Block & Board
8421 SW Terwilliger Blvd Portland, OR 97219
Rating: 2.5 / 5.0
Local, sustainable, humanely raised; all words that Portland hipster dreams are made of. They also happen to be words that describe the provisions available at Block & Board. Opened by Erick Paulson in the summer of 2015, Block & Board is a butcher shop and eatery that serves up barbecue delicacies alongside a selection of local beer and wine. It is not possible to overstate the emphasis on local at Block & Board. Everything is local; the meat, the beer, the wine, the condiments proudly flanking the front door — everything. Farmers even swoop in like storks from the surrounding area to deliver their precious goods in person. If this were a review on how well Block & Board embraces the philosophy of locally sourced products, they’d get a full 5 points and more. But of course, this is a review of their barbecue offerings.
With so much care and attention paid to sourcing great ingredients, one might expect equally excellent barbecue; but therein lies the dichotomy. The problem stems from a barbecue sauce that zig-zags across everything like a drunken frat boy on his way home from a kegger. Now, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with pre-saucing your barbecue. But if you must sauce, it better be outstanding and broadly appealing. Unfortunately, the house barbecue sauce at Block & Board is the tomatoey sweet one-note variety that detracts from otherwise decent smoked meats.
Case in point; the pork shoulder. Perfectly pulled into chunky morsels, the pork is tender, smoky, and peppered with bark. The pork shoulder is excellent — until the sauce breaks down the door and starts trashing the place. The gloriously meaty baby back ribs follow suit. Think smoky, spicy, and sweet, with meat that slides right off the bone with an effortless tug only to land face first in a pool of tomato paste. Both these items would be much improved sans sauce.
Overcooked and falling to pieces, the only meat with some execution issues is the brisket. Even so, the thinly developed bark and muted flavors could perhaps be pardoned if not for the barbecue sauce dropping a tomato bomb on the brisket. Relegating the sauce to a squirt bottle for use at the diners discretion would be a better choice.
Fortunately, the burnt-end barbecue beans managed to escape the sauce storm because they are outstanding. Piquant chili-pepper lends a spicy balance to the sweet and smoky beans laden with tender burnt-ends. The rest of the sides run middle of the pack, evoking neither intrigue or boredom. However, they are good and make respectable companions to a plate of smoked local meats.
It is unquestioned that Block & Board has procured one of the finest selections of local and responsibly sourced meats available in the Portland area; there are not many places you can obtain a hefty 4-bone slab of beef plate ribs from the farmer down the road. The barbecue is on the North side of decent too, but I’d recommend asking for the sauce on the side and judging for yourself.