Thursday, May 26, 2005

Smokin Pete's BBQ

I lived in the East End of London in the early nineties. When I looked at the flat I was intrigued by the neighborhood. It was a block off a main road (Bow Road) and in the middle of a bunch of Tower Blocks (i.e. subsidized housing). I later found out that the area was one of those obliterated by German bombing in WWII, hence the "opportunity" for building. In between the main road and my flat was a public walkway and retail corner. Since I didn't have a car, I was pleased to see signs for a baker, greengrocer, butcher, pub and a newsagent. Unfortunately after I moved in, I found that the signs were all of what was left of these establishments - except for the newsagent and pub. Apparently the reason for the continuing existence of the newsagent and pub was that they supplied the three main things needed in London: cigarettes, tabloids and beer.

Now, this wasn't a "High Street" which in England means a strip of heightened commercial activity, and High Streets still thrive today. Instead it was just a little locus of retail that could satisfy a lot of shopping needs. The specialized shops (baker, greengrocer, butcher) probably were driven out of business by the Tesco a few blocks away which could offer things at lower prices, which meant a lot in the economically disadvantaged area I was in. But I missed the opportunity to have a neighborhood baker, butcher etc. to get my daily food. I thought that was one of the perks of living in a cosmopolitan city - you didn't have to depend on a car to get your groceries from an impersonal supermarket chain.

Now I live in Ballard. There is a bakery within walking distance (Larsen's Danish Bakery), a greengrocer (Top Banana at 65th and 15th) and until last year there was a butcher within four blocks of my house, the Butcher Shoppe. We never got in the habit of frequenting them, we would make the trip down there if we needed a special cut or something we didn't get on our weekly shopping trips. They were more expensive than most stores and their hours couldn't compete with the chains of course. But they were part of our community and their family and home was supported by the commerce done in their shop. Where do the profits of Safeway and QFC primarily end up? Not in Ballard. Sure the chains employ people but I posit that the sense of local community is better served when these people look at their boss and owners as being part of their neighborhoods rather than a national corporation. So I am ashamed of not supporting our local Butcher Shoppe.

However, in their place is a new locally owned restaurant - Smokin' Pete's BBQ. It was an ingenious makeover. They hardly did much surface renovation, you can really tell that it used to be a butcher's shop. But you don't go to BBQ places to get all fancy, the sauce tends to dull your patent leather shoes and sparkling painted fingernails and gets on your Rolex. When they opened they pushed the international theme pretty strongly and that must not have been terribly popular because when we visited there wasn't much of a global flavor on the menu.

We walked there on a Friday night and got a table by the front window from where I saw a car mightily attempt, but ultimately fail, to try to kill somebody as they turned the corner from 20th to 65th at 40 or so mph. Unfortunately, no pedestrian or child was there to make his day. Our day was made though by the food. We got the two person combo plate and everything on there was divinely smoked and tender. The brisket was the best, followed by the ribs and chicken. The meat is not dressed with sauce - they are smoked dry. To get your BBQ sauce fix, there are ketchup bottles filled with Hot, Normal, Thai and Carolina Sour sauces. What I ended up with was a mixture of the Hot and Carolina Sour sauces - they were outstanding together. The cornbread, potato salad and greens were very good as well.

Unlike the Butcher Shoppe, they are doing a booming business - I really hope they make it. We will certainly be back often.

3 Cellphones
2 Blue Wigs (!)
2 Hipster
2 Hard Hats

(Very equal opportunity! But geared towards the Yuppie crowd I think)


At 2/11/2007 6:39 PM, Anonymous Helen said...

Love the blog! We live right by you guys (24th and 67th) and have a blog too. Check us out at We'll put you on our blogroll, if you put us on yours.


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