Let’s hear it for hushpuppies! Perdition Smokehouse, an upscale barbecue spot on Berkeley’s University Ave., is one of the very few places around that serve hushpuppies, something that I consider a staple of the genre. And they also pay more attention than most to where their meat comes from, serving only hormone- and antibiotic-free animals. We arrived right at the beginning of lunch service and tried the just-finished pulled pork, made from Duroc shoulder, dry-rubbed, and smoked over oak. It was just fatty enough to maintain tenderness throughout, pulled into largish chunks punctuated by delicious burnt ends. For sides, we chose the vinegar-based coleslaw (delightfully without sweetness) and the meaty cowboy beans, which were chock full of more burnt ends. Next to the brisket, just tender but firm enough to slice, we ordered the brown-crusted mac and cheese and boiled corn on the cob. The brisket was ringed by a thin layer of beautifully browned fat. The style here is Texas, but it’s not a bossy Texas. Meats arrived unsauced, so you can choose from house, spicy, mustard, and vinegar, all of which are proportionate in terms of sweetness and acidity — sophisticated, if you will. And back to the hushpuppies. While I might add a bit of onion and scrap the honey butter, the hushpuppies themselves are moist, unsweetened, and, frankly, a requirement, as are the homemade pickles.
And Perdition is a place you should also consider for its oft-rotating list of beers, some of which are unusual. I tried a wonderfully funky production, Almanac Dogpatch Sour, made with brett, a wild yeast that lends a sour flavor, which I enjoyed enough to make a mental note to come back and see what else I might discover. One tip: Because the service is hofbrau style, the meat sits under heat lamps, which can dry it out. If you get there early for lunch or dinner, right after the meat comes out of the smoker, it’s less likely that you’ll fall victim to this otherwise unavoidable problem.
Perdition Smokehouse [CLOSED 10/11/15]
2050 University Ave. [Map]
Berkeley, CA 94704
Ph: (510) 900-5858
Hours: Sun-Thurs, noon-11pm; Fri-Sat., noon-midnight
Price range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17)
Facebook: Perdition Smokehouse