Van Winkle Bourbon Barbecue Pit


IT'S hard not to warm to the Van Winkle Bourbon Barbecue Pit, sandwiched as it is between the Hoops Bar and Bar 67 in a part of Glasgow’s Gallowgate that other restaurants have perhaps yet to fully reach.

There’s moody corrugated iron on the walls, wood scorched and rough textured elsewhere, some of that yea-hah country rock music on the sound system and a pleasant and cheery guy serving the tables when we walk in.

Now, I instantly remember this place from a previous life when some kids dragged an amp up onto the flat roof above and started busking some of that crazy hard-rock music at folks leaving the Barrowlands Ballroom right across the road.

The Glasgow polis, predictably failing to appreciate the entrepreneurial element of this, predicted instead a riot and set about a) getting on to the roof themselves and b) getting the kids down. It took a while. And was predictably even more entertaining than the music.

Pretty much everyone then retired to London Road’s cells before the kids appeared on the glittering stage that was the dock in the old district court’s Court 1. Was the stipendiary magistrate Mr Christie? An avowed country and western fan. I would like to think so but I honestly can’t remember.

No problems this evening anyway with either the volume or type of sounds emanating from the downstairs sound system.

The food’s OK so far, too. We very quickly are brought a five cheese macaroni topped with grana padano and panko crumb that’s tangy and tasty with just enough of that obligatory textural crunch to set heads a nodding.

There’s cumin in the cup of chilli, crushed tortilla on top and, as I poke curiously at the chunks of moist and meaty brisket in my huge po’ boy with red onions, gherkins and bourbon BBQ, I come to the conclusion they probably have slow-cooked this meat themselves.

But that’s not why I’ve hauled the family here on a quiet Monday evening, nor is it the chance to try a hail Caesar salad – once upon a time in crazy Glasgow the name of this dish would probably have been a breach of the peace on its own. This is a barbecue joint. One of many that are springing up in the wake of the burger bar wipeout.

But as Jamie Oliver would probably tell them if he ever swings by – it’s not what you buy from Brake Bros or the other freezer van empires that makes a winning restaurant nowadays – it’s what you can actually make yourself, as opposed to simply deep-frying or microwaving.

And while by now we’ve had buttermilk chicken with waffles (so-so) and the £12.50 6oz rib-eye with hot salty fries and the tangy Van Winkle gravy (not bad) no such luck with the (almost) unique selling point. The house-smoked baby back ribs.

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“Sorry, we had two tables in today and sold out completely at lunchtime,” says the waiter when I try and order up a couple of racks.

I’m still looking for the actual smoker in here as we talk and eventually presume it’s through the wall at the hatch area off to the left.

I now decide to come back tomorrow to try them at lunchtime, in case the rib monsters turn up and scoff them all again.

Fast forward to tomorrow? Me back in and asking the very same guy if the very same ribs are available.

Frankly? Something to do with the butcher, the baker, the candle-stick maker but the long and the short of it is they’ve not arrived and therefore they’ve not been smoked and therefore they simply don’t have any.

Which is a shame. Because without the chance to try them all I can say about the Barbecue here is there was no barbecue when I was there.

Van Winkle Bourbon Barbecue Pit

267 Gallowgate


0141 552 1177

Menu: The clue is in the name: smoked ribs, brisket po’ boys, buttermilk chicken, mac ’n’cheese and chillis. 3/5

Service: Relaxed, pleasant and friendly, though in my two early week visits they had no ribs available. 5/5

Price: That steak is £12.50, the hail Caesar £6.50. Those ribs £13.50. Pretty much priced right for the area. 4/5

Atmosphere: It’s half bar and half restaurant but they’ve done a good job of fitting it out with moody corrugated iron and wood. 3/5

Food: We came for the barbecued ribs and there weren’t any available, without trying them it’s hard to say yet if it can lift itself above the rest of the barbecue herd. 5/10