Queen City BBQ is the newest offering from the Bayou Boys. On the corner of the relatively hidden Artswalk in downtown Allentown, QCB is housed in an eclectic space, with its cowhide seatcovers, modern stone fireplaces, and a wall of frozen drink machines. The music also fell under this eclectic label- that day, it was a mixture of oldies and reggae, which I was digging and definitely led to some chair dancing.
I was very excited to check this place out, because I have generally enjoyed Bayou- both the venue and the food. While I have had a couple of disappointing moments there, Bayou is overall a place I would consistently recommend to people visiting the LV, or to anyone in town looking for a tasty meal.
So we went to QCB. Interestingly, it represented both types of experiences I have had with Bayou- some things were delicious, and some… well, some were frustratingly bad.
The menu is relatively small, which I actually found refreshing. I’m over giant menus that lead to 20 minutes of decision-making. When it comes to the actual barbecue, they offer their meats in varying portion sizes, as well as sandwiched in a bun. We opted to start with the meat pierogies, then made ourselves a meat platter with a half rack of ribs, a mound of pork, and a mound of chicken. When you get a half rack of ribs, it also comes with a portion of your chosen “fixin.” We opted for the potato salad.
Let’s start with the pierogies ($10). To me, these fell on the “delicious” end of our experience. They were filled with mashed potato and small chunks of brisket, then covered in gooey cheese curds and crispy onions. They’re exactly what you would expect, indulgent and unctuous and carby. This is not a “light” appetizer, so be prepared. And I would totally eat it again. However, I do feel like they were slightly overpriced. Unless there is some hidden food cost I can’t see, this dish really shouldn’t be more than $8, given the portion size.
Now we move on to the less pleasant discussion. The meat. Let’s ease in by chatting about the ribs, which were actually quite good. They fell off the bone, had a pleasant smoky flavor, and – well, just look at them:
The $17 did feel a bit steep, however, especially considering the size of the side it comes with (see below). I get it, this is a restaurant in downtown Allentown, you can expect a bit of a markup in this region.
Sadly, the same can most definitely *not* be said for the chicken ($7) and pork ($7). And here is where my frustration lies. See that pink ring on the ribs? That magical sign that smoke has been present? Well, that smoke signal had somehow completely bypassed the pork and chicken. The pork had reached that odd phase where it was wet, yet the texture itself was very dry. It had been lightly dressed with vinegar, which in itself was not unpleasant- I’m generally a fan of acid in barbecue. However, the overall lack of flavor aside from the vinegar was surprising. And again, not a single whiff/taste of smoke to indicate that any actual barbecuing had occurred. It could have been stuck in a crockpot to simmer for 5-6 hours, for all I could taste.
Then there’s the chicken. The chicken that legitimately made me angry. I was angry because they can do better- and they should be better. These guys know how to do food, and the fact that this is what they decide to serve to the Lehigh Valley is just disappointing. What’s the problem with this chicken, you ask? Well, similar to the pork, it is somehow both wet and dry. Most problematic is the complete lack of flavor. No salt, no seasonings, and obviously no flavor of smoke or barbecue. Hell, even a nicely roasted chicken would have more inherent flavor than this pile. It tasted as though the chicken had been cooked in a slow cooker, shredded, and then left to sit in a tub of water. Not even flavored broth, just water. It did, however, provide an excellent sponge for the variety of BBQ sauces that they have on hand:
As noted, the ribs did also come with a side of “tater salad.” The side was fairly tasty, but was in desperate need of salt. Also, I have to wonder if this side is the same size as their normal sides- because they would typically charge $5 for a side of potato salad, and this little ramekin was quite small. I would guess that there was maaaaybe 1/2 of an actual potato in that little container:
The service was good- the server was chipper and helpful, didn’t hover, and didn’t leave us in the lurch. Nothing extraordinary, but perfectly kind and adequate.
Overall, is this place good enough when it comes to barbecue in the Lehigh Valley? Sure. It serves a purpose, and folks online (see Yelp, some TripAdvisor reviews) seem to be on board. And if the Bayou Boys are fine with “good enough,” then so be it. But I think they can and should be more than that, and I hope to return after some time to find bolder flavors.