Eating From the Trash Can: Davids & Co., Or: How To Waste 13 Bucks

Pulled pork, beans, cornbread, Coke, $13.15.

Yeah, “from the smoker”, my ass.

As you come up the Benaroya Hall exit from the University Street tunnel station (1301 Third Avenue), there’s a little food court of sorts that exists for both events at that venue and as a lunch outpost (Davids & Co. is open from 11 AM to 2 PM each weekday) for the people who work in tall buildings downtown.

It is there that you will find a quaintly adorned barbecue joint that looks like every other piece of hipster bait in the entire Pacific Northwest, offering “from the smoker” entrees, and side dishes, and an assortment of whatever-the-hell-else that you’d never find in Nashville (some folks on Yelp posted pictures of sandwiches with greens that your raised-on-Purina Prole Chow columnist has never seen outside of food magazines and episodes of Chopped.)

So I sauntered up to the counter, got myself an order of pulled pork with “Uli’s” (really, guys? Using the branding on your side dish so that everyone knows it came from a mass-market supplier?) baked beans, a wedge of cornbread, and a can of Coca-Cola. $13.15, and I suppose I can probably start expensing my lunches on Schedule C at this point (suck it, IRS! Launched a food blog nobody reads for a tax write-off! Also, please share these with your friends on social media…)

Right. Where was I. Ahh yes, waiting for my inner Gordon Ramsay to show up.

Because we’ll start with the beans and cornbread…beans and cornbread…

Beans and cornbread had a fight

Beans knocked cornbread outta sight

Cornbread said hey, that’s alright

I’ll be ready tomorrow night

Damned squirrels distracting me. The cornbread was passable; my compliments to Sysco or US Foods or whoever the wholesaler is who supplies these guys. It doesn’t suck.

Meanwhile, the beans, on the other hand…I don’t know who Uli is, but it sounds like a German name, and maybe we ought to send Uli back to Germany to sling schnitzel, because he don’t know for beans. I’ve had better barbecue beans at KFC. Texture-wise, these were both undercooked and tough, like when someone at the burrito joint who’s supposed to be working overnight prep doesn’t get the beans down in time and you show up right when they open. The sauce was…well, ketchup isn’t quite the right word to describe it, but neither are “flavorful” or “enjoyable” or “anything I’d order again.” To decide on a tomato-based sauce is human; to completely cock it up is anything but divine.

So the pork was stepping to the plate with two strikes against it and its bat having been swapped out for a pool noodle.

Now, when I photographed the pork for this story, I did so with it absolutely slathered in “sweet BBQ sauce”, one, because I like my Carolina Q wetter than a nymphomaniac in an auto shop, and two, because I knew after I got through that top layer, the meat below would be relatively unadorned and I’d have a nice little contrast for all five of you lovely readers.

This somehow managed to turn into a double whammy for pressing my luck.

Stop…at a whammy.

For one thing, I don’t believe I’ve ever had barbecue sauce that manages to taste like nothing at all. If I dipped fries in it, I might have something to report, but this stuff was bland, indescribable because it was nondescript. I’ve had richer sauce flavor from a bottle of Kraft, and Kraft makes the worst of the supermarket sauces. I hope for these guys’ sakes that they bought this stuff from a mass-market distributor as well, because if this is what they’re making themselves, that truly does not reflect well on them.

Not that it helped the meat any. Refer to my opening line. I know Crock Pot pulled pork exceptionally well. For five years, I was a married man, and on many a day, the lady of the house would put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker with some sauce and spices, turn that sucker on, and send me to work and herself on the day’s errands. When I got home, I got something that almost, but not quite completely, unlike Carolina barbecue, and pork shoulder was cheap because this was before every idiot foodie with a Big Green Egg started thinking they were a pitmaster.

Which is fine if you’re at home and you’re not expecting the best Asheville has to offer. It is downright shameful if you’re paying thirteen bucks for it and the establishment taking your debit card is promising you a barbecue experience.

In point of fact, if flavorless meat with an insipid sauce is being served to you for five dollars, you’re being overcharged. You can get a Wendy’s burger for five bucks and it’s delicious meat that would have more flavorful sauce if you ordered it plain and upended one of those barbecue sauce cups for the chicken nuggets onto it.

The portion was generous, I’ll give them that. There’s a decent amount of food there. Too bad it ultimately suffered the worst fate I can think of for a human garbage dump like me; I ended up not finishing it because I was put off by the texture and lack of flavor and the fat was starting to congeal as the food got cold.

This was a complete failure on every possible level. I should know better than to take a “barbecue” joint at its word in any city that doesn’t have a church on every street corner.

PROS: There are no pros here. This place sucks.

CONS: The meat has not a hint of flavor beyond an insipid sauce that is offered to drown out the lack of seasoning or smoke, the beans are sourced from a supplier that isn’t even particularly good, the cornbread has so obviously been made off-site that it’s an affront, and I’m giving an extra penalty for using the word “smoker” anywhere in the food’s description because screw you people for getting my expectations up. This. Place. Sucks.

THE VERDICT: 1 out of 5 stars. Wouldn’t feed this to the dog.

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