Here are a dozen places to visit in Downtown/Strip District, East End, South Side and South Hills for the best tacos in Pittsburgh.
Fun fact I learned this weekend: turkeys have ribs.
That might seem evident to anyone else, but I'm simply not up on my avian anatomy, although I should know this, as I annually scavenge the carcasses of holiday turkeys at family feasts like one of the Bumpus' hounds in "A Christmas Story." Instead, I've gone through 36.5 oblivious years, having never fully considered the chest cavity of the Meleagris gallovapo. That is until I found myself practically sucking the sinew off the turkey ribs in my takeout order from Showcase BBQ.
A Homewood institution for more than a decade under the direction of pitmaster Drew Allen, you can smell the smoke wisps of charcoal, smoldering cherry wood and cooking meat from a block away. Thick plumes waft out from a pair of gargantuan black grills that look like tanks on the side of the building, the wood chips soaking in a bucket on the sidewalk. And after a winter as evil as Keyser Soze that wouldn't end, until one day -- poof! Just like that, it was gone -- the sight of men grilling in spring weather was downright life-affirming.
Plus, I'm visiting Austin, Texas, soon, which I'm told is home to some of the finest pits on the planet. So I went to Showcase to -- bad pun ahead! -- bone-up on barbecue and increase my ingestion tolerance without breaking into the meat sweats. I had lunch there on a Saturday, got takeout with my mom on a Sunday, and an early dinner on Tuesday. It's been my own gluttony training camp, and I've had some of nearly everything they serve.
That includes those turkey ribs, which as it turns out aren't actually ribs (foiled again!), but rather the meat around and bone of the scapula, that when cut and processed resemble a rib. Ribs, shoulders -- whatever. Either way, they were an absolute revelation: perfectly meaty and juicy, absorptive of all of the smoky 'cue flavor, and went well with both the house mild sauce and the (very) spicy sauce. And for the record, turkeys do have small, but not fully formed rib cages.
The pork ribs were, as expected, delicious and fresh off the grill. I was told by an employee they'll typically make 100 full racks a day, with juicy meat that mostly fell apart on contact, although I did catch a few that were slightly overdone. However, those few were easily remedied with the aforementioned house mild sauce -- a thick, delicious mustard-based concoction with peppery notes that I slurped down with such gusto that I had to wash my face to get it out of my beard when I was done.
The chicken wings were likewise tasty, although a tad skimpy in size.
Ordering at Showcase can be a bit of a process for the uninitiated. You do so at a narrow counter that quickly gets tight during a rush, and the menu itself takes a little time to navigate as there are myriad (and tempting) permutations of the quantities of pork, chicken and turkey and several side dishes that can vary in availability.
Speaking of the sides, my mother made a meal out of them alone. Her favorites were the baked beans; cooked with a little bit of ground beef and diced franks, they were sweet with just a hint of heat at the end. The red beans and rice had a nice dash of seasoning and flavor from diced red and green peppers. The cornbread was perfect for sauce sopping, and I could probably eat the mac and cheese every single day.
Prices range from a platoon-feeding 12 ribs, 12 wings, three large sides and a two-liter of pop for $43 to a modest $9.50 for three bones and two small sides. And with homage to Chris Rock's memorable scene in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," one rib can be had for $2.25.
The interior is Spartan, although there are a few places to sit, plus there's a picnic table out front, which is really all you need to enjoy a barbecue bounty in the springtime.
Showcase BBQ is at 6800 Frankstown Ave., Homewood. 412-361-7469 or showcasebbq.net.
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