The topic of Barbeque and its authenticity can be divisive. Opinions can be hardwired, and proponents of any of the regional American types can be ridigly territorial. While Memphis, Texas, Kansas City or Carolinas are the agreed upon American BBQ regions/styles, within each of those there are more bloodlines and more variations to exhaust. Meat of choice, wood of choice, famous dish and sauce style are only the beginning in the list of variables to argue over. But let’s get together on this: Podnah’s Pit is bomb.
Podnah’s is pure Texas, which means the meat of choice is beef, and oak the predominant wood. The famous dish is brisket, that Mt. Everest of barbequeland, and, well, Podnah’s ought to make a Texas pitmaster proud. The beef is cooked to the point where the edges have a light, crispy, smoky bark. There is just the right amount of fat, which melts into the meat, giving it flavor without being overwhelming.
The great thing about Podnah’s Pit is that, while the standard barbeque meat offerings are solid, the menu is very well rounded and you can eat really well even if you are vegetarian! I strongly recommend starting the Podnah’s experience out with the cold Iceberg Wedge Salad, with croutons, scallions and bacon. Podnah’s also has a meal-worthy Texas Cobb salad with pico de gallo, bacon, blue cheese, green onion, avocado, egg and brisket! As for other appetizers or first courses, you could also order Frito Pie, Texas Red Chili, or Chips and Salsa, but I think the salad is the perfect counterpoint beginning to a barbeque meal.
Next, I’d order a few links for the table to share. My husband declared this the best sausage he’d ever eaten. I concur. Cheesy grits are the perfect side to share if you’re at Podnah’s for brunch.
For main dishes, besides brisket, Podnah’s Pit smokes other cuts of beef (PRIME. RIB.); chicken, pork (ribs, shoulder, loin and links); lamb (ribs, shoulder) and trout. If you order a plate of meat, it comes with your choice of two sides (corn bread, collard greens, potato salad, cole slaw, beans, or black eyed pea salad). There are daily rotating dinner specials which include fried chicken on Wednesdays, lamb on Thursdays and fried catfish on Fridays. Interestingly, some of my favorite main courses have been the seafood based dishes: the fried catfish and the smoked trout. The smoked trout is a particularly good choice if you want to eat a little lighter.
For brunch, you can get your brisket on again, but Podnah’s also brings some Tex-Mex/Latino flavors up to bat with Migas, Breakfast Tacos, Huevos Rancheros, and Chilaquiles. The chorizo breakfast tacos are body melting and will feed a small army.
Two brunch specials we’ve had are the smoked pork loin and the chicken fried steak. Both were outstanding and the portions were very generous. At Podnah’s Pit they are expert deep fryers. The batter for both the catfish and the chicken fried steak were incredibly crispy, substantial without being cloyingly heavy or gummy, and not greasy one bit. One brunch special we didn’t have but will very soon, is the deep fried brisket tamales. I’m still mentally preparing for them.
Sides even get a special treatment, usually in the form of a gratineed vegetable, such as this broccoli gratin (pictured below) and the cauliflower gratin I had with my trout.
But my favorite side is the basket of biscuits.
If you are a fan of sandwiches, Podnah’s Pit has three great choices, a sliced brisket, a chopped brisket, and their nod to the Carolinas pulled pork masterpiece. I can’t really tell you how good this pulled pork sandwich was, especially with the mustard-vinegar based sauce drizzled on top. The pork had wonderfully contrasting bites of velvety unctuousness, and burnt endy-ness.
Now, let’s talk about Podnah’s dessert. I ate the best slice of pie outside of my mother’s and my own home here. True story! Podnah’s Pit Pecan Pie is a must-have. The second and only other dessert offering at Podnah’s is that strangely comforting, and also definitely worth ordering, banana pudding, with whipped cream and ‘nilla wafers.
Podnah’s Pit is located in Northeast Portland, a few miles away from downtown Portland proper and the nearby restaurant-heavy neighborhoods. They’ve got a friendly, old-soul vibe and the food is absolutely first rate. If you think only good Texas barbeque can only be had, well, in Texas . . . . I challenge you to go here for a meal and tell me you haven’t changed your mind. The best times to go are during the week before noon for lunch or before 6 p.m. for dinner, and on the weekends before 11 a.m. for brunch. Bring your appetite and bring friends, so you can order lots of different items from the menu and get a taste of each of them.
Podnah’s Pit BBQ, 1625f NE Killingsworth Ave., Portland, OR 97211 // (503) 281-3700