It all went a bit smoky in Newcastle in 2014. First there was Hop and Cleaver, then Bierrex, and latterly Longhorns opened, all bringing their take on American-style low-and-slow smoked meats to these parts. We thought Hop and Cleaver was a bit meh and haven't yet made it to Bierrex. However, I had a sample of Longhorn's brisket at the really quite good Craft Beer Calling festival back in October and resolved to head their way once they opened on Mosley St. Granted, I was extremely well refreshed at the time, but even in my drunken fug I could detect some serious smoke and flavour in their meat.
As it happens, I was no picture of sobriety when we ate at Longhorns in December, fresh from a staff do. Still, what the hell; this is the kind of food that's meant to appeal after a couple of quenching libations, so you ought to trust in the following words more, not less, as I had properly prepared myself for the meal. See how much effort I put into doing things right?
It was heaving when we arrived at about 6 on a Saturday night and it looked like we might be in for a wait (no reservations, natch), but the two of us were seated before we'd even ordered booze. If there's a group of you, you might want to come at a quieter time. The menu is a pretty simple affair (natch again); two meats and two sides for a tenner being an easy choice to make. They do "challenges" but I trust you're neither an idiot nor a masochist, so we don't need to talk about those. The interior is a riot of wood and barrels with the seating upstairs consisting of sturdy raised benches and stools. Fine. The short wait before the food turned up was spent accompanied by a pint of Wylam Jakehead IPA. That is some pretty great stuff, a properly citrussy/hoppy blast of beer, with a moreish bitterness going through it.
|L-R Spicy Sausage, Hog Rind, Memphis Hog Butt, Pit Beans|
and all was well. The sausage, a loosely textured affair, was delicious. The smokiness was well judged, but garlic was the overriding flavour. "Hog butt", a sort of semi-pulled pork, had less inherent flavour and so was more of a vehicle for the smoke. The hog rind will divide a crowd. If you're the type for whom chewing for a considerable time on un-crisped pig skin and fat sounds like no fun, I'd avoid it. I'm on the other team. Pit beans were flat-out mental, tasting not so much of smoke but of ash. I know the sentence "like licking out an ashtray, but in a good way" doesn't compute, but that's all I've got.
|L-R, Brisket, Fries, Wings, Slaw|
|Salted Caramel Brownie, Key Lime Pie lurking behind|
Service was fast, efficient and friendly and the whole operation was performed by people who seemed to know what they were up to. We spoke briefly to one of the staff who was managing the seating, who, having worked in catering for years, said he'd never seen as much demand on opening. The music was an appropriate and enjoyable mix of Americana. If I remember rightly they played Neil Young's Expecting to Fly, and you can't say better than that.
I've never eaten "proper" American barbecue (that's a noun, not a verb), and, having read Michael Pollan's superb book Cooked, there's clearly some debate about what that even is. What I can tell you is that Longhorns are knocking out some really tasty meats for, crucially I think, a moderate price, and are deserving of your custom. The "dream board" probably consists of the sausage, brisket, fries and beans which is well worth a tenner of anyone's hard-earned. Especially, and even more so, after about four pints.
Longhorns, 10 Mosley St, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1DE