Red’s is all about the BBQ, with a meat-heavy menu all about US-style low and slow cooking. Or at least, it was until this month.
Their new menu is all about new discoveries – and meat doesn’t necessarily take centre stage. In addition to the ribs, burgers and heaving porky platters we all know and love, there are some new additions bringing the BBQ love to fish and even vegetables.
And it’s good. Who would have thought the humble lettuce could be such a star?
The new discoveries menu, they tell us, is based on ten US road trips, countless BBQ joints, a million miles, and a few adventures along the way. Stories aside, what’s clear is that they’ve put some thought into it.
Popcorn jackfruit, for example, is no token vegan starter. Our Southern fried jackfruit bites, dried out and deep-fried until crisp and golden, are served with a zingy Louisiana sauce. Move over, popcorn chicken.
Then there are whole smoked mushrooms with lemon, garlic and herbs, served on thick Texas toast and dusted with cheese, as a new veggie option.
In terms of fish starters, there’s Alabama fish fry – corn-fried fresh white fish strips with Alabama sauce, capers, pickled gherkins, red onion and lemon – or crispy squid dusted with cajun spice.
Meat lovers shouldn’t panic, though. Our honey bourbon pork belly is a winner of a starter and everything this BBQ joint does right, the perfectly sweet honey bourbon-glazed crispy pork belly bites offset by a tangy slaw.
The hot-or-not baby back stack sees slow-smoked pork ribs glazed in either mild Unholy or hot Devil Wing sauce, depending on how much heat you like, served with red chillies, pickled green chillies, and sprinkled with Hog Dust.
In terms of mains, the Memphis pork belly – a crispy strip of crunchy pork belly in a Memphis dry rub, with bacon greens, apple sauce and a BBQ corn cob on the side – is everything you want from BBQ.
The stacked Alabama fish sandwich is the mother of all hoagie rolls, loaded with corn-fried fish strips, mixed leaves, zingy Alabama sauce, capers, red onion and chopped parsley. A Man vs Food style whopper, yes, but (slightly) lighter than meat.
The old Pitmaster tray is classic Red’s, and reminiscent of serious BBQ competitions in the States. Think smoked brisket, baby back ribs, pulled pork, cheese and jalapeño sausage, served with cracklings, meaty pit beans, pickled gherkins and red chillies.
Now, though, there’s a meat-free version. Smoked pulled jackfruit and lime and coriander cauliflower steak is topped with light and crispy tofu crunch and served with half a BBQ corn cob, grilled baby gem lettuce heart, tangy slaw, pickled gherkins and red chillies.
That gem lettuce is also available as a side, and it’s genuinely a cracker. Crunchy chargrilled baby gem lettuce hearts, an American classic, are dressed with a corn chimmi dressing.
You can go even healthier with a superfood platter of turtlebean and quinoa grains, smoked almonds, kale, grilled avocado and roasted tomatoes with lemon and herb dressing, slaw and blue corn tortilla chips. Top it with brisket or pulled pork if you’re missing the meat. But vegans can rest assured that the smoking and frying processes are kept separate.
Red’s are also renowned for their towering burgers – including the famous donut burger. But vegans or those looking for a lighter option needn’t miss out.
The Moving Mountains meat-free ‘bleeding’ burger has a 100% plant-based patty, served on a vegan bun with Unholy BBQ sauce, vegan cheese, vegan mayo, tomato, onion, pickled gherkins and lettuce.
What’s brought about the changes?
“It’s generally been meat-focused until now,” says marketing manager Katie Coleman. “But as a brand we’ve been thinking about what BBQ means. Does it have to be just about meat, or can it be more about those regional US flavours?
“We wanted to diversify a bit and be more inclusive. It’s all about family here. And if you’re out in a group, maybe some people want something lighter, or they’re vegetarian or vegan. Why should they miss out?
“We’re never going to be a vegan restaurant, of course, but we thought maybe we can bring that BBQ style to vegan dishes…”
And they have. The vegan dishes have been normalised in the new menu – nothing is a token addition. And the stories behind the meat dishes – from the road trips, and the discoveries – have inspired the vegetables, too.
But that doesn’t mean the classics have been neglected. There really is something for everyone on this menu.