Bark City BBQ
1331 N Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217
Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
I recently bought a new pair of jeans. I knew they would fit because I ordered the exact same style I have been wearing for the last couple years. And yet, when I tried them on, they were slightly tight in the legs and a bit snug at the waist. Of course, like all good jeans, they just needed a little breaking in. So, I wore them a few times, washed them, wore them some more, and pretty soon, they were fitting like a glove and destined to be my new favorite pair. Bark City BBQ reminds me of those jeans — new and a bit rough around the edges, but with time, holding tremendous promise.
Pitmaster and owner, Michael Keskin, fired up the Bark City smoker in September of last year, making it one of the most recent additions to the Portland barbecue scene. The menu at Bark City spans a mix of barbecue styles, with nods to Alabama, Texas, and elsewhere. Brisket, ribs, and pulled pork round out the usual suspects. Beer sausage and smoked turkey are more uncommon finds. Michael smokes all these meats over Oregon oak in an offset barrel smoker sequestered away behind the Killingsworth food cart pod.
Like a talented high school quarterback, the barbecue at Bark City is good, but needs a little refinement. For instance, the peppery turkey is juicy and pairs perfectly with the tangy white Alabama barbecue sauce, but the skin has a slight chew where it would be better crisp. Also the brisket, a new addition, is tender and glistening with rendered fat, but the flavor profile is mildly reminiscent of pot roast. No doubt both of these items will improve with time; they are already nearing excellence.
Featured as an occasional special, the beef ribs appeal to your inner hedonist. While they could be more tender, each meaty rib is wrapped in an intensely flavored salt & pepper crust that stands up well to the richness of the beef. The St. Louis cut pork ribs are also delicious, but do need a bit more flavor development in the rub.
The best-in-show award is a tie between the pulled pork and beer sausage. The pulled pork is tender, with a good porky flavor and finishes with a tart vinegar zing. Michael’s house-made beer sausage lives happily with the punchy mustard sauce served on the side. No improvement is needed here, these are both exquisite.
And let’s not forget the sides at Bark City. Each of the carefully crafted sides are some of the best renditions I have encountered. Crisp bits of celery play nicely against tender potato chunks in the perfectly balanced potato salad. The coleslaw is creamy, with a vinegar and mustard bite. If you are fortunate, collard greens will be on special, I’ve had none finer. The pickled avocado is surprisingly good; in turns tart and sweet, it’s the perfect complement to the brisket. Michael clearly understands that good barbecue deserves good sides.
With 18 years experience, a passion for barbecue, and a pedigree that includes Podnah’s, expect good things to come from Michael and Bark City BBQ. Watch out Portland, a new player is making a splash in the barbecue scene and looks to only get better from here.