Monday, June 8, 2009

Restaurant Recommendation: Bodean’s

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.

See more reviews at
Bodean's on Urbanspoon


Em said...

When I lived in NYC, a friend and I had a standing, once-monthly BBQ brunch date. We tried many of the BBQ joints in the City. And I have to say, as another transplanted southerner, we found some really darn good options. Daisy May's was awesome. I also highly recommend Dinosaur and Hill Country, although the latter is more of a beef brisket type place. There are also a couple of good places in Brooklyn. All that said, you may still be disappointed, as most if not all have the tomato-based sauce (which I love).
So I usually get my BBQ fix when I'm back in the States and avoid disappointment here. There's a Bodeans just down the road from me Notting Hill, though, so maybe I should give it a shot.

Tara said...

Hi Em. I've always heard good things about Dinosaur in NYC but never had a chance to try it. Good to get another southerner's recommendation! If you get desperate here, give Bodean's a shot. I went in with very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

laissezfare said...

Hey. As a fellow American with a small-to-medium penchant for barbecue (I grew up on the West coast, not in the South), I was also very excited when I first stumbled upon Bodean's. I walked past the one in Westbourne Grove about 1.5 years ago, and a few weeks later went their with some non-American friends and tried to explain the concept of what it was meant to be to them. Overall, the food was quite mixed - with the quality of the meat being pretty good and the sauces/marinades tasty but not 'wow', and the sides leaving quite a bit to desire. I agree with you, both in your principle of not trying new things below a 20 food rating in Zagat :) and that Bodean's deserves about an 18 for food. As you rightly say, it is nice to know you can have a quick-fix for barbecue hunger pangs if and when they occur.

Tara said...

Hello, laissezfare! So good to know about your blog, which looks really interesting. And thanks for your thoughts on Bodean's.

laissezfare said...

No problem - hope you enjoy the blog (once there is actually some content on it!) :)

I just started it about a month ago.

Your site is great - keep up the good work!