Remember the barbecue boom? Just a decade ago, your average American didn't know that Texas made the best, and that St. Louis and Memphis were sad imposters. Then, suddenly, everyone wanted slow-smoked and sauceless brisket served with white bread and pickles.
Well, welcome to the bust. After a rash of new openings, Portland has whipsawed to vegan spots. Reo's burned down. They put Darren "Botto" Bottinelli in jail for stealing $3 million to buy cocaine and stays at the Chateau Marmont. The once-elite pitmaster behind Podnah's Pit, our 2011 Restaurant of the Year, let his product drift down into mediocrity.
As the smoke has cleared, we've found there's really only one barbecue spot we're excited about. That's this cart, in the parking lot of H&B Jewelry and Loan between the two Popeyes on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The hand-lettered menu from pitmaster Matt Vicedomini has the same offerings you find elsewhere—brisket, dry-rubbed ribs, pulled pork, sausage—and yet the pulled pork is the only meat on the menu here that you can find done better elsewhere.
The sliced brisket is the showstopper, with thick, smoky black bark and a texture that usually perfectly straddles the line between moist and sloppy. The ribs are taut, with a peppery crust that yields to the tooth in the most satisfying way. Then there's the sausage. The links are made in-house and, in a town with a lot of good sausage, the smoky heat of the jalapeño cheddar is peerless.
Matt's BBQ, 4709 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., 5503-504-0870, facebook.com/mattsbbqpdx. 11 am- 7 pm Wednesday-Sunday, or until sold out. $.
Pro tip: You can try everything with “the whole shebang for two” for just $23. That’s insane. There’s no booze on site, but there’s also no one to bust a discreet BYOBer.