Five to Try: BBQ Joints

You can thank the recession. Whether it dials up a visceral need within us to crave down-home comfort food (like ribs at El Camino Real, left) over molecular gastronomy, or it just compels us to throw on jeans and hang out with some friends, this economy seems to have manifested itself in an urge to eat meat with our hands. And as much of it as possible. What are we talking about? Well, it's hard not to notice that perhaps the most consistent pattern to emerge within the restaurant openings of the past two years has been barbecue, and there are still some high-profile BBQ destinations on the way. So strap on your bib, pour the brown liquor and get ready to animalistically tear apart mounds of saucy flesh with your fingers and incisors.

Updated: February 03, 2010

5 to Try

Percy St Barbecue

600 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

The idea is quality over quantity at this fourth project by the duo that partnered on such global gems as Zahav and Xochitl. The menu is tight and quite veggie un-friendly at this Texas pit stop, yet the partners (plus Chef Erin O?Shea) house-smoke the assiduously researched meat to bone-departing perfection, and at this joint, you don't need a passport to travel to one of their culinary landscapes. There's not quite sawdust on the floors but the rustic feel and extensive whiskey assortment takes patrons just about as close as they'll get to road house at any establishment owned by hip Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov.

Smokin' Betty's

116 S 11th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

The menu may say messy meat but the atmosphere says please wash your hands before you touch anything. The feeling of painstakingly polished wood and brass permeates the several rooms on two floors, even when your eyes tell you the actual decor looks otherwise. Situated practically on Jefferson's ?campus,? this might be a good place to pick up the phone number of a cute doctor along with your order of updated Q and craft beer.

El Camino Real Restaurant

1040 N. Second St., Philadelphia, PA 19123

?Texas Border Bar? is the way this Liberties Walk hot spot describes itself, and that's the way it manages to split its menu evenly between Mexico and Texas without causing patrons to question its sense of identity. Items from the side that lost The Alamo are smoked in-house and served sin salsa, so that the flavor of the brisket, pulled pork, beef spare ribs and free-range organic chicken shoots through like a gunslinger on a dusty quest. Between the dozens of tequilas, whiskeys and beers, you might find yourself pledging your allegiance to the kitschy patron saints who rule over the southern side of the menu.

Holy Smoke

473 Leverington Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19128

There's no better way to enjoy homestyle BBQ than with a heaping side of live music, and at this family-friendly and casual Roxborough venue, the music is as important as the food. Chef Keith Taylor, who's spent many years on the road running the mobile kitchen for rock bands, smokes real southern BBQ and shakes in a helping of the spiritual soul food seasoning of his youth. Then he stirs up live jazz and R&B in his Blinkin? Lincoln side room, and the party, as they say, is on.

Q BBQ & Tequila Bar

207 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

There it is: smack in the middle of all the Belgian, Spanish, Japanese and Afghani restaurants in Old City, this unapologetically American temple sashays in with its Southern pride and says, ?Excuse me, Boys, but I think I'll just set up right here to serve an book's worth of thick burgers, fire wings, hickory smoked ribs, Cajun catfish and pulled chicken sandwiches. Don't like it, Guys? Here's a slug of tequila to forget your troubles.?