Slo Joe's Bigtime Backyard Barbecue

Awaiting the settlers of South Lake Union, Slo Joe's Bigtime Backyard Barbecue sits on the corner of Flashy New Condo Lane and Biotech High-Rise Boulevard, but hey, soon enough, that'll be someone's backyard. For the time being, Slo Joe's reminds us of nothing so much as the Puyallup Fair. Their thick, Kansas City–inspired sauce, however, contradicts notions of mass-produced, thoughtless food. The stuff comes in two speeds, mild and hot, and both start off with a dry, tangy, ripe tomato taste and linger with a sugary glaze. Our group liked it best with the tender yet thick chunks of beef on a brisket sandwich ($8.95, including one side and a medium soda); it was less successful slathered onto a fried catfish fillet special ($9.95 with salad and a side) on a return trip, however, because the fish just wasn't substantial or special enough to stand up to the sauce's zing. A definite plus: Joe's uses a great bun that's both squishy and sturdy. Unfortunately, sides ($1.50 each) aren't always spectacular. The dry, cakey corn bread isn't at all memorable, the macaroni and cheese is way overdone, and the corn and cheese-chunk salad isn't just weird, it tastes canned. On the other hand, the potato salad is pitch perfect. Service mirrors the hit-and-miss menu; we've experienced both smooth sailing and near chaos at the counter. 301 Westlake Ave. N., 206-381-9200. SOUTH LAKE UNION

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