Sunday, April 4, 2010

Perdue's Pulled Pork (With My Own Sauce)

The other day I was asked a question by someone on one of my favorite blogs: if I knew any place around these parts for Carolina-style barbecue. There are many different things that are covered by the title "Carolina" barbecue, but the one thing they all have in common is that pork is the star of the show. The short answer to that question is no, I don't know of any place that I would call classic Carolina-style barbecue. The longer answer is that some places come pretty close to hitting certain aspects of Carolina barbecue... some of the time.

Every once in a while at Robin's you will get a sandwich of chopped pork that is close to perfect, and indeed they call it the "Carolina Chopped Pork Sandwich." Unfortunately, those sandwiches are few and far between. (Their consistency has improved a lot in the last three years, however it's still not enough to guarantee great barbecue.) Zeke's Smokehouse serves chopped pork where greatness is the rule rather than the exception, but then, in a move that frustrates and confounds me every time, they serve the pork on a dense, distracting bun that always tastes a day or two past being fresh. 

The best pork I have consistently had in L.A. County in the last year is from Perdue's. (Bludso's and Big Mista's were every bit Perdue's equal - the latter even surpassing it - but I have only had them each one time.) However, their sauce, while not bad, is nothing special, and they use too much of it. Carolina-style barbecue sauce usually means one of three things: 

1) South Carolina mustard sauce, which is usually some variation of mustard and vinegar. Zeke's has a very good version of this, although I prefer the Big Bob Gibson's mustard sauce for sale at Barbeques Galore. 

2) Eastern North Carolina sauce, which is basically just vinegar and a few spices. Sometimes, like at Baby Blues, it is only cider vinegar and chili flakes. This is my favorite kind of sauce for good pork.

3) Western North Carolina sauce, which, while still not being particularly thick, usually has ketchup and a few more ingredients in it, like brown sugar or Worcestershire sauce. 

So I got an idea: order a pulled pork sandwich at Perdue's and request it with no sauce, so I could add my own. Saturday I mixed up a small container of three things: cider vinegar, chili flakes, and a couple slugs of hot sauce. 

"What are you doing?" Elizabeth asked me. 

"I'm making my own barbecue sauce to take to Perdue's with me," I replied, naively thinking this would make perfect sense to anyone.

"Oh my God, you are a dork."

It was noon on Saturday and I was worried there might be a lot of people at Perdue's and the always-constant wait would be even longer than usual. There was no one there. We would be there about 45 minutes and not a single other person would enter the restaurant. Of course, it still took twenty minutes to get our two sandwiches. But they sat mine down in front of me, with slaw on the sandwich and no sauce, and I had no complaints.

I took a photo of it without sauce, then lifted the bun, doused it with a healthy amount of sauce, and took a bite. It was spectacular. A tender and juicy piece of smoked pork is already sweet enough; it doesn't need a sugary sauce to complement it. A slightly tart, slightly spicy vinegar sauce is perfect, especially when there is a cooling slaw on the sandwich. 

I'm not saying I'm going to do this every time I go to Perdue's, but I'm glad I tried it once. I think my next project should be a trip to Zeke's with a couple slices of white bread (and perhaps this sauce) to alter one of their sandwiches. That could be an even better sandwich than this.


ben wideman said...

Dude, that is a great idea.

I took a group of six there last weekend and it took us almost two hours to get our food.

I hear rumors from someone who lives in that building that Perdue's is behind on their rent and may not last much longer.

It would be a crime to lose a wonderful place like this, but their service is so painfully slow that I certainly see why they are empty on a Saturday afternoon.

PulledPorker said...

Yeah, it's too bad because the food is so good and they are always nice, but they seem completely clueless. I didn't feel the need to write this in the post because the whole "their service is bad" thing has been beaten to death - including by me - but we ordered fries, which we didn't get with our food, so after a couple minutes I asked where they were.

They had forgotten to make them so they said they would - it took 15 minutes to get them. Again, we were the only two people in there (and they were correcting a mistake they made) and it still took 15 minutes to get an order of fries.

Mikey said...

I was complaining that it took me an hour to get my food. It took you almost two hours? That's messed up.

ben wideman said...

The most frustrating thing about it is that the meat has been smoking, so it shouldn't take much time to prepare. The side dishes all take time to make, but again, they should be all pre-made.

What exactly takes them a long time? Plate presentation? It was killing me not to ask that question.

The Thirsty Pig said...

Outstanding post. I agree with Ben, that was a great idea. And its too bad it the rumors are true - I hope Perdue's doesn't close its doors, soon.

When I went, I had the same experience as well. Our wait was a bit long. Yet, it was well worth it.

I didn't know about the three different types of Carolina style bbq. When is your first BBQ class - BBQ 101?

PulledPorker said...

The great thing about BBQ is you never stop learning. There is always someone out there doing something you've never heard nor thought of.

I've been traveling to places like Memphis (for the Memphis in May barbecue competition) and Kansas City and learning about barbecue for several years, and I still wouldn't feel qualified to teach a class on it.

Street said...

You've been to Memphis in May? That's awesome.

PulledPorker said...

Ben - I've been thinking about your question for a while. I think their strength - they're a family run business that knows how to barbecue - is also their weakness. It's too informal. They need someone who can run the POS and expedite the orders, someone who knows how restaurants work. Someone who knows that when a group of six has to wait two hours for their food, they aren't going to be coming back. Someone who knows that when a couple's fries are are forgotten, they need to be made ASAP, not at the same leisurely pace that their sandwiches were made.

I imagine their catering is great when they can plan ahead and know exactly what they need at a certain time for an event (this is just speculation) but the concept of running a restaurant and taking/filling orders on the fly is just overwhelming. People are more than willing to wait 15 or 20 minutes for barbecue (as their sign advises) but when you're talking about 45 minutes, or almost two hours in your case, it just isn't going to fly. You can't get consistent customers if the customers have no idea how long the meal is going to take, if they think 'well, this could take 40 minutes or it could take two hours.'

ben wideman said...

Totally agree. I think you hit the nail on the head.

So how do we fill them in on their current state of affairs before it is their downfall???

PulledPorker said...

I don't have any clue. If they don't already realize this, I'm not sure pointing it out is going to help. If they are doing well then maybe they don't really care. But if that rumor is true and they are struggling, and they still haven't done anything to improve service, then I'm afraid it's a lost cause.

ben wideman said...

Hey man, just saw a blog post about Bonnie B's Smokin on N. Lake Ave. Have you ever been?

PulledPorker said...

No, I have not. I have driven past a couple times but always decided just to go to Perdue's instead. Two things turn me off about the place: no pulled pork sandwich on the menu, and the stock photos they use on their website. Plus, I have heard from someone whose opinion I trust, and he told me it wasn't bad but it was nothing worth checking out. Eventually I will decide for myself, but the last few times I have gone out for barbecue I felt like going with something I know, so I've done Perdue's.