Restaurant Reviews

Sick Pickin's at Slim's

Important things to remember during this flu season: Cover your mouth when you cough. Wash your hands often and well. And, as Hippocrates said, "Leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can heal the patient with food."

Clearly, given the violent nature of this year's virus, that last sentiment is a lot more agreeable than "starve a fever, feed a cold." What to do, for example, if you have both fever and cold (not to mention sore muscles, a raw throat, and a horrible cough)?

Send your spouse for takeout, of course.

Just make sure to give him careful directions. Despite Jewish culinary folklore, bland, all-purpose chicken soup doesn't always suffice. No, in my book, only certain foodstuffs are appropriate for imminent illness. A stuffy nose requires vibrant flavors that can cut through the most stopped-up schnoz. High temperatures practically beg for hot and spicy fare -- it's good for you to break a sweat to bring down the fever. Body aches and pains? Comfort food, like macaroni and cheese, is soothing, particularly if you're eating it curled up in bed. And for fatigue and top-scale misery, chocolate is the best drug around.

Fortunately, there's one-stop shopping for all your symptoms at Slim's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, a kitschy, wood-paneled joint decorated with old Western movie posters and antique advertisements for cooking and baking products. Slim's, which opened November 19 in Sunrise, offers comfortable in-house dining on glossy wooden benches but also specializes in catering, takeout, and free delivery for the immediate area. And the fare here tastes a whole lot better than Robitussin.

As with all barbecue, Slim's success is rooted in a back-story. Extensive preparation paves the way for a spot-on win-win: The meat here is smoked over oak logs throughout the cooking process, then glazed with a homemade, vinegar-based sauce. The juicy poultry, succulent sliced brisket, and racks of generously fleshed ribs are then served with a choice of three different but related barbecue sauces: original, sweet, and hot. The "hot" is the best choice to clear the sinuses, but it's more of a black pepper heat; true chili freaks might need a doctoring dose of Tabasco too.



One thing the condiments have in common is the basic tang of vinegar counteracting the sticky sweetness of tomatoes and sugar. In addition to the smoking, this common denominator gives Slim's a competent signature, allowing items like the half chicken or baby-back ribs to have a surface intensity and a deeper flavor that cuts to the bone. In short, the taste can cut clear through any cold. Just don't be put off by the poultry, which is the hue of a chapped nose -- the flesh isn't raw; the color results from the smoking process.

Because first-time restaurateur Alan "Slim" Greener doesn't rely on parboiling, steaming, or fiber-breaking chemical rubs to tenderize the ribs beforehand -- methods he considers "cheating" -- the barbecue has a bit more texture than other restaurants, so have Grandpa use the Fixodent first. But that doesn't mean the meat is tough, only that it has the proper natural resistance. Greener obtains the plump ribs from prime animals, so the quality is excellent from the start: St. Louis and baby-back ribs were heavy with meat and lightly marbled with fat, making bites satisfyingly juicy but not gristly or stringy.

The single cut of meat that gets massaged with spices is the beef brisket. The results are stunning. Also bathed with mustard, the brisket is slowly roasted to maximum flavor, then sliced and layered on a hard roll or piled on a platter with a side of Texas toast. Dribble on the "hot" barbecue sauce here for a fever-breaking experience; the sandwich is so good that it might be tough convincing the diner it's not an hallucination.

If the zestier barbecue sauce doesn't bring the feverish to the brink, tuck into a platter of robust country sausage or smoked bratwurst, grilled to a crackly finish, and then pile on the baked beans. The pintos here are pretty peppery, though smoky bacon and molasses are tempering factors. Or you can up the passage-clearing ante with a starter of traditional Buffalo wings, meat-and-bean chili, or chips and salsa. Slim's caesar salad, pungent with anchovies and garlic, can also give the immune system a boost, and while the crunchy onion rings might have no health benefits whatsoever, at least they'll lift your mood.



Other side dishes and appetizers could practically heal a clinic full of head-cold cases: the sweet potato mash is warm and gentle; the corn-bread miniloaf with honey butter is soothing and undemanding; the mac and cheese is rich but not heavy. Add "brats" to the macaroni and you've got the perfect cure for the picky child. (The kids' menu is identical to the regular menu, but meal prices are adjusted to $3.99 -- $1 extra for ribs -- and include a drink and dessert.) And you can almost taste the vitamins in the fresh cole slaw, neither too sweet nor too processed.

When nothing else pleases the flu-ish, the homemade desserts, such as the luscious brownie cupcake that had a Three Musketeers bar baked into it, are bound to work miracles. Empty calories, after all, are better for the ill than no calories at all. In fact, there's only one disease where Slim's goods -- and Hippocrates' beliefs -- can't cure what ails you: obesity. For that, we'll have to turn back to the chemist's pot.

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Jen Karetnick is an award-winning dining critic, food-travel writer, and author of the books Ice Cube Tray Recipes, Mango, and The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami.
Contact: Jen Karetnick