Over the last several years, the number of Saints pre-game drinking and dining options has exploded along with the development of the southern portion of the Central Business District corridor leading into Central City. With the rise of every mixed-use apartment complex and high-end condominium tower, a complementary opening of a craft cocktail bar, an ethically sourced coffee purveyor or a forks-over-knives café seems to follow close behind. Football fans generally prefer a knives-over-forks pre-game meal, and Central City BBQ will serve as a new option for Who Dats on Sundays this season.
Located in the shadow of the Superdome on the other side of the expressway, the opening of Central City BBQ at the end of 2016 was highly touted as a resurrection of local pitmaster extraordinaire Rob Bechtold, who had earned a cult following operating NOLA Smokehouse from a pop-up to a short-lived brick-and-mortar restaurant. Bechtold was set to team up with Chef Aaron Burgau of Patois, who along with his business partners purchased a cinderblock building that formerly served as a seafood market and Chinese restaurant. After a renovation, the 160-seat space opened to much fanfare just before Christmas. But three months later, Bechtold was out—his “mutual” departure punctuated by a less-than-graceful exit that the Mooch would be proud of.
Fortunately, the quality of the food has transitioned seamlessly in the post-Bechtold era. Burgau and his team consistently produce the highest quality ribs in the city—tender pork fingers encased in a pink ring of smoke and then sprinkled with flakes of crunchy sea salt. The signature item on the menu remains burnt ends—crusty nuggets of fatty beef brisket that are a BBQ lover’s equivalent of cracklins. Links of boudin and pork sausage develop an additional level of flavor from an extended sauna in the smoker, as do chicken wings before a toss in one of the handful of house sauces.
Hand-cut french fries are a luxury not often seen at barbecue joints and are not to be missed. Same goes for the rich sweet-corn spoonbread, with kernels popping up throughout the buttery custard.
A large rectangular bar is ideal both for bloody marys before a noon kickoff or a leisurely Friday lunch capped off with an extra round of one of the many craft beers on tap. Grab a roadie for the walk to the Dome and remember that no matter the outcome of the game, the pits at Central City BBQ will still be smoking after the final whistle blows.
1201 S. Rampart St., open daily 11a–9p, (504) 558-4276, centralcitybbq.com.