There's a freedom in the new. If no one's ever tried something before, it's hard to say if it's being done right or wrong. Finn Bque's, a new Irish BBQ spot — yeah, Irish BBQ! — in Newington benefits from the liberating novelty of its concept. On the surface Irish BBQ is a little like, I don't know, Cuban-Chinese food, Indian pizza, or French-style Mexican; it's not impossible to imagine, but the hybrid is something most of us probably haven't come across yet. I don't remember seeing any slow-smoked ribs on offer on my trip to Ireland. But maybe I didn't get around enough. It was lots of fried fish, pureed peas and black pudding (yum). Peat smoke is a pervasive reality in certain parts of Ireland, so the thought of adding a concentrated smokiness as a flavor element to food could possibly strike some there as overkill. Just guessing.
But this, you'd be right in pointing out, isn't Ireland. And, in fact, there are some surprising affinities between Irish cuisine and culture and barbecue culture. And wedding the world of barbecue to the world of the pub solves one of the great, and maybe underappreciated problems of rib-eating: the beer situation. You no longer have to settle for a can of PBR or a bottle of Genuine Draft, or to consider yourself lucky when you find an Abita or a Lone Star — or, maybe worse, sweet tea in place of brew — while eating your barbecue. Finn Bque's has the beer selection of a proper pub, because it pretty much is a proper pub, except they serve pulled pork. That means the suds selection is more vast and varied. We'll grant the Texans their knowledge of mesquite, but the Irish know beer. The waiters were wearing Irish sports jerseys when we ate at Finn Bque's recently. There was even some fairly rowdy and raw traditional Irish music on the stereo — no cornball Riverdance stuff. The menu even has Gaelic subheadings.
A meal starts with a bread basket that serves as an apt demonstration of the yummy dualities at Finn Bque's. There were slices of sweet cornbread next to slices of Irish soda bread. Or, depending on how you think about where a meal actually starts, it might start with a beer from the bar. We had the tasty — nourishing, almost bready — pints of Long Trail Ale. These we used to wash down the flavorful bowls of chili and colcannon. The smoked-brisket chili was concentrated, thick and with considerably strong flavors of smoke and fire. The colcannon was more lively than many a bowl of potato soup. This was due in part to the confident use of white pepper to give the soup an eye-opening bump.
As you might expect, in addition to its barbecue menu, Finn Bque's also has fish and chips, shepherd's pie, and plenty of corned beef. (There are sides of potato-sausage hash as well as mac-and-cheese.) A plate of corned beef and cabbage was very filling. The corned beef was thick and salty and meaty. Once slathered with the super-tangy mustard, the dish became a vehicle for a bright vinegar blast. Smoked beef brisket had an assertive, but not oppressively overpowering, spice rub on its exterior. The meat was juicy, which isn't always easy to achieve with brisket's long cooking time. In an authentic touch, Finn Bque's offers warm curry-flavored potato chips as a side. (The Irish love curry, and this will strike some as an oddball flavor combo; I loved them.) I augmented my plate with a side of sausage, which might have been a bit wrongheaded. At a certain point the spicy meaty flavors started tasting confused to my palate.
If you pace yourself you might be able to give Finn Bque's desserts featuring oatmeal and Irish cream a try. There are no Moon Pies or RC Colas, but maybe the crowning cross-cultural sweet combo of banana bread pudding would be a fitting end to a meal at Finn Bque's. It might only seem weird because there's little to compare it to.
Would You Like A Pint With That Pulled Pork, Or Some Cornbread With Your Corned Beef?
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