On December 30, I hit Linus' BBQ* with fellow blogger John McCrarey. John and I had recently eaten at Manimal Smoke House, which is known in Itaewon as Linus's competition. Having read a lot about Linus himself, and his Bama-style barbecue, I was expecting great things. I met John at Shenanigans; we hung around a bit there, flirting (poorly) with the young Korean bartender before leaving.
Here's a shot of the entrance, with burly John already on his way in:
We skipped the line by consenting to sit at the bar. The restaurant was pretty full when we got there. As my eyes roved around the bar, I saw this weird collection of disparate elements: Santa (representing Christianity, sort of), plastic pigs (representing Korean folkloric notions of good fortune and prosperity), and of course, the spirits (old Uncle Bacchus?):
There was nowhere to hang our coats, so John just draped his over his barstool; I shrugged and did the same, placing my satchel onto another stool on the assumption that there'd be no other customers wanting to sit at the bar with two large foreigners.
The Linus menu seemed similar to, yet somewhat different from, that of Manimal. John and I finally decided we'd order two platters—brisket and pulled pork—and that we'd share them like the good communists we are. The platters arrived surprisingly fast, but then again, both types of meat had probably spent at least 14 or 15 hours in their respective smokers, so they were doubtless ready to go. Here's a shot of the pulled-pork platter first (click to enlarge):
The sides were "red" coleslaw, three slider buns, and very thin-cut matchstick fries, which proved quite flavorful. The barbecue sauces that came out were okay, but not particularly memorable. The sauces' one claim to fame was that they were faites maison—made on site.
I was mentally comparing this experience with that of going to Famous Dave's Barbecue in northern Virginia. At Famous Dave's, you get a whole trayful of different BBQ sauces, varying not only in spiciness but also in savor and tone. Having only two sauces, albeit homemade, was a mite disappointing. John noted that the "platters" were somewhat skimpy in size; I agreed. Anyway, below is a shot of the brisket platter. Note how unusually fatty the brisket is (for comparison's sake, this is a typical brisket):
John and I ate and talked. A lot is going on in John's life right now, some of which he's blogging about, some of which he isn't. Go over and read if you like.
In the end, I liked the meat: as with Manimal, the folks at Linus know how to handle their smokers. The meat was unquestionably moist and tender, and even though the brisket was more fatty than I normally like, it was delicious, and I'd order it again. I also noticed, on the menu, that one of Linus's sides, fried mac-and-cheese balls, was far less expensive than the average price of sides at Manimal (W5,000 versus W8,000). Overall, however, I think Manimal may have done a better job with its ensemble—flavor, presentation, etc. When we were at Manimal, John had wisely ordered a grilled-chicken side, and I had slaughtered most of the chicken myself (it was damn good). As far as I could tell, Linus wasn't serving anything beaked. The fact that options were limited was disappointing.
Here, finally, is a shot of the bar, with yours truly's ugly face peeking out from among all those myriad bottles.
I should note that Linus himself walked briskly into the place near the end of our meal. John wondered whether he should flag Linus down for me, but I said no. Linus ended up sitting with a group at one of the long tables; I assume he knew the diners. I was tempted to take a photo of Linus, but decided not to act like a star-struck fanboy, especially after Linus's food had proved good, but less than stellar.
I hate to say it, but after having tried pulled pork at both Manimal and Linus' Barbecue... I think I prefer my pulled pork to both restaurants', even though my pork is slow-cooked and not roasted all day in a wood-burning smoker. Go figure.
*I admit to being annoyed by the punctuation. In modern American English, for names ending in "s," the possessive form of the name gets an extra "s," along with the apostrophe. This is not true, however, if you're dealing with an ancient, venerable name ending in "s." Examples:
the Jones's car
Mr. Bliss's cat
Moses' stone tablets
Xerxes' Persian armies
That said, if the marquee says "Linus' Barbecue," then that's how I render it for you. See also the name "Wegmans," a chain store in the US. It's written with no apostrophe at all, like a German possessive. Again, that's how I render it for you, erroneous though it be.