Squeal Barbecue. Riverbend: 8400 Oak. 504-302-7370.
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 June 2012 21:41
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
The revival of the old Oak Street commercial district has been especially gratifying for the number and range of restaurants that have appeared in those eight blocks. Squeal has brought atmosphere to the scene--literally, with the aromas drifting around from its always-smoking pit. The kitchen is occupied not only with the crucial job of getting the meats smoky and tender, but also with the currently hip imperative of making their own everything from scratch, and with creating entirely new dishes.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The barbecue here is nicely smoked and has a satisfying bark and seasoning.It's a lot better than even the best we had in New Orleans in, say, the 1980s. However, it wouldn't make my top-ten list, mainly because they haven't perfected the difficult art of making meats both smoky and tender. The ribs and pulled pork are the best part of the menu.
Brendan, Patrick and Gene Young opened Squeal in 2008, at a time when the now-raging fire for barbecue around New Orleans was just getting started. Brendan and Patrick came out of the John Besh organization, which explains the ambitiousness of some of the cooking. The brothers took over a nice old structure that has hosted numerous restaurants over the years, notable Asian Cajun Bistro, Zachary's, Constantin's and others.
The building is a large, spacious former residence with high ceilings, creating one large dining room with many large windows. A bar is at the end of the wraparound porch, next to which is a patio. Outdoor tables are available in both areas. A grassy yard feels spacious in the otherwise crammed Oak Street neighborhood. At the corner, inside the fence, is a large, convincing smoke pit.
ESSENTIAL DISHES [»=Recommended]
Smoked pork cakes (like a crab cake)
Black eye pea, bacon, andouille egg rolls
Smoked chicken wings, pepper glaze
Squeal nachos (pulled pork, black beans, jalapenos, cheese
»Jalapeno corn hush puppies
House salad, barbecue vinaigrette
Oak Street salad (greens, cranberries, pecans, pickled carrots, feta, ginger vinaigrette)
»Pulled pork poor boy, cole slaw
»Beef brisket poor boy, cole slaw
Green onion sausage poor boy, cole slaw
»Barbecue pork tacos, horseradish coleslaw, chipotle sauce
Barbecue brisket tacos, cilantro, red onions, hot sauce
Duck, bacon, lettuce and tomato tacos, wasabi mayo
Jerk chicken tacos
»Barbecued St Louis pork ribs
»Hickory smoked pulled pork
»Hickory smoked chicken
Hickory smoked green onion sausage
Squeal pie (pulled pork, corn maque choux, andouille, mashed potatoes, cheddar)
Pork grillades and roasted corn cheese grits
Vegetarian black beans, rice
Cuban-style black beans, cilantro rice
Fresh fish of the day
»Roasted corn cheese grits
»Hand cut fries
Bacon and jalepeno macaroni and cheese
Bacon brownie, cinnamon/sour cream ice cream
»Bread pudding, fresh fruit, cream cheese, ice cream
FOR BEST RESULTS
Ask many questions about the appetizers, and if it sounds good, it probably is. The bar makes excellent, large, and refreshing cocktails.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
While some of the innovative dishes are good, some just seem gimmicky, or an excuse to do something different for its own sake. I have found my teeth inadequate for eating the brisket.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine and Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Medium private room
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
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