Barbecue. The most ancient of cooking techniques and the quintessential summertime fare. There’s nothing better than the sizzle of a steak hitting a hot grill or the sweet smokiness wafting through the neighborhood on a balmy weekend afternoon.
There’s passion around barbecue – I’ve seen grown men at the brink of brawling over techniques and recipes. Everyone’s got their own secretive method, and it’s held close to the chest. It’s this extreme single-mindedness on achieving perfection that makes barbecue so good.
It’s readily understood that the Midwest and the South own barbecue. But now Lancaster’s got a bit of the South on West James St. That’s where Dan the Man has his barbecue shack. It houses a huge grill that takes up a quarter of the space. The rest of it makes sure your traditional sides of things like cole slaw and baked beans are ready to go for your platters. That means there isn’t room for on-site dining, so when you go, be prepared for take-out.
Dan opened up shop a little more than a year ago and it’s a family affair. Everyone pitches in, and it’s such a familial atmosphere that you feel you’re one of them when you’re there. They’re the salt of the earth, and you can almost taste the home-cookin’ love in their collard greens.
Dan’s better at some things than others. When it comes to barbecued ribs, Dan is totally The Man. The ribs are meaty and tender, falling off the bone. Combine that with his award-winning barbecue sauce, and what more can you ask? When we ordered our half rack of pork ribs ($11), we told Dan to do his thing, so he combined the medium and hot sauces and layered it on. Delicious. I recommend getting more of the sauce on the side to make sure every bite you take is appropriately slathered.
Among the other things we sampled was the BBQ 3-pc. Chicken Platter ($9.50), with sweet potato fries and macaroni & cheese. Unfortunately, the chicken is something Dan is still working on. It’s pretty dry. Even the award-winning sauce can’t mask this issue. Both sides are good, but there’s nothing memorable about them.
The last thing we tried out was the BBQ Pulled Pork Platter ($10.99) with the collard greens and yams. Flavor is great, and the pork is nice and moist – as long as they keep the pork braising in its sauce. As the moisture in the holding pan evaporates, anything that isn’t covered in its juices gets dried out, and I got some arid pork pieces mixed in with the rest of the moist morsels.
The collard greens are great—cooked until tender. I so rarely have a chance to get them, but when I do and they’re good? I just can’t get enough. Instead of the traditional ham hocks, Dan’s wife makes them with turkey parts. Just as good. More, please.
Now, I’m a big fan of yams, just not of candied yams. They’re already sufficiently sweet – how sweet does one have to make ‘em before they’ll eat ‘em? But I like yams enough, I’ll pretty much get them anytime they’re offered. And these are good. They’re sugared, and as I throw my arms up in surrender, I’ll admit that they’re good.
Final assessment – stick with the ribs. You can’t go wrong, because Dan’s figured out his secret method, and it’s close to perfect.