As a southerner transplanted to NYC, I always struggled to find good barbecue there (I think I liked Daisy May’s the best), and I never expected to find anything remotely resembling southern barbecue in London. But then, flipping through my London Zagat Guide, I discovered Bodean’s, which is a chain of “American” restaurants serving BBQ and ribs. I looked at the menu online and was intrigued by their offer of a pulled pork sandwich and the mention of a Carolina BBQ sauce (I am from South Carolina, and this combo was a staple food of my childhood). The Zagat’s Guide gives Bodean’s a food rating of 18, which isn’t that exciting (and going there would violate my personal code of never eating at a new place found in Zagat’s with a rating lower than 20). But sometimes you have to take a chance, no? The Zagat, as always, was accurate: I would give Bodean’s an 18 as well.
Here’s the deal: my pulled pork sandwich was excellent, with tender, well-seasoned, smoky meat and a soft bun (I had been fearing a hard, crusty roll), and the “Carolina” sauce—which was not a South Carolina sauce—was vinegary and tasty, but red (I had been craving the mustard-based one). Here’s what the sauce looked like:
Here’s what I grew up with:
My sandwich came with coleslaw (fine but a little watery and I like a finer chop) and onion rings (awful, tasteless, soggy). Dan had ribs that were great, but his sides, too, were disappointing: same coleslaw, uninspiring French Fries (but it was so nice to see them called French Fries rather than chips, for a change). The menu had other southern sides that I’ll have to try next time: creamed corn, mac and cheese, cornbread. And there are tasty sauces other than the Carolina one to pour on your meat: a regular, red, Texas-y kind of a sauce and a chipotle version.
We went to the Tower Hill location early on a Friday night, and there was plenty of room in the basement dining room, which had dim lights and fake red leather banquettes. A bit of a bordello vibe. There’s a takeaway counter and a “deli”—which seems to mean tables where you can eat your takeout—upstairs. I’m thinking they must get a lot of tourists over from the Tower for lunchtime.
But if you’re a tourist, why would you pick barbecue in London? If you live here, however, this is a great place to know about if you need a barbecue fix. Just don’t get too excited about all the trimmings.