DINING: City Barbecue smoked meats upgrade IUPUI dining options

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Dining - A&E

There should be a plaque at the corner of 10th Street and University Boulevard—kind of like the Four Corners monument. Here, though, instead of noting the point where four states intersect, attention would be paid to the parking lot shared by four fast-food pizza chains.

That typified the sad state of dining affairs in the IUPUI area. Yes, things have gotten better with the addition of a block of eateries on the ground floor of The Avenue development (including Which Wich?, Stacked Pickle and Yats), but even that hasn’t yielded original options.

Given that, I could lament the fact that another chain, City Barbecue (621 W. 11th St, 333-6234), has popped up at IUPUI. But here’s the catch: I like City Barbecue, despite its generic name and the fact that the home office is in Ohio.

ae-dining-citybarbeuce-15col.jpg At lunch, City Barbecue sandwiches are available in a quarter-pound (plus sides) size. (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

The sandwiches ($6.49-$7.49) pile a half-pound of meat on a basic bun, or you can opt for the $8.96 lunch platter, which cuts the sandwich down to a quarter-pound but adds two sides.

In its lunch portion, the pulled pork offered a pile of pleasure, making us want to ditch the fairly generic bun and just fork up the goods. It helps, of course, that the meats are smoked on site and that the open kitchen takes its time. While qualitatively fine, the smoked turkey breast and the beef brisket sandwich seemed a bit stingier. A greater variety of sauces would have been appreciated. Only three were available, with the allegedly spicy one not offering much of a kick. Of course, when the meat is this flavorful, the sauce becomes less important.

Ample side dishes kept us from going hungry. These include a smoky gumbo with rice (which I’d consider for a $5.49/bowl meal if there weren’t so many other temptations) and green beans with bacon—with the usually-just-used-as-an-accent bacon doing almost equal time with the big, flat beans. The hand-dipped hush puppies are fine if you want to share, but overloaded and a bit bland if going solo. There is also hearty corn pudding and other options. Seasonal sides (we took advantage of some refreshing “cucs and onions”) help keep the offerings interesting.

City Barbecue also offers ribs, of course. They’re St. Louis style, which are bigger than the typical baby-backs. The half slab ($11.99) offered a pleasing amount of smoked-meat goodness. These ribs aren’t the falling-off-the-bone variety, but the pork was plenty tender and easy to eat.  

Dessert? Are you serious?

Well, OK. You can skip the banana pudding ($2.29), which was overloaded with Nilla Wafers. Better is the peach cobbler ($3.60), which gets the ratio of sweet crunch to chunky fruit just right.

City Barbecue openly invites new patrons to sample—even if there’s a line waiting behind them. It will give you a second shot at ordering if you don’t like your first choice. Sizable dining rooms—and outdoor seating—avoid the murky atmosphere of other chain barbecue joints. And the lemonade and kettle-brewed sweet tea offer a nice alternative to carbonated sodas. Mix those with a friendly staff and free parking and City Barbecue could become a destination casual lunch spot for downtowners—until one opens closer to the center of town.•

–Lou Harry


Second in a month-long series of just-out-of-downtown dining reviews.


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  1. You are correct that Obamacare requires health insurance policies to include richer benefits and protects patients who get sick. That's what I was getting at when I wrote above, "That’s because Obamacare required insurers to take all customers, regardless of their health status, and also established a floor on how skimpy the benefits paid for by health plans could be." I think it's vital to know exactly how much the essential health benefits are costing over previous policies. Unless we know the cost of the law, we can't do a cost-benefit analysis. Taxes were raised in order to offset a 31% rise in health insurance premiums, an increase that paid for richer benefits. Are those richer benefits worth that much or not? That's the question we need to answer. This study at least gets us started on doing so.

  2. *5 employees per floor. Either way its ridiculous.

  3. Jim, thanks for always ready my stuff and providing thoughtful comments. I am sure that someone more familiar with research design and methods could take issue with Kowalski's study. I thought it was of considerable value, however, because so far we have been crediting Obamacare for all the gains in coverage and all price increases, neither of which is entirely fair. This is at least a rigorous attempt to sort things out. Maybe a quixotic attempt, but it's one of the first ones I've seen try to do it in a sophisticated way.

  4. In addition to rewriting history, the paper (or at least your summary of it) ignores that Obamacare policies now must provide "essential health benefits". Maybe Mr Wall has always been insured in a group plan but even group plans had holes you could drive a truck through, like the Colts defensive line last night. Individual plans were even worse. So, when you come up with a study that factors that in, let me know, otherwise the numbers are garbage.

  5. You guys are absolutely right: Cummins should build a massive 80-story high rise, and give each employee 5 floors. Or, I suppose they could always rent out the top floors if they wanted, since downtown office space is bursting at the seams (http://www.ibj.com/article?articleId=49481).