Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Uptown - Cozy Corner


As odd as it may sound, I’d never tried the Cozy Corner at North Parkway and Manassas because it is so close to my house. I live less than two miles from the Bar-B-Q Shop on Madison, which consistently serves up barbecued perfection.  And when I want something fast, the Tops Barbecue at Jackson and Watkins is less than a mile away. So I’d never seen any reason to travel the three miles out to Cozy Corner when I was at home wanting barbecue, despite the great things I’d heard about the food there.

But the entire point of my current quest has been to try new restaurants and find out what I’ve been missing, so when my wife wanted barbecue for dinner we headed to Uptown. The Uptown neighborhood, located just north of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital near downtown, has been through a massive period of transition over the past decade. In 2000 the city began tearing down the sprawling Hurt Village housing project. When Bruce Springsteen sang about “down in the part of town where when you hit a red light you don't stop” on Johnny 99 he could have been singing about going past Hurt Village on Danny Thomas back in the day. The projects have since been replaced by mixed-income, single-family homes, which has also prompted people to renovate some of the historic homes in the surrounding neighborhood.

The section of North Parkway around Cozy Corner still looks incredibly drab since it is dominated by abandoned retail stores, and the restaurant itself looks like what it is -- a small barbecue joint that spent decades being next to the projects. But inside you’ll find some of the best ribs I’ve encountered so far. They were once again offered in both mild and hot and I predictably ordered the hot. The hot sauce was very similar to what I had at Reggi's -- full of flavor with a heat that increases steadily as you eat. It's one of the hottest hot barbecue sauces I've tried, so don't request it unless you like truly spicy food. The ribs are charred on the outside in a way that can make them look burned at first glance. But when you start eating you realize the charred exterior is just a delicious crust surrounding a tenderly delicious serving of rich, smokey pork. The beans and slaw were excellent too. Good slaw is vitally important when you crank up the spice on the barbecue sauce, since it is where you turn for relief when your mouth starts to burn. It’s kind of like a Dirty South version of the raita that is an integral part of good Indian meal.

Since I was out for dinner with my wife I ignored my usual rules for avoiding sugar and followed up dinner with an order of  banana pudding. If you think of 'naner puddin’ as a gross concoction based around regular vanilla pudding you need to try the Cozy Corner’s rendition. It’s so thick and creamy yet delicate it is more like banana slices and vanilla wafers surrounded by cheesecake and it makes you understand how such a basic combination of ingredients became a Southern dessert staple.

UPDATE: Based on recommendations from others I made a return trip to try the Cozy Corner's superb Cornish Hen.

Cozy Corner on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

  1. Funny that you referred to this area of the city as "Uptown". Way back in the day it was called "Crosstown" but I never hear that anymore. I think one more thing that people should know about Cozy Corner is that although they have incredible ribs, and I agree that the hotter ones are best, their sandwiches are unusual. They are made with sliced pork, not pulled and I don't really recommend them. I haven't tried the cornish hen, so I can't comment there, but if you go for the ribs you can't go wrong. I have some friends who consider them the best ribs in town and I can't argue with that.

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    1. I think of Crosstown as a little further east along North Parkway, near the old Sears building.

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  2. I disagree with the comment about the sliced pork sandwich. While it's different than usual, it's just another top-notch offering at the Cozy Corner. Served on a sesame hoagie roll (rather than a "light bread" bun), the sliced pork falls apart just as easily as a pulled shoulder. It's sliced thinly, and almost looks like roast beef. But it has the deep smoke flavor and tenderness of everyone else's pulled pork. Plus, you get the added benefit of the C.C.'s excellent sauce and slaw.

    P.S. For a new adventure in flavor/pain, ask for some of the "Super Spicy" sauce they keep hidden in the back, in the yellow bottle.

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