It seems like Salvage BBQ has been around forever, but I realized it hasn’t when I saw that they had won “Best New Restaurant 2014" from the Portland Phoenix.*
We got done with Bear’s pediatrician appointment late in the afternoon the other day, and headed over for an early dinner. It’s a great place to go with a kid. It’s fairly kid-friendly, but isn’t specifically designed for kids and the food is good, so you as a parent don’t feel like you’ve just completely given up and are now eating dinner in a glorified Chuck-E-Cheese.
The space is gigantic, bright, and fairly open, so well-suited to letting your late-afternoon post-pediatrician toddler run amok. You can watch buses driving along Congress St. through the big windows that line the place, which also suits our current interests. And it’s casual enough that you’re not ruining anyone’s fine dining experience or feeling awkward about getting up and walking around while you wait for your food. A small crowd was there to watch the Netherlands/Argentina World Cup game, providing a helpful distraction to any toddler business.
They also have high chairs. Having Bear eat dinner sitting free range on my lap is a recipe for leaving dinner hungry with ruined pants.
We ordered the Cow & Pig: half a pound of brisket, half a pound of pulled pork, along with two sides. And then we ordered two more sides. Dave had a typical panic that we had not ordered enough food, but it was perfect. I know the brisket is supposed to be the standout dish, but I particularly liked the pulled pork, which was tender with a nice smattering of crispy bits, and delightful with the barbeque sauce.
While the meat is good,** I think Salvage shines most with the sides. As Kate pointed out, the mac and cheese is really, really excellent (“I want to swim in it, Scrooge McDuck-style,” which was sadly NOT the quote they decided to print on their menu) and I order it every time. We also picked up the aforementioned corn bread, cole slaw, and hush puppies. The hush puppies are fried cornmeal and jalapeño fritters with a sweet sauce. I made the mistake once of discouraging a group from ordering a large side of hush puppies, and everyone was nice about it, but vaguely unhappy that they didn’t get more hush puppies. They’re just the right amount of spicy. The cole slaw isn’t the glory that is the Eventide slaw (if there is any tangible personal gain to come from this blog, I would like it to be the Eventide slaw recipe. I would really, really like the recipe for that slaw), but it is nicely crunchy and well balanced and fantastic on the pulled pork sandwich. I believe the corn bread is very good, but honestly I had maybe two bites before Bear hoovered it up. He panicked at one point because even though his mouth was so full of cornbread he could barely keep it closed, he could see that there was more cornbread out of reach and made a high pitched whimper until he also had cornbread clutched in each hand.***
I do wish the side of cornbread was bigger, or that I remembered to order more.
Anyway, we had a really nice dinner, and I’m happy for this addition to the restaurant scene.
* I like Salvage, but the best new Portland restaurant of 2014 is Lolita, no question. Of course, Gilbert’s Chowder House won for Best Chowder which throws doubt on the whole enterprise.
** It’s Maine BBQ good. Which is good, and I enjoy it and am glad for it. But it’s not like, Texas BBQ good, or Georgia BBQ good.
*** Re-reading this, I’m struck by how much panic there is over getting enough food here. It’s not like we’re all on starvation diets. No one has been kept from food. There is always plenty to eat. I do not understand.