Recent years have seen a crop of these restaurants pop up in London, and a few imitators here in the North have followed suit. Man vs. Food has a lot to answer for. We will no longer accept a piece of chicken in barbecue sauce and some floppy fries. We want smokey brisket, home made cornbread and lashings of chunky slaw. We want it big. We demand that our dining experience feels a bit like an ordeal, and if we don't get a t-shirt at the end, at the very least we want a nod of approval from the waiter.
A couple of months ago I was nonchalantly browsing Twitter when there it was. A retweet from San Fran brewing maestros, Anchor. Some chap in Leeds had tweeted a picture of his Anchor Steam beer whilst tucking into what looked like a big piece of heaven. He was at Red's True Barbecue in Leeds. Funny that we're only an hour away yet I hear about Red's via somewhere I went via a twelve hour flight.
It was our friend Vicki's birthday in February, and she needed (very) little persuasion to take a trip to Leeds in order to worship at the hallowed Red's. Our luck being as it is, the original trip had to be postponed as Vicki and Wayne were stranded in Berlin airport! Not to worry though, it was rearranged toot-sweet.
So yesterday was the day. Off we trot. I have learned that attempting to pig myself on an empty stomach is futile, so I had a hot cross bun before we left. By about eleven thirty, all the bun's powers had worn off and I was hungry like the wolf. There was no sign of life outside the restaurant, but I had been warned by some of the cake clubbing Leeds residents to get there early. Ten minutes later and the queue was snaking round the block!
The menu is quite large, and I would recommend having a look at it before you go. We were a little overcome by the choice! The husbands almost forgot to look at the food entirely, as they studied the craft beer menu. I won't go into too much detail about this, but beer fans will appreciate that they have Brewdog Punk IPA, Anchor Brekles Brown, Porter and Steam, and Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA. There are more, but that's a pretty healthy selection from some of the most popular craft brewers.
Vicki had some magnificent cocktails, including a Golden Margarita which arrived in a glass flask full of smoke. I'm pretty sure Snape would have been thrilled to bits. Even their home made lemonade is amazing. It was just the right amount of sweet to sour, brilliantly fizzy (many are flat as pancakes) and had a bit of honey in too. I was a big fan of these!
The wings were huge! My husband pinched one and managed to give himself a 'wing smile'. Yep, he had hot sauce pretty much from ear to ear. Like some sort of barbecue gangster had got at him. The pickles were still tangy and crisp inside their batter overcoat, the jerky was smoky, chewy and intensely barbecue flavoured and the rib ends were just out of this world. Soft bits of pork mixed with burnt or chewy bits of meat covered in sauce. I had to physically stop myself from eating more!
I'm not sure I have words within me to describe how good these mains were. Between us we had the pulled pork and slaw, Texas hot links (spicy beef and pork sausages), the beef long ribs and the pulled pork/beef brisket combo. Sooo much food.
I had the pulled pork and slaw and opted for sweet potato fries and home made cornbread. The pulled pork was crackers. None of this slow cooked pork with sauce chucked over it malarky! The pork was packed with that barbecue flavour, came served with cubed chunks of crackling and a tangy slaw. The cornbread and fries were at the top of their game too.
The sausage was spicy with a bit of smokiness, the brisket was moist and the ribs were utterly outstanding. The meat just dropped off the bone. Two of my favourite dishes were actually the sides. The macaroni cheese and baked beans were two of the finest items I have ever eaten. These will take some beating!
Our waiter dropped off some menus and allowed us a little time to decide, although he was waxing lyrical about the chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. A few minutes later, one of the waitresses came over and was equally as excited about the same dish... Hmmm... I hate peanut butter, but Wayne and Vicki ordered it (thus completing my plan to steal some of theirs...). Paddy and I had the caramel apple pecan pie with toffee ice cream. Just in case you didn't know how greedy I am before you read this, I also ordered a 'Red's Ultimate Shake' - a mix of ice cream, the above mentioned pie and milk chocolate fudge. It should have killed me.
Wow wee. These desserts were (in the words of Larry) pretty pretty good! Words fail me. How they make pastry like that, I have no idea. It was almost caramelised. My mouth is watering just looking at the pictures. Oh and considering I hate peanut butter, they were right. That cheesecake is the best I have ever eaten. That good.
We loved Red's True Barbecue. It's the most enjoyable meal we've had out in quite some time. It's also worth mentioning that the staff are utterly brilliant. Attentive, friendly, knowledgeable and genuinely excited about the food they serve. They encourage their own families to come and try the things they love too, which reassures me that they believe in what they are serving.
If you live nearby and haven't been, you're missing out sonny! If you are a little further afield, go on a day trip. You can't book for smaller parties, but if you get there about fifteen minutes before opening you'll be just fine. Worth a detour.