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BBQ Dublin: Pitt Bros vs Bison Bar

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Holy smokes! A decent BBQ restaurant has been high up the wishlist for many years, and now Dublin has four: the Bison Bar on Wellington Quay, Pitt Bros on George’s Street, the Aussie BBQ on Richmond Street (I’ve yet to pull some pork from the Aussie BBQ but, based on this review from Niall Harbison of Lovin’ Dublin, I’m not inclined to), and Asador, a little outside the city (I’ve heard nothing but praise).

Bison's Brisket Tray

Bison’s Brisket Tray

Within the last two weeks, I’ve stuffed my face in both Bison and Pitt Bros. And, much as competition is to be welcomed, I’ll come right out and say that there’s little or no point in going to Pitt Bros while, just three minutes away, Bison Bar exists. Maybe that’s unfair, but it’s difficult for BBQ enthusiasts not to compare two places in such close proximity, both serving almost identical Texan BBQ food.

It’s not that Pitt Bros isn’t nice: it is. In fact, it’s pretty delicious. Pitt Bros more or less copied the Bison formula, before nipping up the road to base the rest of their venture on Asian restaurant Neon, from the layout and design right down to the free whipped ice-cream.  Imitation is flattery, or theft – you decide.

Both Bison and Pitt Bros serve pulled pork, brisket, sausage, ribs and chicken. In both places, each main comes with two sides, but Pitt Bros has slightly more choice of sides. Prices are the same, although extra sides in Pitt Bros are €3.50 compared to €3.95 in Bison.

pitt brosPitt Bros

At Pitt Bros, I opted for the brisket (€13.95) while my friend Paul had the pulled pork (€12.95). Both portions were unmanageably huge, although the waitress offered to pack up the leftovers for us. The pulled pork was very good, but slightly lacked in its smoky sweetness and the large lumps of pork plopped on a plate looked a bit more like a challenge than a treat.

menuThe tough beef joint known as brisket, when slow cooked, should crumble with tenderness. Pitt Bros did not disappoint, and their offering came with a decent amount of gravy too. We liked our sides of burnt end beans and slaw, but the burnt end beans at Bison were richer and had more depth. The bonemarrow mash (mash with bonemarrow gravy) didn’t really work: we both found it a bit too starchy, lukewarm, and lacking in creaminess.  Pitt Bros, unlike Bison, also serve burgers, which I will definitely try if I find myself back there again.

Pitt Bros has some very saucy issues that really need to be rectified. Good barbequed meat needs good sauces, especially BBQ or hot sauce, and Pitt Bros falls quite flat here. The BBQ sauce, which comes in the type of cheap plastic bottle you’d find on the counter of a chip van, is okay. The hot sauce is pretty woeful though: it’s oversweet and lacks any real punch or flavour. This renders the pulled pork, for instance, a little dry and, for some customers, will take away from the experience.

The chips were okay, but in quite desperate need of a dip: something like garlic mayo, sour cream, smoked chilli mayo, or blue cheese would work. Pitt Bros could really improve the customer experience – well, this customer’s experience, anyway – with a semi-decent selection of hot sauces and dips.

Sides at Bison

Sides at Bison

Bison Bar

bison menuI can’t help preferring Bison. There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, Bison is a whiskey bar, not a restaurant, so it’s a very welcome addition to a city that is quite poorly served by quite samey pub food. It’s a lovely spot to go for food and drinks and spend a few hours. Secondly, their food just edges Pitt Bros out.

Like Pitt Bros, the portions are huge. Five of us shared a manically greedy amount of food, including two “combo plates”, each of which included two meats and two sides. Brisket, sausage, pulled pork, and chicken all ended up in front of us, as did onion rings with garlic mayo, chips with chipotle mayo, burnt end beans, and coleslaw. The brisket was precisely as tasty as it looks in this video from Bison Bar. There was plenty of grub, and we spent a really pleasant three hours eating and drinking here, including a few whiskey sours for €5. Jean has already written about their lunch options, so I won’t bang on too much more about Bison.

Bison proclaims that they stop serving early when the food is gone, and the growing popularity of this bar means it can be tough to get a table. When it’s full and I am in need – need! actual need! – of a BBQ, I’d settle for wandering back up to Pitt Bros.

Have you tried either, and which do you prefer? Do you know of any other smokehouses or BBQ joints worth a visit? Especially interested in recommendations for readers outside Dublin.



11 Comments

  1. I went to Pitt Bros in September and I’m not a fan of the place. The food was lovely, but my bag was stolen when I was there (those damn communal tables). This was before they had their Cc cameras. Although they were perfectly nice about it (and I understand that they’re not responsible), I would think that a simple cup of tea or the offer to use their phone would have gone a long way. Instead they offered me their sympathy and slowly ushered me towards the door. It left quite the sour taste in my mouth and I’d be hard pushed going back.

