Brown Shuga Soul Food

In the Spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.  That's what Tennyson said anyway.  To be frank, I don't have the best track record with love, and I'm not so sure I qualify as a young man any longer.  It doesn't really matter I guess, since we didn't really HAVE a Spring this year.  Regardless, it's Summer now, and this not-so-young man's fancy has turned to thoughts of barbecue. Pulled pork to be specific.  Right now there's no shortage of pulled pork to be found, even from street vendors.  On our way to the most recent Boise Urban Market, the roommate and I passed a little shack on Chinden called Brown Shuga Soul Food.  These places always seem to jump into my path when I'm already on my way to eat somewhere else, but I made note of this one and knew I would return before too long...

Brown Shuga is a side project of A Piece of Cake, a catering company that also shows up at local events.  It was their gigantic smoked turkey legs that were the highlight of last year's Boise Soul Food Extravaganza (at least to me).  After a little research turned up this relation it really lit a fire under me to try them out, but unfortunately they're only open on weekdays from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM.  In the end, I took an early lunch one day hoping that the decreased street traffic would make me able to get there and back quickly.  The second problem with this place is that they don't have a menu per se, rather they have two or three options and a handful of sides from a rotating menu that includes catfish, ribs, chicken wings, barbecue chicken, cole slaw, collard greens, mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, baked beans, potato get the idea.  Over the years I've usually said "sushi" when asked for my favorite food, but that's really a style of food, not a specific item.  After a lot of thought, I've pretty much decided that my favorite single food item is pulled pork, so that's what I went to order.  For my sides, I chose collard greens and potato salad.  The staff was every bit as nice as I remembered from the Soul Food festival, and it didn't take long for them to put my order together.

Red Velvet Cupcake

As I stood there waiting, a sign hidden behind some condiment bottles and which advertised desserts caught my eye.  The options were Sweet Potato Pie and Red Velvet Cupcakes.  If I recall, the cupcakes were $2.25, and since they were just the normal-sized variety rather than the monstrosities you can find at specialty bakeries, that might seem a little high, but there is no cake I like better than Red Velvet and I knew I had to have one.  After collecting a large and heavy foil to-go dish and the aforementioned cupcake, I got into my car to head back to work.  Before I could leave, however, I decided I had to eat the cupcake.  I mean it was really hot out, and the icing could have melted!  And yes I have A/C in my car, but I still didn't want to risk it, and for the first time in my entire life I ate dessert first.  Everything about it screamed homemade, and it put the boxed cake mixes and tubs of frosting at the grocery store to shame.  It was moist, crumbly, chocolaty but not overwhelmingly a word, perfect.  I still have yet to make a Red Velvet cake from scratch, but when I finally do I'll be happy if it turns out anywhere near this well.

Pulled Pork Sandwich with collard greens and potato salad

I didn't get to unwrap my meal until I made it back to the office, but the second I saw it I knew I was going to like it.  The greens were glistening with broth, the potato salad was filled with huge chunks of pickles, and the sandwich was literally overflowing with lightly-sauced (I like it this way, what's the point if you're only going to taste sauce?) pork.  There was a surprise as well.  I think I've only been one other place where they put pickle and onion on a pulled pork sandwich, and while it may offend the purists a bit it's an interesting change of pace and not bad at all.  Using the plastic fork I had been provided, I tried some of the spilled pork first.  The meat itself had great flavor and texture, but the sauce was a little sweeter than I would choose myself, at least if I was just eating barbecue.  I tried the greens next, which were dripping with broth and mixed with little scraps of meat, and which packed a very tart flavor.  The potato salad was unlike anything I've ever had before, the only way I can think of to describe it is "tangy".  I'm sure it was mostly the vinegar from the pickles and the flavor of the onion, but there had to have been something else going on because it bit the tongue the way lemon juice or a heavily carbonated beverage will.  While I usually have a weird habit of eating one item at a time from my plate, I decided that these three strongly and distinctly-flavored items would likely compliment each other, and I proceeded that way, taking one or two bites of something before moving on to something else and back again or on to the next item.  Indeed, the flavors did blend into a kind of harmony which was the proverbial "greater than the sum of its parts".  This, I think, is one of the marks of a good chef...the ability to not only craft good individual items but ones that work together for more satisfying overall experience.  At the end, my only regret was that I had no cornbread to soak up the broth that the greens left behind.

So, another unique voice in local street/mobile eatery scene, which suddenly seems to be picking up steam fast.  Good food served by good people, fast and for a decent price...what more can you really ask for?

Food:  A
Value:  A-
Service:  A
Atmosphere:  B
Final Grade:  A-

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