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.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. 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.