  2. Luckily for me i had been to both places with 7 days of each other and i much preferred Bison Bar, although i had to wait 10 minutes before ordering as the barman insisted on collecting glasses even though the place was very quiet. Meat was very nice. I would love to see them offer BBQ chicken wings as the BBQ sauce is out of this world.

  3. I found the exact same. I went to Pitt Bros about a month and a half after opening and it just wasn’t where it should have been. The portion of pork I got was pretty small and a bit cold. My Girlfriend got the Chicken which was a bit bland. All of these are things you shouldn’t have to worry about with BBQ like.

    I also did a review of Bison here (http://comedinewith-mark.blogspot.ie/2013/11/bison-bar-review.html) Have a read and let me know what you think.

    Great Review :D

  4. Have been to both and agree that Bison is definitely the winner! We had pulled pork and brisket at Pitt Bros – the pulled pork was the winner, and was very tasty, but almost so drowned in sweet sauce that you couldn’t really taste the ‘meaty porkiness’ anymore. We also had chips, corn on the cob, bone marrow mash and burnt end beans. The corn on the cob was literally just that, no seasoning and very dull. The mash was really disappointing, again under-seasoned and very gluey. Chips were nice, but very very stingy portion. The burnt end beans were definitely the best, but come second compared to the ones at Bison.

    At Bison bar we had pork, brisket and ribs and every single one was delicious – so so good! The chips were a more generous portion and came with a very tasty chipotle mayo. Can’t wait to eat there again, while I wouldn’t bother going back to Pitt Bros

  5. This is the sort of 10-13 euro really-good-meal competition that Dublin needs a lot more of. It would be nice to be able to choose between 50 or more restaurants of this type of price/quality slot.

  6. Went to Pitt Bros a few weeks ago and wasn’t that impressed. We were obviously unlucky because our brisket was as dry as an old boot, like eating sawdust. Ugh! The ribs, on the other hand, were absolutely delicious, I liked the sides too, but bad brisket in a BBQ joint is a sin so probably won’t return. I wasn’t crazy about the way the food was served either, the tin trays meant the food got cold much quicker. Definitely want to try Bison asap, thanks for the comparison Peter! :-D

  7. I have been to both. Review is very skewed and one sided I think. For example I am pretty sure the bottles you mentioned are the same yet you criticise them for it.

    Food in both can be inconsistent. If you know anything about cooking brisket or anything low and slow you’d understand the problems.

    More balance please!

    PS I have notice a trend developing where people complain and “slate” places on blog sites such as this. I bet none of the commenters here notified the staff about there “dry” meats etc.

  8. If you’re in Belfast check out Bubbauce. Uneal BBQ. Best bbq sauce I’ve tasted outside the USA.

  9. I disagree! I wasent that into Bison at all but LOVED Pitt bros… I thought their selection of sides was a lot better so the overall meal didnt just feel like a load of meat. I also didnt like the bison just felt like eating in a smoking area & even though they have table service in Bison, I didnt think the waitress was very friendly. Bison isnt the worst place you will eat in Dublin but Pitt bros wins IMO.

  10. I have had nicer brisket off a Weber grill than what Pitt Bros offer. I appreciate that Barbeque is no easy task but I have been to this place twice now and got just about warm meat that was dry. The pulled pork in there is hiding behind a sauce and needs to be offered without the sauce a good rub and some nice smoke is all that it should take sauce should be on the side.

  11. il start off with pitt bros upon arrival we walked in and instantly received a friendly warm greet by a member of staff and was brought to our seats everything was explained as we were never there before .There was a great atmosphere and the premises itself was very clean and unique. The food arrived promptly on a wooding board bulging with meat (as i got the meat combo3 meats & 2 sides ) i was quick to dig in and the flavors was just out of this world i couldn’t fault it and we were asked multiple times if we were ok for everything and to top it off we got free ice-cream which we got to pull ourselves needless to say i went back to this place 4 or 5 times since then .So after hearing a lot about the bison bar i was intrigued to try it out. Upon arrival i wasn’t sure if we had to wait to be seated like pitt bros as there was no indication of this so i went over to the bar and i asked for a menu and wasn’t really greeted . So we sat down and browsed through the menu it had the same meats as pitt bros but pitt bros had more sides to offer . we ordered eventually and while we were waiting we were looking around and wasn’t impressed about the plastic cutlery and lacked atmosphere and was quite old looking inside the toilets were filthy with flies everywhere .so i went back to my seat and the food arrived quite quick first impressions wasn’t great as we were served our sides in a disposable bowl like we were in a play school and our meats came out on a steel tray but i didn’t let that put me off ( i got the combo plate a little bit of everything ) which was cool it was good to get a taste off everything i tucked in and mid way through realized i made the wrong choice trying this place out the chips were frozen which i was disappointed with ( freshly cut in pitt bros) but what i did like was the dips you got with your sides they were very tasty . the quality off the meats wasn’t up to scratch with pitt bros what so ever needless to say i wont be back in the future

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