Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Durham's Picnic hits and misses

I'd been meaning to try Picnic, a fairly new barbecue restaurant in Durham, but I hadn't gotten around to it.  After reading Greg Cox's recent review of the place, though, I made a point of getting a variety of take-out items for a recent UFC gathering at home.

I'd love to be able to report that I agree with Cox, but I don't.  What I sampled ranged from excellent to mediocre to weak.

To be fair, before I dive into specifics, I must note that this was a take-out meal, so I wasn't tasting the food under optimum conditions.  I picked up the many styrofoam containers on a busy Saturday night, which might also have caused some troubles.  Nonetheless, I've done the same from other local barbecue joints, notably Bullock's, with better overall results.

The star of the show by far was the pork barbecue.  Everyone who tasted it liked it, and to my palate it's one of the very best local versions of this NC classic.  So rich and moist and flavorful that it didn't need sauce, I would (and will) go back to Picnic for this dish alone.

The other meat we tried, the fried chicken, was a favorite of Cox's but a very weak sister on my plate.  On the dry side and with breading that had still visible flour--a clear kitchen misstep--the plates of fried white chicken meat bombed overall.  I also hate that no dark meat was available.  I'm hoping we just caught a bad batch, but had I not read Cox's review, I would never try the chicken again.

The sides and accompaniments ranged from straight-from-the-bag (the buns; nothing home-baked here), to okay but no better (the pimento mac and cheese, which I had expected to be better), to solid (baked beans), and even to unexpectedly good (the simple but perfect slaw, not a normal favorite of mine).  The hush puppies were a huge disappointment, bland and dry even when we ate a few right at the restaurant.  We threw out most of them, a rare occurrence in our house.

With so many other great barbecue places dotting the local landscape, Picnic needs to raise its game considerably if it wants more of my business.

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