Bitterroot Barbecue: Best New Restaurant 2012

This year’s batch of Best New Restaurants adds new depth to our lively, layered restaurant scene.
Allison Austin Scheff  |   November 2012   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Bitterroot’s Cowboy Killer: enough rich and delicious ribs and sides for two…or more

Food snobs will tell you that Seattle simply does not have good bagels, good Indian food (see page 116), a real Jewish deli or good barbecue. If you, like us, want to challenge these assertions, give Ballard’s newcomer Bitterroot a try. Owner Grant Carter, who owns the place with his wife, Hannah, cooks his ribs ($16–$29) to the perfect point at which they require the tiniest tug to come from the bone. They’re tender and smoky, with a barbecue glaze that’s sweet and a little spicy. Brisket surrenders to the fork after a long, slow smoke that renders the fat right into the meat. And oh my, the sides! The baked beans ($3) are sensational: meaty, thick, rich and delicious. Deeply satisfying cheese grits ($3), a good, tangy slaw ($3)—all remarkably good here.

Still too skeptical to try the barbecue, so sure that it’ll fall short of “authentic”? Order yourself the burger, a pink-centered sensation topped with a mess-making combo of bacon, blue cheese and sweet sautéed onions all on a chewy Tall Grass Bakery pretzel roll (which is also used in the tasty assortment of pulled pork and chicken sandwiches). All of this is offered up in a rough-hewn but small front dining room (where kids are welcome), or at the busy bar down a long, slim hallway in the very back, where a few dozen whiskeys are poured into shot glasses and cocktails. Will Bitterroot settle the good-barbecue debate? It might—especially if everyone agrees not to talk with their mouths full.

You should know: Eating with fingers encouraged; the serving of macaroni and cheese is enormous and can feed the whole table; bar service can be gruff; expect bar crowds on weekends; no reservations; happy hour is weekdays, 3–6 p.m. Get directions.