Who’d have thought that a little barbeque joint could capture the hearts of Beijing’s expat community? But that’s just what happened with the first branch of Home Plate BBQ in Sanyuanqiao. Safe in the knowledge they’re on to a good thing, the management has erected a sister venue in Sanlitun that keeps the original’s hicks-in-the-sticks vibe. Pig and chicken murals adorn corrugated metal walls alongside vintage-looking gas station signs. It’d be downright cosy if it weren’t the size of an aircraft carrier. And with a stage for bands and projector for movies, all they need is a dusting of peanut shells and sawdust for a rollicking yeehaw time; they’ve gone large on the concept without losing the charm.
The same couldn’t be said for our lunchtime order. We moseyed on down to the new location with a cowboy swagger (we really should get looser jeans) to find the place perhaps only a quarter full. Despite this, it still took half an hour for fries slathered in chilli and cheese (40RMB) to arrive. Why the wait, we wonder? Not the quality: the fries underneath the fearsomely addictive chilli proved unpleasantly dry and crumbly. The fried okra (25RMB), a Home Plate favourite, was so bland as to be barely there at all. The trademark pulled-pork sandwich (35MRB) proved so dry that it needed to be doused in barbecue sauce. That there were three sauces on offer was little comfort. Happily, the cheeseburger (30RMB) was a solid standard – a thick, juicy patty glistening with cheese.
A mixed bag then. Thankfully, our dinner a few days later held together much better. This time the chilli fries arrived pleasingly moist and the BBQ nachos (50RMB) certainly hit the spot, though we would have liked more pork than the wispy little bundle we got. The beef brisket sandwich (35RMB) was great; just tender enough and richly flavoured. Although our second burger here was perhaps a little overcooked compared to before, it still proved a good, but not brilliant, bite. The dinner was capped off with a vengeance: the bread pudding with bourbon sauce (30RMB) arrived as an over whelming heap of bread and fruit, baked with heavy, sweet bourbon and lifted by a scattering of juicy pomegranate seeds.
We really hope that Home Plate’s problems with consistency can be ironed out. Even though the restaurant had been open for two months at the time of reviewing, it is still claimed to be in ‘soft launch’ (with prices set to change once the full menu is launched). But that’s the only thing holding this no-nonsense eatery back. With satisfying food at great-value prices, this is a solid go-to spot for Sanlitun’s carnivores.