4709 NE Martin Luther King Junior Blvd, Portland, OR, 97211
Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
Matt Vicedomini decided to focus on the Central Texas style of barbecue at his little cart after a trip down to Austin in 2015. Since then, Matt’s BBQ has been been touted as serving up some of the best barbecue you can find in the Portland area. Known for their amazing brisket and incredible beef ribs, among other barbecue delights, I couldn’t do the Portland BBQ Tour without a stop at Matt’s.
As usual, check out the “Quick & Dirty” section for a quick summary of my visit. Otherwise, see the “Long & Winded” section for a full account of my visit.
The Quick & Dirty
If you are on the hunt for a delicious plate of Texas style barbecue, then look no further. Matt’s BBQ is serving up some of the best smoked meats you can find in the Portland area. At Matt’s, you’ll discover deliciously tender brisket wrapped in a beautiful thick bark. The pork ribs are among the best I’ve ever had and the pork belly burnt ends are smoky little nuggets of joy. Oh yeah, they also have the best beef rib in town. These big meaty beef ribs are a one-way ticket to barbecue heaven, but keep in mind they are only available on the weekends and they sell out fast. While the sides may be nothing special and the pulled pork is average, the rest of the offerings at Matt’s are nothing short of miraculous. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and make a weekend pilgrimage to this shrine of Texas barbecue.
The Long & Winded
Matt’s BBQ is a small baby blue and dingy white trailer claiming a corner of a parking lot on MLK Blvd. Two giant offset barrel smokers flank the right side of the cart and a few picnic tables sit out front where you can park your keister while digging into some Texas style barbecue. There is nothing fancy about this place, nor should there be. It’s everything a low-key, butcher paper and cafeteria tray, barbecue outfit should be. There is a steady stream of hungry customers, even on a chilly 48°F November afternoon, so I eagerly take my place in line, eying those smokers with envy.
The choices are straight-forward at Matt’s. They have basic brisket, pulled pork, or sausage sandwiches. Matt’s also offers a few specialty sandwiches that they pile high with various combinations of their smoked meats. All the meats are also available by the pound or as a plate. The plates come with a couple sides, some sauce, white bread, and house made pickles. The only real menu surprise here are the Tacos — basically some bbq meat on tortillas with guacamole. Of course, I’m here for the barbecue, so I opt for the “Whole Shebang” plate; a smorgasbord of smoked meats, all the sides, some white bread, sauce, and house-made pickles. It usually comes with pulled pork, brisket, a rib, and sausage, but sadly, they are out of sausage. To my delight, the fine gentlemen working the window offer pork belly burnt ends as a substitute. Matt’s also does a beef rib on the weekends, so I throw in one of those too. After ordering the goods, I grab a spot at a picnic table, bouncing in my seat like a kid on his way to Disneyland.
Soon, a tray of BBQ delight lies before me. I try each of the sides first and they aren’t anything to write home about. The beans are tender and have a subtle smokiness, but they are otherwise somewhat bland and nondescript. The coleslaw is similar. I can see a little bit of the bbq rub in there, but the flavor isn’t coming through. They are also a little limp for my taste and lacking a flavor punch. With a sharp vinegary bite, red onion and celery crunch, the potato salad is the highlight of the sides. The barbecue sauce on the side is good too — peppery, spicy, and not too sweet. The house-made pickles, pickled jalapeños and pickled red onions are excellent as well. Of course, sides aren’t the main event, and I can forgive a bland side or two if the barbecue is on point, so I move on to the pork belly burnt ends.
These pork belly burnt ends are literally a smoky bbq candy. Each nugget of joy is nicely charred, has a crispy bark, and a sticky sweet glaze. Sign me up for a bucket of these things, I can’t get enough of these delicious treats. After regaining my composure, I move onto the brisket.
Glistening with rendered fat and wearing a thick dark bark, the brisket looks incredible. Seizing a piece with my hands, it is wonderfully tender and pulls apart with the slightest tug. I take a bite and am instantly transported to barbecue nirvana. The rich smoky meat is perfectly complemented by the thick salt & pepper bark development and the flavor of each tender bite is everything you could hope for. Perhaps my only desire would be for a slightly crisper bark, but this brisket is so good, it is hard to find much to fault. Resisting the urge to order up another pound of the brisket to eat on the spot, I remember I have more barbecue to try and move onto the pork ribs.
Okay, these pork ribs are tasty…like, really tasty. They are incredibly moist and tender with a peppery punch up front and a subtle sweetness sneaking through on the back end. A beautiful smoke ring penetrates deep into the meat. These are among the best dry-rubbed ribs I have ever had. Continuing with the rib theme, I check out the beef rib next.
Now this is a beef rib! Most of the beef ribs I have had on this tour are sparse on meat and flavor, but this rib is a meaty work of art. The rib must weigh at least a pound, has more than an inch of tender beef riding on top of that bone, and is wrapped in an incredible bark. The beef is so tender I could shred it off the bone with a spoon. Taking a bite, I realize I am tasting perhaps the best barbecued meat in my life. The coarse ground pepper and salt rub help cut through all that rich smoky meat and bite after delicious bite sends me into fits of joy. This is the standard by which I shall judge future beef ribs. Pacing myself, I set down the rib and pick up a fork to try the pulled pork.
While juicy and tender, the pulled pork could have used a bit more of the bark pieces in there for flavor. The pork has a subtle smokiness and little hints of sweetness, but is otherwise uneventful. In my opinion, the best way to enjoy this pulled pork is with the white bread, some sauce, pickles, jalapeños, and pickled red onion. The combination of these things make a decent little barbecue sandwich.
Bottom line; there is great barbecue to be had at Matt’s BBQ. In fact, this might be some of the best barbecue you can get in Portland. Matt’s cranks out some quality stuff and you will probably not be disappointed if you make the effort to drop by. While I’ll likely forego the sides next time, I’ll definitely be back for more of that smoky meat paradise. See you there!