Does new CityPlace barbecue restaurant meet expectations?


Smoky scents now stir from the new barbecue spot on the second floor of CityPlace like a big welcome sign emblazoned on a corner that stood empty for well over a year.

Open since early April, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ has plenty of signs bearing its catchy slogan (“Put some South in yo mouth”), but none are more enticing than the promise of barbecue.

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Last time we dined in this space, it was Decks Fish Market, a seafood spot that closed barely 10 months after it opened. Before that, Taverna Opa operated in the easy-to-miss corner space that overlooks the movie theaters. Both eateries were ignored for the complex’s more popular spots, like City Cellar.

So far, this does not seem to be the case for Brother Jimmy’s, the North Carolina-style barbecue chain that originated in New York City some 27 years ago. One of the chain’s 12 locations, the CityPlace restaurant and bar offers a large, fairly diverse menu of barbecue and Southern favorites.

But at a time when the American palate seems to seek more regional, authentic flavors and interpretations, this eatery offers more mainstream takes. And many of these takes seem lacking in the smoky depth one seeks in real-deal barbecue.

That said, one could make a meal of shared starters, as portions are ample and options are varied. Some are served by the basket or by the bucket. The options include the expected classics, such as spinach-artichoke dip ($11.50) and hot wings ($12, $22). But then there’s also a trio of “BBQ Minis” ($13.25), sliders stuffed with your choice of pulled barbecued chicken or pork (add $1.50 for brisket), a barbecue-inspired quesadilla ($11.75) and “Frickles,” (fried pickles, $9.50, $17.50).

We sampled several Southern classics, including a lackluster pimento cheese dip ($11.75) that only revved up a saltine when a hot pepperoncini was added. Along the faintly flavored lines, an order of hot hush puppies ($8.25, $15.25) took on sweet notes with a dab of maple butter. We did find flavor in the fried green tomatoes ($11.50), nicely acidic beneath a crispy cornmeal crust.

The best starter bite, however, arrived in a paper-lined basket piled high: The Northern style rib tips ($12.50, $22.50) proved smoky and delicious. Basted in Brother Jimmy’s original barbecue sauce (a balanced blend of hickory-smoky and sweet), these were chewy in a good way, boasting plenty of meat on the rib ends. One basket is large enough to be shared by two – for an entrée.

With the portions so generous and the options many, deciding on a main dish here is no easy task. If you’ve overdone it with the appetizers, you might go for a salad or maybe one of the lighter sandwiches. Although, by “lighter” I mean the smoked bologna with mustard-mayo and pickle relish on Texas toast ($14), or the fried green tomato sandwich with pimento cheese on Texas toast ($14). But if you’re craving a big heap of ‘cue, you’ve got some decisions to make.

A good decision would be a platter of Northern style ribs ($23.75). These ribs arrived already basted in that original sauce, unlike the baby back ribs ($23.75) which are dry-rubbed and served with the sauce on the side. And by sauce, I mean a choice of sauces, including original, a more acidic Carolina style, and chipotle flavored.

The popular sliced brisket ($21.50), which is said to be smoked for 14 hours, can be requested lean or marbled. A dining companion requested marbled, but found the meat to be mostly free of fat. She asked a passing manager about it, he told us she had been given the wrong cut. He packed up the lean meat in a to-go box and returned from the kitchen with a stack of properly marbled, tender brisket slices.

Meat in a pile is a theme here. The Carolina pulled pork ($18.50) is a mountain of slow-smoked and shredded pork shoulder, a respectable dish that easily could be shared among three. Once I saw the pile of pulled meat, I realized it didn’t correspond with anything else on the plate. It lacked a vessel, like bread. It might have been a far better sandwich ($13.25) than platter.

That said, because platters are served with a choice of two sides, sweet and crumbly cornbread and briny dill pickles, I got to sample the delicious, slightly spicy barbecue baked beans ($5 if ordered separately),the decadently crispy fried okra ($5) and the tasty collards ($5).

Also decadently crispy: the fried country catfish ($22), a large and fleshy fillet that’s heavily coated in a crisp crust. That fillet is also offered “spiced and griddled” for those who prefer no crust. But the crust worked because the fillet was large. This is a dish I would order again.

But then again the menu offers Nashville hot chicken ($16) and Southern fried chicken ($19), so, who knows?

I do know that if I order Brother Jimmy’s “Ol’ Fashioned Banana Pudding” ($6) again, I will make sure to bring a couple of extra friends. It’s huge. Not overly sweet, it’s a bite that works only when all the elements – vanilla wafer, whipped cream, pudding – are on the spoon. Even still, you’ll need a few extra spoons for sharing.



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