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Night of the Cookers, Baltimore


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The search for decent BBQ in Baltimore is a thankless, soul-crushing endeavor. Night of the Cookers, which opened in one of those "cursed" locations in B-more that seems to have a revolving door policy for restaurants, seems to be the latest in a long line of posers. My visit was a few months ago, so things may have changed by now, but I'm guessing not:

I visited the carry-out annex, next door to the the dining room proper, after ending up on labyrinthine Howard St. while trying to dodge traffic. I'd heard that it had opened, but reviews/opinions were strangely non-existent. Anyway the place bills itself as modern Southern or some such variant, so I warily ordered a rack of ribs. As I did, the gregarious cook/chef excitedly recommended I try his gumbo. Naturally I asked how long a roux he used (I go for the medium chestnut 25 min. flavor), and he replied that he cooks his for TWO HOURS.

Me: Uh, two hours? Just for the roux?"

Him: Yeah, uh, well, uh, you know how roux after you cook it for a while separates?"

Me: Um, yeah (thinking to myself, yeah that's how you know you've fucked it up!)

Him: Yeah well I let that happen a few times and mix it back together.

Ok.... Well you never know, so I ended it there lest I spark a futile, unnecessary exchange, and went home with ribs, gumbo, mac and cheese, and greens.

Here is the gumbo, which logically, if based on a two hour roux should be very dark brown, but instead has a suspicious ruddy tinge (may indicate the presence of tomato, which is of course totally unacceptable):

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The gumbo was oily and lacked depth, and worst of all, perhaps due again to the absurdly long roux cooking time, contained many shards of jagged ash, such as this one:

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In a word, sucky. Even the andouille sausage was mushy and bland - how hard is it to order decent sausage, honestly?

The ribs were disappointing. I should have known better than to order them when I noticed a total lack of smoke in or about the place. I asked another cook what kind of wood they used to smoke the ribs (the menu indicates that they are smoked "low and slow"), and he openly squirmed. In any case, an obvious visual indicator of steamed/baked/boiled ribs is when the meat has retreated dramatically from the bone:

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And then of course there's the absence of a pink smoke ring:

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And finally the lack of any smoke flavor. These ribs were clearly cooked conventionally, probably braised, and the thin, bland sauce was oily, and did nothing to help.

The mac and cheese was actually one of the best retail versions I've ever had, and the greens were slightly above average. I guess I should try a sit down dinner before casting final judgement, but needless to say this does not bode well. Also I have a hard time justifying paying $23 for a plate of fried chicken when I can make a superlative version at home with my trusty pressure cooker.

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Fess up=how many of you had to reread the subtitle?

(When you are "reading" (aka decoding) your brain actually does not read every letter. Instead it sees the whole word together and goes on experience. Since you rarely see the word cookers your brain assumes something different first.)

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