Saturday, January 02, 2016

a visit to Linus' Barbecue

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
Linus's Barbecue

Jesus' disciples
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.


  1. I had Linus's BBQ a few years ago at a pop-up in the basement of Magpie's (I think this was before he had an actual restaurant) and enjoyed it. I don't remember the brisket being that fatty, but that would obviously have been a big turn-off for me as well.

    HJ and I were at Manimal early last week, and we stuffed ourselves with raspberry-glazed ribs (something that seems to be relatively new at Manimal, and was quite good) and Andouille sausage. The ribs were part of a platter, so we got potatoes and other sides with it. We waddled home.

    I'd have to visit Linus's again for a comparison, but we are already big fans of Manimal. Like you, though, we do not order the pulled pork there--because, like you, I prefer my own pulled pork (and I would agree that yours is better as well). I think there's something about pulled pork that needs a slow cooker to make it nice and juicy. My ideal pulled pork would probably be meat that has been cold-smoked and then cooked in a slow cooker, for the best of both worlds.

  2. C,

    I think my vote goes to Manimal as well, despite the greater expense. I just went back and compared pulled-pork photos, and I couldn't help noticing that Manimal's pork had a good deal more bark on it.

    Thanks, too for the high compliment re: my pulled pork. The grocery downstairs doesn't sell either shoulder or sirloin, but they do sell tenderloin, which might make for some truly succulent pulled pork, indeed. I do believe I'm going to make some this week with my new slow-cooker.

  3. That would be very interesting, pulled pork done with tenderloin. I wonder if the cut has the integrity to hold up to such long cooking, though--or the flavor to benefit from it.

  4. Charles,

    Good point. I'll likely just cook for a shorter time. I'm not counting on improved taste, but I'm really hoping the tenderloin has an amazing mouth-feel. If that doesn't sound too vulgar.

  5. I do love your food reviews, although I don't understand all the things you say.

  6. Ruth,

    Let me know what I can explain for you, and I'll be happy to explain it.



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