DINING: City Barbecue smoked meats upgrade IUPUI dining options

September 7, 2013

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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