OK, OK, we must confess we didn’t actually taste the pulled pork at Bubba’s Texas-Style Bar-B-Que & Saloon, which opened last month in Hongqiao — because they didn’t have any. This, as any connoisseur of this countrified cuisine will tell you, is not uncommon. Sometimes barbecue joints will not have everything on their menu available … because it’s not done cooking yet. A pig’s butt needs to spend a decent amount of time in the smoker to get nice and tender. Deal with it. (Or, better yet, call ahead if you have a craving for something in particular. That way you can make sure you aren’t making a wasted trip out to Shanghai suburbia.)
But, honestly, if there is no pulled pork … no problem. We had the Chopped Beef Sandwiches, Beef Brisket and Pork Ribs and they satisfied our cravings just fine, thank you very much. The side dishes are also worth mentioning: the Cole Slaw was perfect and the Burracho Beans with Jalapeno Cornbread, a dish that was new to us, was quite tasty (perhaps because they cook it with beer?). All the meat at Bubba’s is slow-cooked with wood inside a smoker that, we are told, can hold around 300 pounds of meat. Most meat dishes come with two tangy barbecue sauces — one tomato-based and one vinegar-based (in an effort to avoid an uncivil war breaking out between supporters of either sauce style … seriously, such arguments are not uncommon). The sauces are served on the side, because some say that Texas-style barbecue is best served sauceless. (If you are getting the feeling that Americans can be quite particular about their barbecue, you are on to something. There are countless variations, often regional, and the understandable biases that go with them. We don’t claim to be a barbecue expert — we just like how most of it tastes. Of course, we grew up in a part of Pennsylvania that referred to Sloppy Joes as “barbecue” — this would be considered a major party foul, and even blasphemy, in some parts of the South.)
It’s easy to call Bubba’s the best barbecue joint in Shanghai (China even?), because there is really no competition. But the place, we think, would fare well in many parts of the U.S., as well — and that is high praise. Bubba (real name Ken Walker, a native of Austin, Texas) knows what he is doing. He has set up shop out in expatville, a horseshoe’s throw from the Hongqiao Marriott. And, conveniently, smoke from Bubba’s kitchen wafts right up toward the Marriott’s front door. Many a disoriented American businessman have already followed the scent to Bubba’s, and ended up cocooning themselves in a home away from home between meetings and Chinese banquet meals.
The decor is also worth bragging on because it just feels right, with swinging saloon doors and bars on both floors. The design was carried out by Peter Mackey, who is also responsible for the looks of Sasha’s, O’Malleys and Cotton’s. Mackey is British, which may explain why Bubba’s possibly looks too nice for place called Bubba’s. (Bubba likes sports, too, and is trying to figure out how to get College Football games showing on all the flat screen TVs that cover his walls.)
It should be noted that Bubba’s isn’t cheap. A pulled pork sandwich and one side order will run you 75 kuai, and that is one of the cheaper main dishes on the menu, which you can view here. But we have a feeling prices aren’t going to stop Bubba’s from putting asses in the seats — where the hell else are you going to go for Texas barbecue in Shanghai? It should also go without saying that if your significant other doesn’t eat meat, make sure he or she is filled up before you head out to Bubba’s. They do have salads, but they are 50 kuai and meat is what this place does best.
Finally, we still haven’t figured out if Bubba’s location — out in Hongqiao, a 30-kuai cab ride from Shanghaiist headquarters — is a good thing or not. Our waistline seems fine with the idea, but our stomach is screaming nooooooo! Anyone want to carpool?
Bubba’s Texas-Style Bar-B-Que & Saloon, 2262 Hongqiao Lu, next to the Hongqiao Marriott (虹桥路2262，在上海万豪虹桥大酒店旁). Tel: 62422612. Happy Hour every day from 2-8 pm: RMB 20 on all house pours and draft beers, RMB 30 margaritas. View menu.
There is a really long thread about Bubba’s (that we didn’t have time to read) over at Shanghai Expat
Photos from Shanghai Diaries.