Meat Over Fire. It’s Primal

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris November 21, 2020 08:58 in Dining Diary

Okay, maybe the name Pyre for a restaurant is a little creepy, but that is the only thing objectionable about the “barbecue” place that moved into the old Baco Bar location almost exactly a year ago.

Pyre Provisions is the brainchild and dream of Jeff Matthia, a veteran who served in the military in 30 countries, bringing with him a little bit of the culinary culture from each. We love this idea, and we loved the restaurant the first few times we went. Then we didn’t like it, as they proved time and again a theory and recommendation Tom has held for his career: don’t go to a restaurant in the first six months. They need to figure it out.

It seems that Pyre has found its way, and its focus on smoked meats supported by delicious sides is now a winning formula. We have been several times recently and loved everything we have had. More impressive, they have done the unthinkable, making carrots otherworldly. We would never have guessed (or believed this) but our lovely waitress absolutely implored us to get these, and for that tip I will be eternally grateful. They are tri-colored, thinly-sliced, tender, and glazed just right to make them absolutely like candy.

For starters, here is one of the best fried oyster preparations anywhere. A really generous pile of oysters fried golden brown and crispy sit in a lake of smoky ranch dressing, with a generous smattering of Chow Chow and some sliced radishes. The pickling and the smokiness and the texture of crunch are juxtaposed in a totally pleasing way. Fried oyster lovers, don’t miss this one!

Tom is in a beet salad phase, so the presence of a beet salad on the menu made ordering it a foregone conclusion. Here was an unusually lovely presentation with the salad off-center alongside  a schmear of creme fraiche. The ingredients were an interesting mix of greens like baby kale sprinkled with chopped red onion and a very generous amount of blue cheese and pecans with a balsamic vinaigrette. The beets were not slices but rather chunks. There were only a few of these, but that was definitely enough. They were firm but tender. The mix of all these elements made for a very pleasing combination of flavors and textures. Quite refreshing. And I don’t even like kale, including the slightly less offensive baby kale.

It was tough to make a choice on the entree. There are gourmet items like duck hummus and lamb ragu, swordfish and pork belly, but this is a barbecue-centric menu, with combo plates comprised of a smoked meat and 2 sides. The rubs and smoking techniques are a combination of all the methods and spices Jeff encountered in his travels.

There are pit sides like mac'n'cheese and collards and cheese grits, coleslaw, and beans, but also gourmet sides like smoked spaghetti squash, crispy Brussels sprouts and those divine glazed carrots.

I chose Cantonese pork ribs with chopped peanuts and carrots and cheese grits. Jeff came over to say hi and mentioned a pork shoulder just coming out of the smoker. His gushing romanticized it. When I wondered if I should change my order, he offered a taste of it and I accepted. A small pile of it was on the platter we got.  Although I am not a pulled pork fan generally, this was good. But I’m glad I went for the ribs which were dry smoked.These were not sauced, which I prefer to the wet. They were tender St. Louis ribs, and the portion of six had enough meat to be satisfying. Good call.

The cheese grits were not among the best I’ve had, but they were good enough. A thick coating of cheddar cheese sat on them like a blanket. The glazed carrots were far and away the best side carrots I’ve ever had anywhere. They were sliced thin enough to cook quickly and easily, and they disappeared faster than anything else on the plate. A medium chunk of cornbread and housemade pickles finished out the platter. Our resident cornbread connoisseur gave it a shrug. Good as in fine, but nothing more.

We were curious about a side called Hasselback potatoes, which is a baked potato that is crisped on the edges by deep-frying, then stuffed with all the baked potato fixins. This definitely needed butter in our opinion, and didn’t impress us much.

What did impress us very much is the fresh cut potato chips, which are the very best I have had. They are thick, crisp, very hard and crunchy, and seasoned to perfection. We like to dip these in blue cheese dressing.

Jeff Mattia is a nice guy with an interesting vision. He works closely with his son. He has a nice-looking place and a caring staff. We were pulling for him when he started, and we’re pulling for him now. After the last few meals of great food and a promising crowd in the dining room, we won’t worry about him nearly as much.