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Friday, September 24, 2010

Revamped Big Nate's Is a Big Disappointment

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 3:23 PM

click to enlarge Big Nate's three-way combination: beef brisket, pulled pork, and ribs. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Big Nate's three-way combination: beef brisket, pulled pork, and ribs.
Big Nate's BBQ recently stepped up its cooking methods and the quality of its meats (Eater reported last May that Fly Bar's Matt Sturm was joining founder Nate Thurmond and a third partner, Chris Cronk). Indeed, when we visited last week for a taste, the friendly counterwoman informed us that the beef brisket, pulled pork, and pork ribs had all been upgraded (though the hot links were not yet being made in house). And the chef manning the barbecue pointed to a a sparkling new stainless steel smoker in the corner.

Encouraged, we ordered a three-way combination ($21). For our two sides, we went with macaroni and cheese (new to the menu) and coleslaw.

Sad to say, we were underwhelmed.

click to enlarge Big Nate's BBQ recently upgraded with new equipment. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Big Nate's BBQ recently upgraded with new equipment.
All three meats were exceedingly dry, as if they'd been kept warm over many hours. The somewhat meaty ribs tasted of smoke at least, and had a crusty bark. But Nate's pulled pork and brisket, both chopped, were bland and tough. A few shots of tangy, tomato-based "hot" barbecue sauce helped, but not nearly enough.

click to enlarge The new mac and cheese: Flavor-challenged. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • The new mac and cheese: Flavor-challenged.
The themes of bland and dry continued with the macaroni and cheese, prominently flecked with pepper, and with undercooked pasta. Our favorite part of the meal by far was the coleslaw, a tart, lightly creamy version that easily succeeded in its charge of cutting the heat from the barbecue sauce and the smokiness, what little there was, from the meat.

Big props to Big Nate's for trying to improve its food, and prices have actually dropped for some items. Still, we'd gladly pay more if the kitchen showed us it knew how to use that shiny new smoker.

Big Nate's BBQ: 1665 Folsom (at 12th St.), 861-4242.

Follow Alex Hochman at @urbanstomach . Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie.

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Alex Hochman

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