Bruce Kalman previews Soulbelly BBQ ahead of the opening of his Arts District

Barbecue is the quintessential American way of cooking. Encourage conviviality and camaraderie with large chunks of smoked meat and bottles of cold beer, a tradition that has been sorely missed as gatherings have shrunk in size over the past year.

Generally, the Weekly He writes about new restaurants after they have been open for a few weeks, to give chefs time to adjust their process. But when we learned that chef Bruce Kalman had a Soulbelly BBQ pop-up at Kitchen at Atomic, a kind of preview of his permanent Main Street restaurant, which is expected to open in the next few months, we did so at the center. for the first Sunday delivery of the barbecue. It did not disappoint.

On the menu board that day were Texas Brisket, St. Louis Pork Ribs, Carolina Pulled Pork, Burnt Tips, and Chipotle Cider Glazed Chicken Thighs – a democratic tour of smoky flavors. That would please any carnivore, regardless of regional allegiance. And it speaks volumes about Kalman’s approach to his craft.

“My guiding philosophy is that it should taste amazing,” says Kalman, James Beard nominee and former The best chef and chopped up competitor. “It’s a chef’s version of regional American barbecue. I’m not going heavy bark, dense smoke ring, dense smoke. … For competition purposes, it must have a certain amount of bark and a certain amount of smoke ring, and many times, that is what people comply with. I’m complying, is it delicious? Is it unctuous? When you cut it, is there a sheen of beautiful melted fat? “

The answer to all of them is a resounding yes. Texas brisket comes out cut into long strips, perfectly smoked, the fat around the edges gives it an addictive crunch. Burnt ends are its thicker and heartier counterpart, glazed and well cooked. St. Louis Pork Ribs have a sweet and tangy glaze, the meat tender but with just enough adhesion to the bone, giving you the satisfaction of cleaning it up.

There’s no raw real estate in pulled pork – pulled meat is good on its own or stuffed into a sandwich. The cider-glazed drumstick is a sticky and tangy affair, one that will also nibble to the bone before licking your fingers clean. Wet wipes are provided, but we do not use them.

And while technique plays an important role in infusing meat with flavor, Kalman says it all starts with the highest quality ingredients. You get your beef and pork from Creekstone Farms of Kansas; the breast is completely natural, without hormones or antibiotics, and the pork is the entire Duroc breed. Turkey, when on the menu, comes from Northern California’s Diestel Family Ranch, known for its high-quality poultry.

Of course, you can’t talk about barbecue without discussing the sides, which tone down the flavor of the meat and sometimes even overshadow it. Kalman says it has a rotation of about 10 sides, and about half is offered each day. The mac and cheese is some of the best in the area, and the chef shows off his learned skills as a chef at Italian restaurants (Union in Pasadena and Knead & Co. Pasta Bar and Market at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles). The cole slaw, collard greens, ranch beans, and green chili and corn cheddar casserole are also exceptional, making us eager to go back and see what else Kalman has in the works.

“My mission from the beginning [was] our sides don’t suck, “says Kalman. “Our sides must be as good, if not better, than the barbecue. There cannot be a space on the menu where something is right. It has to be delicious; It has to be amazing. “

BBQ SOULBELLY ARISE The kitchen at Atomic 927 E. Fremont St., 702-534-3223. Thursday through Friday, from 3 to 11 pm; Saturday-Sunday, noon-midnight.

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