by Steven Doyle photos by Melissa Aloof
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that 18th and Vine opened on Maple Avenue in an area that seems in constant state of construction across from the gowing old Parkland hospital (now a burgeoning office complex). This is just a few blocks from the Grapevine bar if that helps locate the restaurant on your mental map.
We visited 18th and Vine, operated by chef and restaurant power couple Scott and Gina Gottlich formerly of Bijoux and Second Floor fame. I adore this couple, not only for knowing how to run great restaurants, or the fury of talent (he a chef, she a sommelier), but for being a genuinely fantastic couple who also tend to their growing flock of a family.
The couple opened 18th and Vine with a well regarded chef-forward Kansas City barbecue maven Matt Dallman and haven’t looked back since. Consider this a chef driven barbecue restaurant grown from passion with high expectations. At a typical BBQ restaurant sides are an afterthought. Any other dish besides a rack of ribs or a slab of brisket would be unheard of.
Gottlich has developed a unique menu in a comfortable yet casually chic environment. He continues, “Traditional Kansas City BBQ will always be a part of the menu options for those interested in a pure barbeque experience. However, the collaboration between myself and Matt gives us the opportunity to combine talents and knowledge of a chef with a self-taught pitmaster to push the boundaries of what can be accomplished with smoke and other barbeque techniques.”
lamb rib special
Gina Gottlich told us some time ago that there is a nice balance between the expected and unexpected, and this holds true. Expected: tender pork ribs. Unexpected: BBQ Ham Carbonara. Expected: Tender Black Angus Brisket. Unexpected: Lobster Thermidor. You get the idea..
Our latest venture was a luncheon to ferret out more of the expected. Does 18th and Vine hold up to a great BBQ challenge? Does it compete with the Dallas landscape of BBQ which seems to be getting better with each slice of brisket we sample? We wanted to know.
We began our adventure sampling the burnt ends. Any BBQ restaurant with Kansas City roots must excel at burnt ends. We have plowed through the many Kansas City legendary haunts that serve burnt ends, and these places all claim to either have invented burnt ends or perfected them. The burnt end grew out of necessity, as most things wonderful in life. When smoking a brisket the point end, or cap is removed. The cap is extremely fatty and in the process this will be reseasoned (rub or sauced) and re-introduced to the smoker to further render the fat from the meat. The result is this amazing cubed-shaped meat sugar bomb that is explosive with flavor, extremely rich and quite the delicacy. Yes, 18th and Vine does one seriously good burnt end served with housemade pickled onions and pickles for the perfect bite.
The day we arrived they had as a rack of lamb ribs that were dry rubbed with Moroccan spices. Flat out, lamb ribs should be on the main menu daily. If you go in, ask for them. Demand them.
With our little group we decided to order a platter named Matt’s Picks which is a sample of the pitmaster’s finest that day and comes with sides to feed at least three or four people. On this platter we were served these amazing pork ribs, served KC style which means they are a bit sauced. The ribs are definitely competition grade as they leave a bit of “tug” to the rib, which is exactly as they should be served. In most circles if the meat falls off the bone it is overcooked. Believe me, these are tender and delicious ribs which are cooked to a literal perfection.
The brisket served had a defined smoke ring with one seriously good looking bark. The bark is where the flavor is trapped, and there was plenty of flavor. Pulled pork is what we think of when considering Kansas City BBQ and 18th and Vine does this in great tradition with its tender and meaty pig. Plenty of smoke, plenty of flavor.
The sides that accompanied were nothing short of fantastic. The BBQ beans are actually exactly how I make mine. They were a bit sweet with BBQ sauce, and not serve drippy thin. Great flavor and a meal almost unto itself. The Cole slaw had a terrific flavor as well well with a hint of apple cider vinegar.
The mac and cheese was also on point as were the collard greens. The greens had a good flavor without being over -cooked.
To a Texas purist 18th and Vine will still be a stopping point in search of great BBQ in the North Texas region without regret. From burnt ends to simply amazing ribs you will not feel like you are betraying the brotherhood of smokers in the Lone Star state. Be sure to finish up with one of the many desserts, we recommend the fried apple pies.