It’s a good four months since Red’s True Barbecue spread its buffalo wings from its city centre nest to the charity shop mecca that is Headingley and what a welcome addition it has proven to be.
Squeezed into the bijou building on the corner of Shire Oak Road and Otley Road, it occupies a prime spot both in terms of grabbing passing trade and as a destination diner, because, yes, it is still possible to find a free parking space on the back roads of this Leeds suburb.
Red’s is the latest in a long line of bars and eateries to open their doors in the area, with the likes of Ask Italian restaurant, Trio Bar & Grill and The Pit, not to mention last year’s completion of the Arndale Centre. If you take all of these developments as a whole and factor in that places like the Artisan Bakery on North Lane are now firmly established, it’s evident the tide is flowing in the right direction for Headingley. Charity shops or not, there are still enough independent traders operating here to make it a real ‘go to’ destination for those who don’t want the hassle of a trek to the city centre. Fruit and veg shops which wear the same clothes they did a century ago sit quite happily next to the more coiffered clubs and bars; Red’s has slipped effortlessly into this mixed wardrobe.
Red’s operates a ‘first come, first served’ policy, so there’s no point in trying to book a table but when we turned up on Saturday, they were able to find room for us.
The owners of Red’s have obviously put a lot of thought into how they wanted the place to look. Everything is unashamedly stripped back, with door coverings and some of the units made from fresh pine chipboard which looks as though it has come straight from the saw mill. The tables are rustic and comprise great planks nailed or screwed to metal frames - some of the planks even have the odd staple sticking out. Toward the back of the restaurant is a raised seating area where every other tile is broken.
The rest of the place is as ‘bare bones’ as you like, with metal ducting and other fixtures and fittings glaring at you if to say ‘look at me’.
Thankfully, this ‘no messing’ approach works well for Red’s, which offers everything you’d expect from its menu.
We dived straight in with a full rack of baby back ribs (£12.50) and a sausage hoagi (£6.95), which is basically a giant hotdog but couldn’t resist ordering some side, which came in the form of mini corn on the cobs (£3.90) and some beef jerky (£3.50), which came in its own little takeaway bag - considering our table was directly under the meat dryer was something we felt compelled to try.
The ample portion of ribs, smothered in rich smokey barbecue sauce, was just the job and while the sausage was mostly okay, one end was inedible due to it being either overcooked or just too dry. The rest of the food was great. Service was good but a little slow at times. We waited for a good while before someone cleared our table.
Still, overall, this is good old fashioned get-your-fingers-dirty dining.