole/kale/onion mix they call Seattle greens.)
Crispy BBQ duck: Divine Peking duck, crispy on the outside and blissful within, concealed no less spectacular flavors than one might pick up out of a Chinatown International District storefront window. It would have been better with the promised plum sauce, which was inexplicably AWOL, but I played around with the festival of accoutrements at my table — Carolina Sour, chipotle Tabasco, spicy-sweet Thai sauce — and still had far more fun than lunch should allow. With it came Asian slaw, which was undetectable from regular cole slaw. (In retrospect ... I think it was regular cole slaw.)
Cornbread: A square of this grainy cake will not be to everyone's liking, having been crafted of sweet potatoes in addition to corn, but I appreciated its savory rusticity (which would go very nicely with the BBQ'd ribs)
Potato salad: As bland as mom's but not nearly so tasty, this potato salad was crafted of nice red-skinned spuds but forgotten after that.
Cranberry bread pudding: Straight out of the fridge case came this dense chunk of sweet potato bread pudding, whose texture had rubberized a bit in the fridge but whose flavors sang sweet caramelly harmonies to my taste buds. Embedded craisins were a nice grace note, as was the cranberry sauce ladled over the top.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Brisket sandwich $7.25
Cowboy beans $2.00
Crispy BBQ duck $6.95
Sweet Potato Cornbread $1.00
Potato salad $2.00
Cranberry Bread pudding $2.95
Kathryn Robinson: firstname.lastname@example.org
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