3950 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227
Rating: 2.5 / 5.0
Located on Mississippi Ave, the aptly named Miss Delta is popular with the brunch crowd for their chicken & waffles and biscuits & gravy. Since she is a true Southern lady, Miss Delta also offers up a wide selection of traditional barbecue throughout the day. Deep and narrow, with exposed brick walls, rustic wood floors, and a dimly lit array of eclectic lighting, Miss Delta feels more a bar than a restaurant. However, the ambiance is inviting and chalky promises of good barbecue fill the bathroom walls. If only those promises were kept.
On the ladder of Portland barbecue, Miss Delta clings to a middle rung alongside the likes of Reverend’s BBQ. You see, consistency is the problem, with dishes simultaneously hitting highs and lows. For example, the beef rib, a tower of beefy flavor perched upon a giant bone, wants more peppery bite and falls just shy of perfect tender succulence. It is almost everything you want in a smoky beef rib, but leaves you short on satisfaction.
And while the beef rib nearly hits all the right notes, the brisket is playing flat. Here, dryness presides over a slice of muted flavor. The variety of woods used during the cook — a mixed bag of oak, cherry, apple, and sometimes softwoods — muddles the smoky notes. Furthermore, asking for a slice from the brisket point will get you nowhere at this establishment. At least the brisket is tender, perhaps its only redeeming quality.
The inconsistency theme continues with tender pork spare ribs but dry and worn baby backs. A thick, raisiny, barbecue sauce, at the same time spicy and sweet, deliciously blankets both ribs. However, neither variation of rib offers much pork flavor or smokiness, instead serving merely as a meat vehicle for the sauce. It’s also astonishing that a full rack of spare ribs will set you back fifty dollars.
Miss Delta’s sides are hit or miss as well. Perfectly al dente curls swim in a pool of sharp cheddar in this excellent rendition of mac & cheese. The creamed mustard greens, another high point, are a bowl of subtle bitterness, tempered by smooth cream and smoky bacon. But the good news ends with a bowl of shredded cabbage masquerading as coleslaw and cornbread strangely devoid of its corniness.
While, I cannot speak for the rest of the offerings at Miss Delta, the barbecue is unexceptional. Perhaps I’ll come back for the brunch. The bathroom walls claim it’s delicious.