[Note: Beale Street has since relocated to Broadway in South Portland.]
Beale Street Barbeque
90 Waterman Drive, South Portland
I love barbeque, the whole process of it, from the procurement of the smoking wood to the satisfaction of biting into the finished product half a day or so later. But that’s backyard barbeque (my backyard, to be exact). My experiences with barbeque restaurants here in the Northeast have not been positive: ribs too dry, rubs too salty, sauces that taste suspiciously like Bull’s-Eye, cornbread that tastes like Jiffy cornbread mix.
A recent trip with friends to Beale Street Barbeque, a South Portland joint in the shadow of the Casco Bay Bridge, revealed some of these same faults, but at least the place was open during its stated hours of operation. (Our first stop that evening was the new AJ’s Smokehouse B.B.Q. on Fore Street, supposedly open Tuesday nights, where we found a locked door and a sign seeking kitchen help.)
The half-slab of slow-smoked ribs ($9.99) was good and smoky, if a bit too dry. Luckily, a big bottle of Beale Street-brand barbeque sauce sat ready to help. This is a good mop-up sauce for most of the barbeque here, which is the dry-rub variety.
The smoked sausage platter ($9.99) had kielbasa-shaped links that the waiter said were actually hot Italian sausages. These were a hit around the table, though I found the links’ soft inner texture curious (smoking generally produces a chewier texture). By contrast, the accompanying rice was hard and the red beans, while edible, were in a bland sauce not unlike the stuff in cans of pork and beans.
The triple BBQ platter ($14.59) consisted of pulled pork, pulled chicken and beef brisket piled on a bun (you can also get this atop jalapeno cornbread), accompanied by a generous helping of well-seasoned shoestring fries and coleslaw (BBQ beans and rice are also side options with this platter).
The brisket was the standout here. It was tender, smoky and flavorful – a little too salty, perhaps, but otherwise perfect. The pulled chicken, by contrast, was dry, flavorless, and clearly not “pulled” off the bone. Pulled pork should practically melt in your mouth, but the pork here was also dry. It tasted old, like yesterday’s batch.
We liked the portion of shredded beef brisket on the platter so much that we ordered the Texas-style brisket entrée ($13.99). The two slabs of brisket were as outstanding as the first portion, but this time the fries were grossly over-seasoned.
A Maine corporation called The Beale Street Grill Inc. operates three Beale Street Barbeques in the state (the others are in Bath and Augusta). Given the size and sophistication of this enterprise, I was surprised by the lack of quality control or consistency.
Again, with barbeque, you’ve gotta love the process. I guess I’ll stick with the backyard variety.
— Mort Viande
Beale Street Barbeque’s winter hours are Mon.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Take out is available, as is a full bar for those eating in. For more info, see mainebbq.com.