“Southern barbecue is the closest thing we have in the US to Europe’s cheeses; drive a hundred miles and the barbecue changes.”
So says writer John Shelton Reed, author of Barbecue: A Savor the South Cookbook and Cornbread Nation 4: The Best of Southern Food Writing.
The fact that barbecue didn’t even originate in the US certainly didn’t stop it from taking hold, particularly in the deep south, where backyard barbecues, rodeo grills and roadside smokehouses are the norm.
One person who knows this all too well is Dave Anderson, the Chicago-born restaurateur who inherited his father’s innate love for Southern-style grilling. Legend has it that Dave, in search of his own signature flavour, would spend hours, and even days, mixing sauce ingredients and smoking ribs using reconstructed garbage bins loaded with hickory wood.
Today, his namesake barbecue chain, Famous Dave’s, has spread across different cities around the world, including Abu Dhabi, where a second outlet recently opened in Al Wahda Mall.
Living up to its Southern leanings, the restaurant features roadhouse-inspired interiors, with rustic and wooden designs permeating from the walls to the ceiling and the furniture.
But what we’re really eager to find out is if Famous Dave’s proud barbecuing method of methodically slow cooking meat (hand-rubbed with spices and herbs) on smouldering hickory fire lives up to the hype.
With heightened anticipation, we order the Friends Feast, a platter for up to three people comprised of selected favourite menu items.
The slow-cooked beef brisket and char-grilled chicken are tender with a perfect balance of savoury and peppery notes.
The sides – rice, fries and corn muffins – are not merely plate fillers, mind you, as they add extra layers of flavour to complement the grilled meats. The corn muffin is one of the best I’ve tasted in the city.
The highly recommended burnt ends and beef short rib don’t disappoint either. Made from beef brisket pieces, the burnt ends impress with a combination of sweet and spicy, thanks to caramelised onion and jalapeños, paired with a special house sauce.
The highly touted beef short rib is slow-cooked and slathered with spices and glaze, and the meat falls off the bone as you slice through it – amazing. Needless to say, we clear our
plates in no time.
For dessert, we pick another southern speciality: pecan pie. Sweet and loaded with nuts, this shareable treat is highly recommended and best eaten while hot.
With its signature laidback vibe matched with mouth-watering barbecue, Famous Dave’s proves why the south is so notorious for its grills.
Need to know:
Location: Famous Dave’s, Al Wahda Mall, Hazza Bin Zayed Street
We say: Friendly service and delectable barbecue
Cost: AED 299 for up to three people
Opening times: Sat-Wed 11am-midnight, Thu-Fri 11am-1am
Contact: O2 584 6899, famousdaves.ae
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez