Thayer Street has reinvented itself more times than Madonna. With the exit of Skewers and Au Bon Pain in the past two months, we’ve found ourselves with a second Baja’s (???) and Durk’s–a BBQ joint in the former shell of the hookah bar/restaurant/dark alleyway known as Shark Bar. This past weekend, five Brown undergrads put on their bibs, rolled up their sleeves, and took on the task of tasting all the meats Durk’s has to offer. (**Notes: first, you’re welcome for our sacrifice. Second, we only tried half the meats–we’re undergrads, not savages.)
If you are vegan or vegetarian cover your eyes, maybe even log out of your computer for the day–there’s a lot of meat talk coming your way.
Full disclosure: one of the bloggers didn’t eat ribs in public for years for fear that people would laugh at his sauce-smeared face. Now that he has had to run from the shower to his dorm room naked because he forgot his towel, what does he really have left to lose? The ribs were one of the more satisfying meats we tried. There is something to be said about just ripping meat off the bone, y’know? Let’s just go with a few different adjectives that sound good in front of the word “ribs”: “tender,” “smoked,” “slow-cooked.” Yeah, that works. When paired with Durk’s house barbeque sauce, these babies were incredible.
In the same way that Buddy the Elf has maple syrup as a food group, pulled pork is undeniably a stalwart food group for us. Our faces glazed-over as we watched one Durk’s employee chop pork while we waited in line. The pork was tasty, but it didn’t have the same impact as the other meats.
However, after deciding that Durk’s was the best thing to happen to Thayer Street since…I’m not exactly sure what, one blogger headed back the next day for lunch. That’s right folks, one blogger went to Durk’s twice in less than 24 hours because of this post. For lunch, however, was the Dirty Durk, a sandwich with pulled pork and their house sausage. The sandwich was amazing: the spice of the sausage, combined with the tenderness of the pulled pork, the crunch of the onion. Lesson learned: if you want pulled pork, you have got to go with the Dirty Durk.
Ahhhh, we have finally arrived at the namesake for our bracket: the brisket. First off: when was the last time you had Brisket while on meal plan? (Just play along and say “never.”) The brisket was the juiciest, most tender meat we had on the platter. There is something so comfortable and conventional about brisket, too. It is what it is. Unlike the ribs or pulled pork, there’s no games, no gimmicks. It’s just straight-up brisket. With the barbeque sauce, it was *to die for.* Moreover, even though we chose the lean meat option, the brisket had just the right amount of fat to make you feel ~naughty~, but also like you’re treating yourself right, because y’know, your body’s a temple.
The Final Ranking:
1st Place: Brisket
2nd Place: Ribs
3rd Place: Pulled Pork
Okay, yeah, we get it: it’s a barbeque place. But high key, the real competition went down with the sides. Durk’s has a pretty wide array of choices, so we narrowed it down to three: brussel sprouts, mac & cheese, and pinto beans.
When deciding our sides, one blogger sheepishly chimed in: “what about…brussel sprouts?” In her voice was a sense of self-doubt–the kind which anticipates people to bash the idea immediately. Little did we know the sprouts would end up being the best dish at Durk’s. If you’re a vegetables fan, these are for you. If you don’t like vegetables, these brussel sprouts are also for you. The sprouts were like the Totino’s pizza rolls of vegetables–bite-sized, full of flavor, and none of us really know how they were prepared. We ultimately decided that the secret ingredient must be vinegar. Yes, vinegar! It gave the brussel sprouts a fun, zing-y taste like you’re eating salt and vinegar chips (without that regrettable burn + regret after you consumed a whole bag by yourself). Trust us, they are worth it.
Mac & Cheese
Mac & Cheese is one of the best measures of any restaurant. If you can’t put the effort in for a good mac & cheese, then how can we trust you with anything else? Clearly Durk’s got the memo on this. The cheese was just thick (thicc?) enough, and the addition of jalapenos gave it a ton of flavor. Nice work.
The cornbread may have been the biggest disappointment of the night. We were all very excited for the cornbread. Very excited. We probably shouldn’t have been as excited we were, because our expectations were a bit too high. The cornbread was delicious, with a slab of butter on top and a drizzle of what we think was honey. However, the price of the cornbread was just too expensive for how small of a portion it was. (Maybe it’s also because we split it 5 ways?)
Before visiting Durk’s we had heard the most noise about the pinto beans. There is certainly a reason for this: the beans were prepared more tex-mex than anything else we had. Just like everything at Durk’s, it was seasoned to holy-hell perfection. Worth it.
The final ranking:
1st Place: Brussel sprouts
2nd Place: Mac & cheese
3rd Place: Pinto beans
4th Place: Cornbread
*Extra dessert round*
Three of us split a small slice of pecan pie. It was, indeed, delicious. We all collectively decided splitting one piece of pie was a dumb idea.
If you’re sick of the constant cycle of burritos-sandwiches-falafel, rinse and repeat on Thayer, Durk’s is the place for you. If you’re a fan of protein, well this is obviously the place for you. Be advised, vegetarian and vegan friends may not have the best time at this joint, so steer clear if meat isn’t your thing. But if you’re a fan of BBQ, Durk’s is a welcome addition to the Brown community.