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Photos: Brandon McGhee

Turkish Guys Open Texas BBQ Joint With Massive Smoker, Paint Texas Flag Backwards

By Nov 26, 2019 Dining


What happens when you throw a couple Turkish guys, two massive wood-fired smokers, hundreds of kilos of meat and a hip location together? Weird stuff. That's what's happening right now down at Zhongshan Huanyuhui, the open-air mall south of Xintiandi on Madang Lu. The people behind Garlic, the Turkish restaurant, paired up with some Turkish friends, went to Texas, took some classes, came back and installed two giant steel submarines in the middle of their restaurant. Things haven't exactly come out as planned.

I went to Garlic Barbecue for lunch this afternoon, keen to try a permanent location for one of my favorite styles of cooking. (I'm a regular at Cages BBQ Thursday.) I left full but a bit confused, and not just because they painted the Texas flag backwards on the wall.

The pork, not exactly a traditional Turkish dish, was the best thing on the menu, as either a spiced and lacquered rib or in flossy, pulled form with chopped red onion.

The brisket had a nice smoke ring, the almost-magenta color that hugs the edges of the meat, caused by a long smoke. But, man, was it dry. Dry as dust. Drier, as they say in Texas, than a popcorn fart.

Sides were another story. The only thing I recognized as even close to a regular BBQ side was the coleslaw. Mustard eggplant? Kale salad? Steamed broccoli? If you're going to go to all the trouble of installing huge steel traps for smoking — smokers like no one in this city has ever seen before — why get "creative" with the sides? Beans, guys. Cornbread. White bread. Braised greens. Mac'n'cheese. Stop trying to invent something. Your shtick is tradition.

There's plenty of things to adjust here, that's for sure, but there is also plenty of time to adjust. Garlic Barbecue has been open less than a week and BBQ is not mastered with a couple classes from a 'cue-head in Austin. They need time to learn their equipment a bit better, throw out their recipe book for sides, re-do the music playlist, and add more beer than just Corona and Estrella. They need, basically, a Texan makeover to match their Texas-sized ambitions.

If you still want to visit, if you want to see what happens when Turks go to Texas, and pick up a pork rib or two, click here for their address and details.



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