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Bread & Brew: Reverend's BBQ slow to catch fire

by: TRIBUNE PHOTOS: JAIME VALDEZ - Reverends BBQ, which recently opened in Sellwood, serves a variety of food including pork spare ribs, the Good Reverend Burger and sliced brisket. One of restaurants specialties is fried chicken. People are fanatical about their barbecue.

Which put Reverend’s BBQ in a tight spot long before it opened.

Would Portland’s newest barbecue joint go for North Carolina, Texas or Kansas City style, or put its own spin on what’s arguably the most subjective — albeit delicious — cuisine in America?

The chef/owners of Reverend’s in Sellwood decided to do both: honor tradition, but do it Portland style.

Two months in, public reaction has been mixed, despite a culinary pedigree that set the bar high for chef/co-owners David Kreifels, Jason Owens and Benjamin Dyer.

The rockstar trio is known for their meat-centric empire, which includes Simpatica Catering Hall, Laurelhurst Market and the casual Hawaiian plate-lunch place Ate-oh-Ate. They also ran the former Viande Meats & Sausage before it was taken over and renamed Chop.

Clearly, these boys know their meat.

So where’s the beef?

Some of the haters say their brisket is too fatty. My advice: skip the brisket sandwich, $11.95, which comes heavily sauced, the meat in chunks rather than shredded. The picallili (pickled onions) and crispy fried onion toppings are just a distraction and the sesame seed bun is just a clumsy vessel.

Go for the barbecue brisket plate, $16.95, instead, if you really want to enjoy the meat.

The long strips of brisket lay across the little tin plates, looking sexy with a thick crusty bark on the outside and lacy pink smoke ring just underneath, just like good barbecue should have.

There’s just a light glaze of sauce, so you can dress it how you like from the trio of squirt-bottle sauces on the table.

An Ozark Mountain spicy sauce is not that spicy, there’s a mustard-based Carolina

Gold sauce, and a vinegar-based sweet sauce that’s kid-friendly but can be a bit cloying.

The Carolina-style chopped barbecue pork shoulder plate came unsauced and too fatty for our taste, but does taste like smoky meat should. A commercial smoker in the kitchen rotates the meats like a ferris wheel.

The pork ribs are lightly glazed and have the perfect bark, the meat tender with the right toothiness.

The fried chicken is Reverend’s calling card, hence the big “fried chicken” sign in the restaurant near the kitchen window. Juicy and boneless, it’s more of an adult chicken strip than classically crispy fried chicken. But it has gained a loyal following at Simpatica and the Laurelhurst Market butcher shop.

The boneless vs. bone-in debate is a heated one; there could be a switch to bone-in breasts soon, which would be even juicier.

The smoked sausage — Louisiana hot link, Montbeliard and Portuguese linguica — is the tried and true stuff from Reverend’s sister shops.

Sandwiches come with one side; plates come with two.

Most of the sides make you sit up and take notice. The collard greens have depth of flavor; the barbecue beans are meaty and chili-like; the creamy potato salad is zesty and zingy.

The steak fries are battered, seasoned and highly addictive. The mac n’ cheese is more like a creamy shell pasta alfredo, topped with barbecue potato chips. Crazy, but it works. The coleslaw is bland and watery, the biggest disappointment.

If you want to pretend you’re eating healthy (you’re at a barbecue joint, who are you kidding?) there are five salads on the menu. The iceberg wedge salad, $7.95, is a hearty choice, the crispy fried onions here providing a nice balance to the blue cheese and house bacon.

The five appetizers are crowd favorites, the beer-battered onion rings, $5.95, an easy pairing for any of the eight beers and four cocktails on draft.

A large U-shaped bar in the middle gives a good happy hour vibe. Two TVs show sports; during World Cup soccer all draft beers are $1 off. A few desserts round out the menu. Handsome artwork and historical Stumptown photos on the walls make the whole experience very ... Portland.

Reverend’s may not have it all figured out yet, but they are a must-hit stop for any barbecue worshiper.

Reverend’s BBQ

Where: 7712 S.E. 13th Ave.

When: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Phone: 503-327-8755

Entrees: dinner, $9 to $17

Website: http://www.reverendsbbq.com