This Memorial Day weekend leave the barbecuing to the pros. It’s the perfect time to check out Bulldog Barbecue, the North Carolina-style ‘cue restaurant of Top Chef season 3 contestant Howie Kleinberg.
If you’re looking for a greasy and gritty barbecue joint, this isn’t it. You won’t smell like smoke when you leave and you won’t be in pain hours after you’ve eaten. Bulldog Barbecue is more like barbecue for city folk — which in my city folk opinion, is not necessarily a bad thing.
The restaurant has the feel of a down-home barbecue spot with some modern elements thrown in. From your table that’s covered in butcher paper you can look into the open kitchen, or sit at the stainless steel bar for a closer look. Drinks are served in mason jars. The food arrives on paper that resembles newsprint. There’s a wall caddy with a roll of paper towels at each table so you don’t have to ask for extra napkins, and two different sauces to add extra flavor.
Bulldog Barbecue is one of those restaurants where your eyes become much bigger than your stomach when you look at the menu. You can’t help but order more than you can actually eat.
To start, try the white chili made with turkey and white beans. If you like chicken wings be sure to order the smokehouse wings, served with a buttermilk-blue cheese dressing. They’re much more moist and fresh-tasting than the wings I’ve had at other restaurants.
The tough choice comes when you’re trying to choose your main dish. With baby back ribs, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket, skirt steak and more, dine with friends so you can share.
Kleinberg’s brisket is a mix between Texas brisket and Jewish brisket. It’s so tender you can cut it with a spoon. Order the brisket on its own or as a slider, which you assemble yourself on a potato roll.
On Top Chef Kleinberg was notorious for cooking pork, which did not always get positive reviews from the judges. Whether you were a fan or wanted Kleinberg to pack his knives and go, you won’t be surprised to see pulled pork on the menu at Bulldog Barbecue — and you’ll be glad to know it’s really tasty. The pork is lightly smoked and served in a tangy vinegar-based sauce.
If you’re in the mood for seafood, try the shrimp and oyster po’ boy. The shrimp and oysters are coated in cornmeal and gently fried so you can actually taste their flavor.
For side dishes, the burnt end beans are truly a guilty pleasure — sweet with pieces of brisket and crispy fried onion strings on top. I also enjoyed the mac and cheese which is thick and creamy. The coleslaw and cornbread were a little dry for my taste.
If you’re not into barbecue there are several salads to choose from (but what’s the fun in that?).
To wash down everything get the homemade lemonade. It’s just the right mix of sour and sweet. The waitstaff are generous with refills, offering you one before your glass is empty.
If for some reason you still have room for dessert, try the s’more pie. It’s a giant serving of rich chocolate cake on a graham cracker crust, with a giant dollop of marshmallow on top that’s toasted with a blow torch. Just a few bites and you’ll feel like you ate enough chocolate for a week!
Prices are on the expensive side for a barbecue place (entrees range from $14 for pulled pork to $22 for skirt steak). If you don’t want to pay that much for barbecue, go to Bulldog’s new happy hour. From 5pm to 8pm, Monday through Friday, you can order sliders for $1 each (a choice of pulled pork, brisket or chicken) and get beer and wine at half price.
If you want to have a barbecue at home without firing up the grill, order the “Bulldog in a Box.” It’s a complete take-out meal for four that includes a choice of meat and a side dish, as well as fresh roasted corn on the cob, coleslaw and corn bread for $50.
Be sure to bring a big appetite to Bulldog Barbecue — you’ll need it. But if you can’t finish all your food at least you can take it home in a doggie bag.
Bulldog Barbecue is located at 15400 Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami. It’s open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, from noon to 10pm. For more information visit bulldog-bbq.com.
Photos of Kleinberg and BBQ platter by Michael Katz.