Reverend’s Barbecue: Nice — Not Thrilling, But Nice

By Alisa Sloan, Foodable Contributor

The other night I watched the Johnny Depp version of “The Lone Ranger," knowing full well it had terrible reviews. Here’s the thing: I liked it. It was fun to watch. It was over-the-top, ridiculous, and totally predictable, but thanks to the reviews, I wasn’t expecting much. It was also riddled with recognizable actors, surprisingly clever in spots, and overall, enjoyable. 

That was also my experience with the recently-opened Reverend’s Barbecue in Sellwood. It had most of the typical barbecue fare, a few of the dishes were really good, and overall it was not bad. But is “not bad” good enough?

If you look around the room while you’re there, the answer is a resounding “heck, yes!” The expansive, welcoming room is family-friendly with booths that are perfect for sharing dishes and corralling kids. There’s also a U-shaped bar with high chairs that makes for a kid-free perch. There are three barbecue sauces on each table and a roll of paper towels, so you know it’s going to be a laid-back and hands-on experience. The staff is helpful and friendly and working as a team in that magically non-confusing way, so you know who your server is even though at least three other people have been to your table to pick something up or drop something off.

 
 

The dinner itself wasn’t memorable so much for what we ate, but for how my table reacted to it. Everyone had a “meh” dish and “yay” dish, and the only thing we all agreed on was the deviled eggs. Here’s what we had: A full rack of pork ribs, fried chicken thighs, cole slaw, seasoned fries and deviled eggs. Here’s what we thought: The ribs were dry, but not dry enough to stop us from eating all but three of them. We all liked the deviled eggs and one person said they were “the best in the city,” and the pickled cauliflower garnish was tasty. The slaw was perfectly fine — not memorable, but certainly not offensive, and a fine addition to the meal. The seasoned fries were perfectly fine, too. Again, an unremarkable side dish, but maybe if they’d browned them instead of serving them just “done,” they’d pack more flavor and interest. Mac and cheese (served as shells & cheese) was kind of soupy and bland, but two out of four of us liked the use of shells, which won the mac extra points. (We did all agree that the barbecue potato chips on top were great.) As for the boneless fried-chicken thighs… here I must confess that I think boneless fried chicken is a travesty. However, the fry was crispy and dense, and the meat was juicy. In fact, the first bite was heavenly until we noticed that they spiced the chicken with something jarring, and couldn’t agree on what it was. (Allspice? Cinnamon? Nutmeg? None of those belong in fried chicken — at least not without some indication on the menu.)

To be completely honest, I was the only one at my table who was underwhelmed by all of it as a whole. Everyone had a favorite dish. Perhaps I was expecting too much? Or maybe the bad review I read influenced my palate? Our dining companions walked to Reverend’s from their house with their 2-year-old daughter and this was their third visit, so clearly they don’t share my opinion.

For a neighborhood spot, it’s kind of terrific — it has lovely, big windows that look onto 13th Avenue and a bustling, energetic vibe. And lots of “neighborhood spots” have “just fine” food that doesn’t knock your socks off, but that doesn’t mean you don’t return again and again if you live nearby. I probably won’t be back — unless it’s for the draft cocktails and deviled eggs, but that’s just me. Try it yourself. Form your own opinion. I liked that “terrible” Lone Ranger movie, so what do I know?

Reverend’s Barbecue
7712 SE 13th Ave,
Portland, OR 97202

www.reverendsbbq.com