2310 decatur st. near washington ave
this is monica pope (from t'afia) & co.’s new restaurant concept. i wanted to love it, but it just missed the mark too many times. the inner loop needed a BBQ joint with table service—a place to dine-out and drink with friends, b/c you know we love our meat in TX. the restaurant is in a great location just a block from the closed-down “pig stand” on the other side of washington. although this place is billed as an ice house, they have a full service bar. i wanted to be impressed, as i could see having many dinners with friends here before heading down washington to the drake for drinks afterwards.
the restaurant itself is sparse. the walls are barren, although they just opened and i’m sure it will be taken care of in time. the seating is arranged with banquettes along the walls and chairs or benches on the other side of the table. there is a great deal of space that is wasted, in my opinion.i dined there with my companion on a saturday night, 8:30-ish. it was a week after it’s opening. the restaurant was full, but we did not have to wait for a table.
we started with the corn “puppies” and chickpea two fry. the corn puppies were a hushpuppy/corn fritter hybrid. it was interesting, but the kitchen chose to serve it with a tartar sauce, which i found strange. the sauce was too overpowering and not complementary to the flavors at all. the chickpea two fry had broccoli florets in it, which again was a bit strange, but the seasoning and crispy texture of the chickpeas was surprisingly delicious.
for dinner, i ordered the texas cross quail which was served on wax paper in a red plastic basket, like the kind your food comes in at dairy queen. the quail was skewered to keep the bacon in place, but it was definitely a knife and fork effort. this was not easily performed on top of the wax paper inside the frail basket. the quail was stuffed with jalapeno cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, and grilled. this would have been much better as an appetizer. it was too rich and there was way too much cheese oozing out to enjoy the taste of the quail. but at a $10 price tag for 2 quail, it was an excellent value.
my friend had the pork ribs, again served in a wax paper lined plastic basket. i understand the kitsch of the basket, with the ribs, it worked better. the “berkshire country pork ribs” were prepared north carolina style in a dry rub and were barely sweet. i enjoyed them this way, although my friend prefers them in a more sweet, wet sauce. the house-made BBQ sauce sit on each table with the salt and pepper shakers. they were bottled in glass hot sauce bottles adorned with handwritten labels. it was more vinegary than i am accustomed to, but the sauce went very well with the dry rub on the ribs.
the two sides we ordered were the most disappointing part of the meal. i ordered the “old school” potato salad, which the menu said had eggs, red pepper, and cornichons. well, i wish the menu would have mentioned mustard, b/c i would have passed it up. well, it was very mustardy. also, i found lots of celery in the salad, but not enough egg and no sign of red pepper or cornichons. overall, the side was very bland and boring. the second side we ordered was the “killer coleslaw,” which was described as containing “colorful cabbage, jicama, and 3 seed dressing.” this slaw had no mayonnaise in it. i am a bit of a traditionalist, but open-minded as well. the slaw just didn’t work. we couldn’t find any jicama in it, or maybe because the slaw dressing was so acidic we couldn’t taste the jicama either. in either case, it is definitely not anything i will be ordering again.
so, i may give the restaurant a few more months to work out the kinks. the service was excellent—no complaints there. the prices are reasonable, especially entree prices. and there are a few other enticing menu items such as the brisket, veggie burger, philly style mac and cheese, and beaver burger (which contains beef and pork in their secret recipe). after all, this is monica pope’s place (which is why i had such high expectations) and she definitely deserves one more chance.