cathead's bbq in soma...revisiting some southern comfort food
Four or so years ago in my search for some resemblance of pulled pork reminiscent of NC I ventured into CatHead's BBQ with a relative open mind and stomach. And while it wasn't exactly what I was looking for, I still enjoyed what I had at the time. I'd hit them up a couple times after that, but it has been a few years since I've been back around. Recently, me and the SO decided to hit up the SOMA StrEat Food Park, but they were having a special private event and, well, seemed like a good chance to get reacquainted with the CatHeads.
They've slightly changed up the menu ordering, though most of the same choices remain. My one complaint about it is there is no specific meat combo plate. You can get one meat with one or two sides and a mini-biscuit. But to get another meat you either order it by the pound as a side or, as we decided to do, just get another plate. Each meat and two sides is going to run you $17, a price that puts it just over the pricey edge for me. Sadly, it's what I've come to expect for the cost of barbecue in the big city.
Here we have Coca-Cola smoked brisket with habanero slaw and dandelion potato salad. Chunks of tender juicy brisket with a nice salty bark crust and just enough smoke to make it interesting and not overwhelming. Though, as for the Coke, yeah, neither one of us could taste it, but it does make for an interesting descriptive title. The sauce was a slightly tangy/sweet tomato mix, close to a Texas or Memphis style. The meat on its own was good enough, so you didn't necessarily need it, but if you want, it does add a different flavor profile for you. They also have a couple of sauces on the table you add to the meat--mustard vinegar, tangy sweet and freakin' hot. If you want to be adventurous, you can also add these sauces to you sides to perk up their flavors.
The potato salad was of a green hue and did have an herby, green onion-ish flavor that we both liked. It is a different take on the classic side. Needed a little black pepper for us, but it was thick and chunky with large bits of potato. It was also served cold, this came in handy with the habanero slaw. It's a vinegar based slaw with shredded purple cabbage, carrots and habanero peppers. And holy craps it was hot. If you are really into the spice--this is the slaw for you. After a few bites I needed the potato salad to cool off my tongue so I could taste things again. That is the big drawback with really hot peppers, they cover the taste of pretty much everything with a burn. If it is your thing, then great, if not, I'd suggest skipping as you be able to taste the flavors of the meat or whatever other side you get. Thus it's tasty meat, hearty potato salad, burning hot slaw. 2 out of 3 for us.
This is slow smoked pulled pork shoulder, collard greens and pimento mac and cheese. The pork seemed different than the last time I was here and had this. There was some kind of reddish sauce pre-mixed in with this and it wasn't just straight off the meat with the sauce drizzled on top like last time. It also veered close to the dry side. I was bummed, I remember it being better last time. This version was underwhelming to say the least. It even looked different. The meat was dark and kind of stringy instead of off white juicy chunks of pork. Too bad.
The sides, however, were definitely a plus. The collard greens were cooked tender and seasoned with vinegar and plenty of black pepper to go around. All very nice and tangy, which hits my flavor spot. Pimento cheese is a particularly Southern spread I remember from my childhood. My dad used to make sandwiches out of it and mom spread it on celery as a party snack. It's basically some form of chopped pimento (the red stuff in olive centers) mixed with mayo, processed cheese and sometimes cream cheese. Me, I thought it was yuck and never really developed a taste for it. These days, I do have a new appreciation for it, but only when used in dishes to sort of Southern them up, like the mac and cheese. I did like this version. Very creamy, a little tang, cheesy, home cooked comfort foody. I do wish it was a tad thicker, but, that's just a minor thing, it was still good. Cheesy mac, vinegary collards, sad pork. 2 out of 3 for us....again.
On a special note, one thing they are known for here are the biscuits. They do one that is as large as a cat's head--their line. Though with plates you only get the small size. If you want the big one it is a $5 up charge. I've only had the small one and it is kind of like a one bite thing and a little small to tell too much about. It's got that flour, dough biscuit taste, but I'd really need more, and with butter, to be a better judge. For me, if you are getting a full plate, I wish it was only $2, maybe $3 upcharge for the large biscuit, since the plates are already at $17. That's the cheap b****rd in me.
Even with the pork disappointment this time, I still like CatHead's. If you don't want pork there is always tasty brisket, chicken, ribs and hot links. And as an added bonus, you can actually eat here with your vegetarian friends should they deign to walk through the door. All the sides here are vegetarian, meaning no bacon in the collards and stuff like that. They could get a plate of all sides if they wanted. Come to think of it, I would totally be down for a plate of just their side dishes. Though, outside of San Francisco, I probably wouldn't tell many folks about that. I mean, I do have my Southern meat pride to think about.