The menu at H&D BBQ reads like others around town, but despite the huge selection, there's really only one question: How do you want your meat today? A Fred Flintstone-style platter, a sandwich, a burger, a salad (hint: no) — heck, if you asked, I am sure the guys would cheerfully fill a burlap sack with pounds of the stuff. If that's your preference, prices per pound range from $14 (pork, ham, sausage) to $16 (brisket). For anyone wondering what to get me for my birthday, there's a tip somewhere in this paragraph.
Ordering follows the established mold of other 'cue joints, a fabulously convoluted process at times. Take your place in line, tell one chap your meat preference, possibly another will ask for sides and maybe someone else will take payment. At any point, the whole process is liable to degrade into a modern-day rendition of "Who's on First." You'll have to carry your food to a table and clear your leftovers, but fried items will be brought out separately
My personal preference at all my barbecue haunts, including H&D, is to order a plate. At H&D, plates come with two sides and in three sizes: A one-meat plate is $12.99, two-meat is $13.99 and three-meat is $14.99. The trio provides a colossal trayful, which I'd guess is about a pound, easily enough for two meals.
The restaurant offers five meat options: brisket (chopped or sliced), ribs, chicken, ham, pulled pork and sausage. Side dishes ($2.50 à la carte) are comprehensive, with familiar favorites such as barbecue beans, mac and cheese, country-style green beans, loaded mashed potatoes, potato salad and french fries. A number of specialty sides ($3.50 à la carte) bolster the menu and include fried okra, beer battered onion rings, fried pickles and sweet-potato fries.
Sandwiches ($7.99-$8.99) come with a single side; chicken or rib plates ($7.25-$14.99) come with two sides; and chicken wings start at $7.99 for a half-dozen. There also are four hamburgers, beginning with a basic ($7.99) and scaling up to the behemoth Bosatch Burger ($14.50). This teetering Jenga-like construction is a quarter-pound Angus beef burger, topped with ¼-pound brisket, ¼-pound pulled pork, palmetto cheese and fried jalapeños. It's as ridiculous as it is fun to eat and every bit as messy as you might imagine.
So how does all of this taste? Well, much as at other barbecue restaurants, quality is variable, and therein lies the rub — no pun intended. Barbecue is a tricky beast, and timing is everything. Hit the restaurant just as fresh meat comes rolling off the smoker (just before lunch, I was told) and you could be rewarded with some genuinely excellent cooking.
Over three visits taking in lunch and dinner — one where the restaurant had completely sold out by 6 p.m. — ribs ranged from dry to exemplary. Pulled pork was consistently good, but brisket always skewed drier than ideal. Sausage and chicken were fine. There's flavor here, though; from the beautifully pink tinged pork to thick brisket bark, all had that deep, earthy, savory smokiness. Next-day leftovers were gobbled up with glee, but occasionally required a splotch of sauce.
Sides can be a mixed bag. Beer-battered onion rings are some of the best in town, while limp and languid green beans hinted of freezer bag or can. Barbecue beans and coleslaw are run-of-the-mill, but the fried pickles are heavenly — salty and sour with a perfect crunch. Given the kitchen's flair with the fry basket, I would have loved to have sampled the okra, which sadly, like the beer, was not available across all my visits; I'm told both will be available soon.
H&D BBQ is a restaurant still perfecting its art, but there are the bones of a good restaurant. Much like the process of smoking, with time, attention and tender loving care, it could be very good indeed.
Stuart Melling also writes at www.theutahreview.com and www.gastronomicslc.com; he can be found on Twitter @gastronomicslc