The food choices in the Blue Dome/Brady/Greenwood districts seem to grow larger every month.
A new watering hole or place to eat pops up faster than weeds in my overgrown yard, but what the area has been lacking is arguably the most "Oklahoma" of all cuisine: barbecue. Lovers of smoked meats can now quench their carnivorous hunger at the recently opened Back Alley Blues and BBQ, 116 S. Elgin Ave., a joint that looks great and also serves up tasty Memphis style barbecue.
The most surprising thing about the success of Back Alley is why in the world it took this long for a barbecue place to open in that part of Tulsa. Its success is a no-brainer. Expect competing smokers churning out the pleasant odor of wood-smoke across the brick and concrete cityscape soon. There's nothing quite as refreshing as walking down an urban street and getting hit with a whiff of a wood-burning smoker full of meat.
Back Alley Blues and BBQ is the latest installment of the growing Blue Dome empire of cool places from the Blake Ewing collective. Other businesses in his entrepreneurial include Joe Momma's Pizza and The Maxx Retropub. Back Alley Blues and BBQ fits nicely into the similar aesthetic that combines thoughtful design and food. Back Alley Blues and BBQ looks hipper than any roadside shack it is emulating with bright storage containers doubling as walls, painted guitars hung from exposed brick and colorful graffiti murals.
The place looks good, but how does the food taste? Specializing in Memphis style barbecue -- the short explanation means dry rubs and a thinner, vinegar based sauce instead of the thicker, sweet sauce that gets smothered onto our meats here in Oklahoma -- Back Alley Blues and BBQ provides all the classic choices from pulled pork to "beer can" chicken.
Meat can be purchased by the pound or bought as a sandwich or plate. Sandwiches are under $7.95 for pork, brisket and the terrifically named "Back Alley Beat Down."
I couldn't resist the "Beat Down," a meat overload with chopped brisket, pulled pork and a hot link. I poured the house sauce, a super-thin liquid with a bit of heat, over the sandwich and discovered a curious soaking relationship between meat and sauce. I liked that. A lot. The individual qualities of different meats can sometimes get lost in these multi-meat creations, so I had a plain pulled pork sandwich on another visit and liked it more than the "Beat Down" due to its simplicity. It's hard to top a pulled pork sandwich drenched in a tart, semi-spicy sauce. There's a more typical sauce offered from Head Country if you don't want to try the house sauce, but I've got mixed feelings about ANY barbecue restaurant offering up someone else's sauce instead of their own. Not sure about that choice.
The dry rub ribs come in half-slab, full slab or by the pound. I split a half-slab with two sides ($12.95) and as my dining partner Greg and I attempted to pull apart the ribs, we got to witness the gorgeous sight of pork literally coming off the bone. Ahh, life is so good sometimes. What I always enjoy about the Memphis-style rib is that the sauceless dry rub lets the meat do the talking. There's no confusion in my mouth in the battle between meat versus sauce, there's just the wonderfully tender, smoky rib meat flavored by the rub and the hours it's spent slowly cooking. If I want a little juice to add to it, I'll dip it in the sauce and then lick it from my fingers.
Back Alley Blues and BBQ gave away a few thousand dollars in a recipe competition for a couple of sides and a dessert, but the results of these were hit and miss. Of the sides I preferred the baked beans and the deviled egg potato salad (with a nice twist on the summer staple by adding small slivers of brisket. When in doubt -- always add meat.). The thin, hand-battered onion rings would have risen to greatness had the seasoning not overwhelmed my love for the perfect mix of fried batter and onions in ring form.
My favorite thing I ate at Back Alley Blues and BBQ had no meat in it at all. The peach cobbler was another recipe winner, and it has just rocketed to the top of my favorite dessert in Tulsa. Nothing beats peach cobbler in the hellish heat of summer and this version comes with a dollop of vanilla ice cream next to a warm, gooey, swirling mix of peach and dough. What takes this cobbler to another level is the sweet, crunchy nuggets of sugar fused with cinnamon that are scattered throughout the dish. Did I mention that life is so good sometimes?
Service at Back Alley Blues and BBQ was friendly, helpful and attentive on both of my visits. There are two entrances to the restaurant, one on Elgin and an actual alley entrance that lives up to the restaurant name. People entering from the alley might not be addressed and seated as promptly as those entering off of Elgin, but I kind of like the idea of a place called "back alley" actually having an alley entrance.
Share this article: