Fire in the belly
When I was a kid, I lived on a dairy farm, which meant I had a lot of pets, including a full-sized pig, Pearl, that I raised from a baby because she was the runt. When Pearl got big, she had to move across the street to live with the other pigs. Apparently, I wasn’t spending enough time with her because one night my dad ended up serving me Pearl for dinner without telling me until I was halfway through the meal.
After that somewhat traumatizing experience, I stopped eating pork for a while, but the siren song of barbecue was enough to pull me back in because, let’s be honest, who can really give up ribs for the rest of their life just because they ate their own pet? Some people, sure, but I really, really, really like barbecue. So with thoughts of my little Pearl pushed to the back of my mind, my friend MG and I headed out to check out Men Wielding Fire, which used to be strictly catering but has since opened a restaurant downtown near the ballpark.
Men Wielding Fire is in a small space, but it’s set up well. In addition to the main dining area, there’s a full bar, as well as a patio area in the back. The tabletops are made of a faux wood that look like plywood and contrast with the red and black walls and chrome fixtures—it was a little like being inside a barbecue.
Looking over the menu, I was surprised by the additional choices to the barbecue, including fish, burgers and a variety of sandwiches. MG and I decided to start with some beers ($6.75 for 22 ounces) and fried mushrooms ($7.99). The mushrooms arrived steaming hot and were large, fresh, crispy and served with a horseradish sauce that had a nice tang to it. Before we could even eat two mushrooms each, our entrées arrived, which I hate, but our super friendly waiter said he didn’t want the stuff sitting in the back under the heat lamp, which I could agree with.
I ordered the pulled pork sandwich ($8.99). It came with coleslaw on it, which I love. Slaw and pulled pork go together like my dad and his lack of feelings for barnyard animals. The sandwich came with a heaping side of cut fries that were huge and tasty. Unfortunately, the sandwich was lukewarm and not spicy enough for my liking. The menu described the sauce as chipotle, and it definitely had a smoky flavor, but I wish there had been more heat. The pork, however, was tender, and they didn’t skimp on the meat.
MG ordered the tri tip ($8.99), which arrived as large slices of meat and served with sides of cornbread and beans. The tri tip was tender but appeared to have no rub or marinade whatsoever and unfortunately was colder than my sandwich. The menu indicated that it had a “secret rub” on it, but I didn’t taste anything. The beans reminded me of a meatless chili with a nice tomato tang. While the cornbread had pieces of real corn and some awesome honey butter, in general it tasted a little mealy.
Overall, Men Wielding Fire had a lot of good elements going for it, but some of the issues with the food turned me off. I mean, hey, if I’m going to be reminded of eating my own pet, it had better be worth it.