by Ian McNulty
Neil McClure grew up in a family that went whole hog for barbecue. In fact, outside his childhood home in Florida the McClures rigged up a barbecue spit using a washing machine motor and the rear axle from a 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia for pig roasts.
“For every family get-together we cooked a whole pig,” McClure says. “My first job was watching the fire.”
After a career in fine-dining restaurants, McClure is back to a grown-up version of that first job. His new Uptown restaurant McClure’s Barbecue opened over the weekend, and he can usually be found in the back tending a smoker full of ribs, brisket, chicken, sausage and the makings for pulled pork.
McClure was a familiar face from Dante’s Kitchen, the Riverbend restaurant where he was a manager for 10 years. That’s also where he started McClure’s Barbecue late in 2011 as a pop-up on days when the restaurant was normally closed. The response to his traditional, “low and slow” approach to barbecue was swift and strong and convinced him to start planning a full time restaurant.
McClure’s Barbecue is a small, fairly spare operation, with a handful of plank tables, counter service and a BYOB policy. The meats are served by weight or by the piece, as plates with sides and as sandwiches on Vietnamese-style pistolettes from the renowned Dong Phuong Bakery.
McClure has an array of six different sauces, which represent different barbecue regions around the South and one hybrid Asian version, which he describes as “a Kansas City sauce with hoisin, soy, some Sambal Oelek and other seasonings.”
During its pop-up run, McClure’s served barbecue and side dishes family style in more-or-less unlimited portions. The restaurant will recreate that service style on Tuesday nights, with a pay-one-price deal (the amount still to be determined).
“We’ll push all the tables together and throw food at people until they cry mercy,” McClure says.
Under its normal schedule, McClure’s Barbecue will serve lunch Wednesday through Sunday, and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, though this week, for its grand opening, that schedule is expanded a bit. McClure’s will be open tonight, Monday, July 29, beginning at 6 p.m. The restaurant will open this Tuesday night as well, though the family-style deal will begin next week, Aug. 6.
4800 Magazine St., (504) 301-2367