The Bone Yard slow-cook their barbecue with hardwood only. They serve meat that is largely raised on pastures or outdoors, including pork from old breeds with flavorful rosy flesh and a thick girdle of white fat that bastes the meat as it melts.
The restaurant, which opened in December, runs on the cafeteria model, with meat at the start of the assembly line, drinks at the end and shiny metal trays that you ferry to a table made of century-old salvaged spruce. The counter workers are quick and usually friendly.
The only disappointment is the chicken, no better or worse than what a skilled weekend cook can produce with a kettle grill. And while there is nothing wrong with a smoked hot sausage, the one here isn’t quite strong enough to build a meal around.
The pulled pork is staggeringly good. The inside meat is slick with the flavor of old-school pork butt; the black, chewy outer rind looks as if it fell into the fire. Don’t be fooled, though the flavor or smoke and sweet fat is most concentrated there. The carvers splash the pulled pork with the house barbecue sauces, which balances sugar with vinegar and mustard. It’s a blend of the styles of Texas and North Carolina. It comes close to being an all-purpose condiment.
Spare ribs are exceptional too, meaty and juicy, with a smoky outer ring the color of cherry soda. They are brushed with a little paprika to enhance the oak, cherry and apply smoke they picked up over many hours in a pit made in Mesquite, Tex.
The beef rib is an instant conversation stopper, a long block of impressively tender meat clinging to the Jurassic curve of bone. It surely upstages the brisket in theatricality and possibly in flavor as well, though it’s a close call. The brisket is cooked patiently to render much of the fat from the top cap, moistening even the leaner lower muscle until it gleams. A simple rub of salt and pepper is subdued but effective. The meat is not as thoroughly suffused with smoke as the best products of Texas, but it has as much finesse as anything I have ever eaten from a cardboard box.
The Bone Yard has baked beans, darkened with molasses, rounded up with mustard and choked with bacon, may be the best I’ve tasted. If your timing is lucky, you will place your order just as a carver is sweeping a handful of fresh brisket trimmings from the butcher block into the pan. Equally at home is the sweet potato casserole, which is like a pie without a crust. Actually, with its topping of pecans in brown sugar, it is more like two pies.
Don’t forget to try the crisp house-made refrigerator pickles, put up in a jar; and the macaroni and cheese when it is topped with the great burnt-end chili.
The Bone Yard serves beer aside from soda, with one “Lone Star Ale” delivered from Texas. They offer a luscious bread pudding and a rather bland mud pie for dessert. Prices are moderate, the service is adequate, but the food is outstanding.