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Now that ordering takeout has become a civic duty, it’s time to talk about which foods make the best choice for carryout.
It has to be something that’s difficult to make at home. It must reheat well and provide leftovers for the next day.
Barbecue, I submit, checks off all these boxes, with the added benefit of the extra sauce that comes in handy when you’re transforming your leftovers into a sandwich or taco.
I’m not alone in this opinion, judging by my experience with Mr. Powdrell’s Barbeque on a recent Saturday. When I called to order, the person answering the phone said to give it 25 minutes because the restaurant was unusually busy. It had sold out of both the baby back ribs and the full-size pork ribs.
Fortunately, Mr. Powdrell’s has plenty of other options. The late Pete Powdrell, the restaurant’s founder, drew inspiration for the menu from his roots in Texas and Louisiana. You’ll find the brisket and sausages common to Texas barbecue, along with the catfish and po’boys of Louisiana. The combination has helped make Mr. Powdrell’s an institution in the city. Today there are three locations, including a new outlet at the Sawmill Market, and a thriving catering business.
The Northeast Heights outpost, on Central near Juan Tabo, has the unpretentious veneer you’d expect from a barbecue joint. The block walls are painted rusty red, and the sign in front says, “Since 1870,” a reference to Powdrell’s grandfather, Isaac Britt, creator of the barbecue sauce and the technique for slow-smoking meats. Smoke drifting up from the hardwood fires of the smoker in the back stirs your appetite while you wait in the drive-through line.
You can get the fruits of the smoker in bulk, in a sandwich or as part of a dinner plate with two sides.
The beef brisket dinner plate ($12.95) showcases the fruits of Mr. Powdrell’s slow-cooking approach. The thin, falling-apart-tender slices of brisket piled on a paper tray were far superior to the brisket I’ve had at a couple of notable chains in the area. The sauce, vinegary, slightly sweet and with a burning finish, augments the meat well. It all goes great between quarters of the cornbread pancakes you get on the side.
Potato salad and a creamy, crunchy coleslaw, the customary barbecue sides, were excellent. I especially like the potato salad, with the spuds pulverized into very small pieces. It gives you a better balance between the dressing and the starch.
The half chicken ($6.25) is served cut into three pieces and lacquered with barbecue sauce. The meat had a noticeable hickory-smoked flavor. I liked the leg and thigh better than the white meat of the breast, which was a little dry.
A half-pound portion of beef ribs ($8.50) includes three large ribs with craggy, molasses-colored surfaces. They had a good bark on them and a decent amount of meat. Don’t bother with a knife and fork – go ahead and eat them with your hands.
A piece of sweet potato pie ($2.95) made an excellent finish to the meal. The orange filling, faintly caramel-flavored and much airier than pumpkin pie filling, played well off the flaky crust.
I was reminded of one of the potential pitfalls to takeout when I got home and discovered that the collard greens and black-eyed peas I had ordered and paid for didn’t make it into the bags. Moments after I noticed the missing items, a Powdrell’s staffer called to let me know that the two sides were still at the restaurant. Even though I wasn’t about to drive back for $6 worth of food, the call was appreciated.
Mr. Powdrell’s generous portions more than made up for the missing sides. And the extra cups of barbecue sauce were used to douse the leftovers the next day. It’s one of the benefits of barbecue takeout, and there’s none better in town than Mr. Powdrell’s.
LOCATION: 11301 Central NE, 298-6766, bbqandsoulfoodabq.com
HOURS: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday