PATIENCE is a virtue, the saying goes. And it’s a virtue anyone wishing to visit Red’s True Barbecue will need in spades.
For this newcomer seems to have taken the Leeds restaurant scene by storm.
Oliver only managed to get there at all on the second attempt.
Our first attempt on a midweek night, when we arrived before 7.30pm, was met with a warning of a 90 minute wait for a table for two.
After chastising ourselves somewhat for not thinking ahead and booking, we later found out they don’t take bookings at all.
Taking its cues from trendy restaurants down in That London, Red’s only allows bookings for big groups during the week, and none at all on weekends.
After failing on the first attempt, our next try was a weekend mid-afternoon.
There was still a wait of an hour and 20 minutes, we were told, but if we left a mobile number they would call us if a table came up sooner.
An hour later we got that call and hotfooted it back to Red’s.
Opposite the Corn Exchange, it is the latest in a veritable carnivore’s paradise in that area of the city centre.
Red’s, along with near neighbours Cattle Grid and Rib Shakk, all offer takes on the same American cuisine – meat, and lots of it.
Ribs, burgers and steaks are the mainstay and deep south barbecue restaurant Red’s serves all three.
Oliver has eaten barbecue food in the US, so felt reasonably well-qualified to assess it.
Firstly, they’ve got the decor right. Chic it ain’t, but the theme is executed perfectly.
Red’s has also been branded to within an inch of its life.
“Let there be meat”, the website proclaims, and everything ties in with the religious theme, including the menu being dubbed The Good Book.
The marketing men have been hard at work here.
When we arrived back at the restaurant we were immediately seated at our table, one end of a communal bench. When many of the diners were also pairs, we wondered whether having so many communal seats was the best use of space.
Service was brisk but efficient, with us being offered drinks the minute we sat down.
We took a bit longer to pick our food from the array of choices, including a multitude of combinations of ribs, as well as other meat dishes, sandwiches and salads.
We nibbled on fried pickles (£2.75) and Jalapeno poppers (£3.95), peppers filled with cream cheese and deep fried, to start.
They did exactly what they said on the tin – lightly battered mouthfuls of moreishness but nothing spectacular.
For mains we’d both gone for combo plates, keen to try as many different dishes as possible.
My companion had chosen the half rack of St Louis ribs with Texas link sausages (£15.95), available mild or hot.
He’d asked our waiter how hot that meant, but our server confessed he’d was new and didn’t know. Though he was very sweet, this was a little blip in the service – along with later having to check our order with us after taking it,
Our meals were served on metal trays surrounded by their side dishes, as both came with either cornbread or fries plus another side.
Across the table, my dining partner was impressed by his frankly huge rack of pork ribs which were topped with a halved Texas link sausage.
He found both delicious, with the ribs deceptively meaty.
Fries were good but his favourite was the bbq pit beans, which were sweet, sticky and smoky and included burnt ends, chunks of slow-cooked brisket.
He quite happily would’ve eaten a bowlful.
My choice was the Texas beef brisket and North Carolina pulled pork, which I chose to have with cornbread and fried corn on the cob (£14.95).
The meat was served in an individual metal dish, with the sweet, smoky pulled pork at one end, which was super-tender thanks to its 14 hours in the smoker.
It was topped with apple sauce and slaw which I could’ve done without – but that was my personal taste.
I preferred the slices of brisket, which were more savoury and tangy, but still enjoyably tender, though the bbq sauce and the slaw made it all a little more saucy than I would’ve liked.
The corn on the cob was, well corn on the cob, while the cornbread was a cute mini loaf packed with kernels. Tasty, but I would have liked it even more if it had been warmed.
All in all were impressed, though after two visits and an hour’s wait to sit down, we ought to have been.
We didn’t try a dessert from the short menu – partly from being too full but also I knew, from the handy chalk board showing dishes which are running low or sold out, that my choice – the caramel apple pecan pie – had run out.
Other options included chocolate peanut butter cheesecake and Mississippi mud brownie.
We also tried two beers from their interesting selection, plus refreshing homemade lemonade. Sadly we didn’t have room for the milkshakes served in retro milk bottles, but they looked intriguing.
Our bill was £51.10 – reasonable for the amount of food we’d had, but you could eat much more cheaply here as many of the mains are around £10.
So, does Red’s live up to the hype?
In the main yes, but only if you’re prepared to be patient.
Address: Unit 1, Cloth Hall Street, Leeds, LS1 2HD
Opening times: Monday to Thursday noon until 4pm, then 5pm until 11pm; Friday and Saturday noon until midnight; Sunday noon until 10pm.
Tel. 0113 834 5834
FOOD........................... .......... ****
VALUE.......................... ........... ****
SERVICE ................................ ***