it's okay to play with your food

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Barbeque Joint & Locopops

Part 2 in a series on food in the Triangle of North Carolina

I roused myself from a post-coffee cupping nap to join a group of our friends for BBQ and popsicles. Few would disagree: a trip to North Carolina isn't complete without a healthy dose of BBQ, but paletas, aka Mexican popsicles? Apparently, a trip to the Triangle isn't complete without a couple of those either, thanks to a local chain, Locopops.

But first, we stopped for lunch at the Barbeque Joint, a favorite in Chapel Hill. While on the BBQ border, we were still technically in East North Carolina BBQ territory, meaning a vinegar dressing as opposed to a thick tomato-based sauce. And with BBQ, the sides are just as important as the meat. Sydnor recommended the Brussels sprouts, cooked with garlic and bacon. Being the huge Brussels sprouts fan that I am, I ordered them. And a side of mac & cheese. And a pulled pork sandwich.

Can pickles be described as "fresh?" Because if so, these were the freshest pickle slices I've eaten, washed in brine rather than soaked. The BBQ itself was good, though not the best I've ever had. The meat wasn't as tender as I like and while I love vinegar, I'm just more of a West North Carolina BBQ gal. Give me a tangy, sweet red sauce with a bit of kick any day. The sprouts were delicious, as most things with bacon and garlic are, but needed a good mixing to give the vegetables a nice coating of their topping. The mac & cheese was a winner, with a nicely seasoned crust. I didn't sample them, but the fried green tomatoes looked awesome too.

From The Barbeque Joint it was off to Locopops, a local Triangle chain. I visited the first storefront years ago with Samara, just after it opened. The barebones decor, standard for paleterias it seems, didn't trumpet their tasty wares, in flavors like chili chocolate, all homemade with good ingredients. And I'll be honest, it's location, slightly off the beaten path in downtown Durham, neighboring a gun shop, didn't augur great success down the road.

Fast forward four years and Locopops is a foodie destination in the Triangle with four locations, even garnering national attention in a recent Bon Appetit article on the area. Fresh flavors, both juice and cream based, like Plum Black Currant, Tamarind Lemonade, and Thai Rice Pudding, comprise the menu. I sunk my teeth into a Grasshopper: white chocolate with fresh spearmint. It was like eating a refreshing white chocolate bar, cool and invigorating with each fleck of spearmint. If I hadn't just gorged myself on a three-course BBQ feast, I would have gone in for another one. Maybe Cookies and Cream... or Cherry Bergomot Truffle... or Berry Hazelnut... or...or... or...

Next up: a pre-wedding jaunt to the Durham Farmer's Market.


Samara said...

yeah, as far as bbq pork- the meat itself- goes, the Joint is decent but not great. Don't think they cook over actual wood. Their collards are awesome, though, and their banana pudding and sweet potato pie are dreamy. For meat, I think you have to go Allen and Sons, or even the Q Shack. Don't give up on NC bbq just yet!

kitchenplay said...

I'll NEVER give up on BBQ, don't worry. Didn't you take me to the Q Shack back in the day? I think that's the first time I ate hushpuppies.