Search This Blog

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Carolina Kitchen, Cooparoo

2009 seemed to be the year of the Tapas. In twenty-ten there just seemed to be bloody Mexican’s (mostly rubbish) popping up everywhere and now, at least hopefully, we’re on the cusp of some kind of Southern BBQ wave. Granted, so far it’s only been the re-invention of The Smoke (formerly Blue Smoke) in New Farm, and now the a cosy little joint in Cooparoo called Carolina Kitchen.
Perhaps it’s not that cosy, though it certainly is little. Yes, it’s in Cooparoo, about a block back of Old Cleveland Rd, on the south-side. It’s on the corner of Noela and Macauley Streets, in what looks to be an old coffee shop. I must say, it wasn’t really what I was expecting, at least from a fit-out perspective; they’ve definitely drawn on the KISS approach to decor, with just three tables to seat four people each, a short bench and a smattering of US-theme prints. The one of Michael Jordon is the only one that comes to mind. Oh, and there was a copy of Jamie’s (Oliver) America Road Trip lying around as well. Most of the Kitchen is right there as well, at least the fryer, grill and an area where everything is plated-up or pack-away for pick-ups.
Anyway, the food. We went there a few weeks ago, me and my girlfriend. Fortunately this predicted “surge” in US-themed dining has come just as my fascination with all things American food-related reaches a crescendo.
A little while ago, maybe 18 months, I chanced across Man Vs Food on TLC (Fox). Actually, I first chanced it in the States a few years ago, but was only since I was afforded more regular viewing that I really got into it.
Perhaps riding off some the success of Bear Grylls and Man Vs Wild, Adam Richman is a chubby New Yorker who traverses the US of A to “take on America’s favourite pig-out spots”. As the name suggests, he versus food. Whether it’s the Suicide Six wings challenge, a two-foot burrito or any number of the outrageous food challenges littering the “great country in the world”. When I was in the States I saw a 110kg timber-cutter from Tasmania fail the Big Texan 72oz Steak challenge in Amarillo TX, and only a few months ago saw this guy, Adam, smash in 27 minutes!
Basically, this show has manifested a fierce obsession with America/Southern-style food – ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, burritos, burgers, onion rings, buffalo wings – everything!
I’ve already been to, and written about The Smoke, so when I came across a review for Carolina Kitchen in the Brisbane Times I soon lined-up a quiet Saturday night to check it out.
Encouraging, when we got there it was all but full, which as I suggested doesn’t take a lot, but there were perhaps a dozen people eating and waiting for take-away. Also encouraging was the well-fed black man, whose face adorns the Carolina Kitchen logo, working feverishly behind the counter preparing meals.
The menu is built around burgers and sandwiches, or hoagies as they’re known. There’s probably four or five of each. Though it wasn’t burgers or hoagies we were after, but ribs and wings. Aunt Lilly Mae’s ribs, as they’re known. Slow cooked in their “own special BBQ sauce” and served with Southern potato salad.
I’ve previously lamented the challenges of finding good ribs, so far it’s really only been Hurricanes in Sydney who have at least reach the same atmosphere as ones I had in America, so it was with optimistic anticipation I ordered a full rack, a dozen buffalo wings for my girlfriend (they’re like her kryptonite!), fries, corn bread and a couple of cokes, or for the modest Saturday night sum of $58.
Luckily we were able to grab one of the red-checked table cloth-clad tables and in 15 minutes our dinner had arrived.
The ribs, pleasingly, were good. They’re tasty, smothered in their special BBQ sauce. Still, they haven’t managed to get the meat to fall off the bone, which according to the Durham, North Carolina episode of Man Vs Food is mandatory for “riiibs, Carolinah riiibs”, and at least in my books, disappointing. Nonetheless, they’re good and certainly worth the trek across town.
The buffalo wings get a similar treatment – you can see the owner tossing them through the sauce in a metal bowl – which is different to how I’ve had them in the past. You also get a blue cheese dipping sauce, mild or hot. The fries have grated cheddar and some sort of salsa on them and are, again, pretty good. As is the corn bread, which I really have no comparison for, but did enjoy thoroughly. In the end, we didn’t get through it all, but were able to take the last few remaining ribs and wings home with us. While we were there we did see a few burgers and hotdogs wheeled out and they all looked pretty good.
Look, it’s nothing fancy, not a “going out for dinner” place, but a great little joint for a casual dinner. It’s neat and tidy, though small and kind of sterile. The people who run it, who I’ve assumed were a father, mother and son ensemble, were friendly, chatty (especially the dad) and helpful. Parking, not an issue, being set back of the main drag.
Check it out. For Brisbane Southern BBQ, 8/10.

Carolina Kitchen on Urbanspoon