You know the way one day there were no burrito places in this city and then there were, like, a thousand? We seem to have a knack for pandemic proliferation of restaurant themes (think milkshakes and Bubble Tea) and I wonder if American BBQ is next. We have waited long enough for authentic American BBQ to properly infiltrate our eating out scene and – hurrah! – now we have two BBQ joints on our plate.
Pitt Bros Smoked BBQ Project opened on Georges Street in September. The interior is shack chic – lights made from old bucket and barrel hang from a roof made from salvaged farm palettes. Owners David Stone and Stephen O’Reilly were at a best friend’s wedding in Charleston and found an old school BBQ joint that inspired them to open up their own. “We are a BBQ ‘Project’. In the States there are several different regions for BBQ. We want to give a nod to all of them by introducing various styles in the coming months with the addition of various sauces and using different wood for smoking once we bed down our initial offering.”
The Pitt Bros Bun Combo is FX Buckley sourced pulled pork and shredded beef topped with a crispy onion ring and stuffed into the sweet bun made especially for Pitt Bros by Moore Street’s Paris Bakery. I pair it with some really good fries and it sets me back €12.50. We get brisket in a bun with a side of bone marrow mash (€9.50) and order an extra portion of coleslaw (€3.50). The brisket could be smokier and the coleslaw underwhelms, but we are really into the buns, the fries and the general buzz of the place. There’s craft beer in the house (€5.80 for a BrewDog) and I love the homemade lemonade (€1.50). We avail of our free self-serve ice-cream – thank you to Neon for starting this trend on our shores – and we’re out the door in under 45 minutes for €32.80.
The next night I grab a seat at the Bison Bar & BBQ for some fresh comparison. All in the name of research – oi, my gut! I get my sweet, succulent slices of Irish brisket served with really good slaw and decent fries (€16.45 with a ginger beer). It’s as fast as the night before but the atmosphere is more laid-back. You could say it’s more Texan. “Our owner is an American BBQ fanatic,” the Bison team explain, “and his demand was that Bison had to be authentic Texan every step of the way. We had a Texan in last week and the biggest compliment of all was him saying that Bison was as good as any true Texan BBQ he’s ever had at home.”
The menus at Pitt Bros BBQ and Bison Bar look the same. The brisket, pulled pork, sausage and sides are on both. They both have rolls of kitchen paper towel and squeezy bottles full of homemade sauces on their tables but they’re as different as a Jo’Burger is to a BoBo’s. “Every BBQ place in the States use plastic bottles for their sauces,” David from Pitt Bros tells me. “Kitchen roll is also a mainstay of any good BBQ place. We wanted to be true to the BBQ theme while adding our own touches.”
Scratch the surface and you can see that Pitt Bros and Bison Bar are offering a different BBQ experience. One is where you’ll stop for a good, fast bite to eat on your way to somewhere else. The other is a bar that you might hang out in for the rest of your night.
The Bison Bar team agree that you can’t copyright brisket. “No one has an exclusive right to create BBQ. Competition keeps you on your toes and we’ll always be the first to have brought authentic Texan BBQ to Ireland. It’s easy being the first and only but being the first and best is far more challenging and ultimately far more rewarding and we aren’t interested in sitting on our laurels, we want to build and grow, develop flavour and perfect the process.”
My tray of Bison Bar slices of brisket is better than my Pitt Bros Combo Bun, simply because there is more flavour in the meat. But Bison Bar have been at this a bit longer and I want to see how Pitt Bros develop in the coming months. I love their set-up but I would like to see a bit more depth to the meat inside those tasty buns. Here’s hoping that healthy competition will make them both up their game.
And, seriously, who is going to benefit from that competition? Us, that’s who. Bring on the BBQ battle!
Pitt Bros Smoked BBQ Project
Unit 1 Wicklow House
Bison Bar & BBQ
11 Wellington Quay