They're definitely not smiling after Pat's done with them, but I defy anyone else to visit this down-to-earth eatery and come away without a glow of satisfied contentment. Pat's puts on an excellent Southern-style spread, from the ribs to the red beans and rice, with a friendly and gritty ambience and, on most nights and some days, bluesy live music to eat by.
Pat's appears to be housed in a former industrial building of some kind, judging by the cinder blocks, the garage door that forms one wall of the lobby and the location. It's been spruced up, of course, with bright wall colors showing off bluesy art prints, but I think the blue-collar location gives the place a fresh, unconcerned authenticity as does the excellent food.
We sat at one of the picnic tables lining the long, narrow main dining room (there's another, larger room in the back if you're willing to pay a little extra to see that night's band performance), on which sat baskets of shelled peanuts and plastic utensils packaged with napkins.
Nearby was a cooler of water surrounded by cups and a metal tub of ice. It doesn't get more casual than this, and that's a plus when you're having a meal that you can't resist passing around from person to person.
For starters, there was the chicken, unbelievably tender and juicy, and the pork ribs, which my husband had in a combination plate. They're just a bit sweet, with a thin, peppery coating that emphasizes the meat's flavors rather than masking them. I'm not a huge fan of ribs, but these were great.
Then there was my enormous plate, a half-pound each of pulled pork and beef brisket. The pork was wonderful, lean and moist, herbed and smoky and fork-tender. I think I'll have it in a sandwich next time.
The brisket, sliced into long, thin strips, was chewy and just plain beefy, subtly seasoned to bring out its dark flavors. Some months ago I incurred the righteous ire of real barbecue cooks when I wrote that I preferred Dutch oven brisket to the barbecued kind (they pointed out that preparing brisket in a Dutch oven turns it into a pot roast, while good barbecuing treats the meat as it is). Pat's brisket could make me change my mind and coming from a Dutch-oven-loving native Utahn, that's saying something.
Then there were the sides, and not a bum choice among them. Indeed, the cooks at Pat's seem to have lavished the same loving, expert attention on their accompaniments as they do on their meat. The kids loved the chunky herbed mashed potatoes in mild gravy, and my husband loved his sweet and peppery baked beans, cooked to creamy tenderness with bits of meat. The red beans and rice were stew-like, slow-cooked and studded with chunks of spicy andouille sausage. We also had cool, sweet and butter-yellow potato salad and golden, crisp and tangy cole slaw with a spicy kick. I can't decide which one was best, and I can't wait to go back on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday to sample Pat's jambalaya.
There's no dessert, but that's no big loss for a meal like this. Just pick up some ice cream on the way home, like we did. Or sit back and let those sweet blues fill you up, instead.
Pork ribs $4-$23.50; combination plates $15.50; chicken $9.50-$11; sandwiches $11; sides $3; jambalaya $3.50 (served Wednesday-Friday only).
Rating: *** 1/2
Where: 155 W. Commonwealth Ave. (2125 South)
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday, 4-8 p.m.
Payment: Checks, credit cards accepted
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News.
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