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Friday, September 02, 2016

Gettin’ the ‘Cue

THERE’S NOT A BIG BARBECUE PRESENCE in Provincetown, Mass. Stroll down busy Commercial Street and you’ll be exhorted to try burgers and pizza and, of course, seafood. So my wife and daughter and I were delighted to learn of a fairly new place with a wonderfully impressive moniker.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
The first surprise at Two Southern Sissies is that the barbecue on offer, which includes pulled pork and beef brisket, isn’t smoked. The second is that it’s nevertheless delicious. Not that it should be any surprise: although he was raised in upstate New York, co-owner Keith Lewis claims a Virginia heritage that goes back far enough to number explorer Meriwether Lewis among his forebears. “My father was the first in the family to stray farther than fifty miles from home,” Keith explains.

Thus, his recipes are taken from a long family tradition, but adapted to be more healthful than might otherwise have been the case. Hence the smoke-free slow-cooking, not to mention ingredients that come from grass-fed, humanely raised critters and, when possible, local farms.

Take the Sissies’ Brisket ($16.75). It’s billed as Angus sirloin, but that’s only part of the story. Lewis described the challenge of a search for a consistently delicious cut of grass-fed sirloin, which he ends up having to import. But after it’s been marinated for six hours and seared, it murmurs as tenderly as you could wish from its cardboard basket. Topped with a zesty vinaigrette, it’s excellent; touched with Keith’s fiery ghost-pepper sauce, it’s sublime.

And it’s served with a cold compote of greens and beans, in this case collard greens and blackeyed peas, with red pepper bits among the seasoned additions. The proportions are excellent, and it has a tanginess that pairs nicely with the brisket.

Two Southern Sissies opened the summer of 2015 on Commercial Street. It’s at the far end of the Aquarium Marketplace, a walkway from sidewalk to seafront flanked by hole-in-the-wall markets offering seafood, burritos, gelato, Chinese food, and even a wellness center. Overlooking the water is a deck with picnic tables for a meal with a view.

Our visit took place during a day with rain, so the deck was relatively empty. Aleksandra, a college student from Bulgaria, welcomed us and offered to guide us through the menu selections. Determining that we were first-timers (and hungry), she pointed us to the $30 super-sampler that would give us the highlights: the aforementioned brisket, a pulled-pork sandwich with coleslaw (otherwise $9.75), and half of a barbecue-rotisserie chicken with cornbread (otherwise $14.75).

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
A shrewd sales technique, which she compounded by offering a taste of the macaroni and cheese. Yes. Is it plump with cheese? It is. And I don’t even like the stuff under most circumstances. The small portion, which we ordered, is $5.25. Large is $8.75, but you’d better be feeding a much larger family than mine with that size.

And, because it seemed so anomalous, we ordered a small portion of deviled eggs (four halves for $4.75). Not surprisingly, they’re locally sourced from free-range chickens. That there’s very little mayo in them is more than compensated by the topping of apple-smoked bacon, and I can’t imagine preparing this item any other way in future.

We braved the rainswept deck, our table covered by a large-enough umbrella so that only the back of my butt got wet. What immediately sets these items apart are the sauces. The chicken is basted in a homemade compote named Granny Slappin’ Good, and who am I to argue? The requisite mix of sweetness and vinegar lays on the bird as if it were born like that, and the meat remains tender and moist. So, too, the scone-like serving of cornbread, it’s secret, Keith explained, the use of cottage cheese in the recipe.

Finding ciabatta rolls for the pulled-pork sandwich was a challenge that ultimately sent Keith to California for its source. The meat deserves it. It spends eleven hours cooking at a low-enough temperature to completely tenderize it, drinking in some sauce as it goes, and it’s topped with house-made coleslaw that’s also served on the side.

Believe me, I wouldn’t have pursued dessert after all that, but Keith insisted. “You have to have the banana pudding.” O, this stuff is good. I would have rearranged my ordering strategy had I known what was in store, but I still found room for the stuff. It’s touted as a Virginia Fair winner, and I believe it. Creamy and thick, liberally chunked with banana slices, it’s topped with cinnamon-seasoned croutons, drizzled with caramel and, as are so many local sweets, salted a bit ($4.75).

Other menu items include a personal pizza with BBQ chicken and caramelized onion ($6.75), pork or chicken sliders served with coleslaw on a brioche roll ($2.75 each), a beef-brisket sandwich served on a ciabatta roll with a side of coleslaw ($10.75), ditto with chicken ($9.75).

The chicken also is available full-sized ($19.75, with two chunks of cornbread) and in a quarter ($9.75), and there are baby back ribs to be had, served with coleslaw ($16.75). That coleslaw or greens and beans can be ordered alone ($2.95 / $4.95), as can be the cornbread ($3.75). Potatoes roasted under the chicken as it twirls in the rotisserie are also available ($3.75 / $6.75).

Should you seek a sampler of less-challenging quantity, the $20 Take Two-Pick Two lets you choose two of the following: Sissies’ Brisket (with greens and beans), a quarter of BBQ chicken with cornbread, or a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw.

The rain increased just as we finished our meal and disposed of our flatware and containers. It was a moist walk back to the car, but a bellyful of good barbecue means you don’t really care.

Two Southern Sissies, 205 Commercial St., Unit 11, Provincetown, Mass., 508-487-8437, Serving Mon-Sun 11-10 through Sept. 15; Fri-Sun 11-9 through Oct. 15, but be sure to call first.

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