Ladies, if you are on the prowl for red-blooded men between ages and 18 and 100, in careers ranging from rock music to retirement, might I suggest you stop in at Edley's, the new barbecue establishment launched in November by former Marble Slab Creamery franchisee Will Newman and his wife Catharine. With a lunchtime ratio of one female to every four males, Edley's is a target-rich environment for man-hunting.
Meanwhile, it's also prime stalking ground for diners in search of traditional smoked meats with a few creative twists.
An indoor-outdoor tree house of an eatery with garage doors opening onto a sprawling deck, Edley's — which takes its name from Will's family — could fall back on its considerable curb appeal to siphon traffic from the bustling restaurant district. After all, diners will forgive all manner of menu sins when the beer is good, location convenient and atmosphere inviting. But Edley's is more than just a pretty, albeit rustically masculine, face.
First things first: The ribs are excellent. The only drawback is that the meaty racks of dark caramel-lacquered pork are available only at dinner, so plan accordingly.
But if you arrive at lunch, there's more than enough to keep you busy. The cornerstones of the succinct menu are sandwiches and platters with pork, turkey, chicken, brisket, fried shrimp and catfish dipped in a cayenne-tinged batter. Sandwiches cost $5 and $6 and can be upgraded with two sides for $3. Platters with two sides and cornbread range from $9 for pulled pork to $22.79 for a full rack of ribs.
Unlike so many local establishments serving stringy ropes of pulled meat, Edley's minces the pork, integrating the crisp bark into the tender meat. That finer-grained delivery can make for a more manageable mouthful, when it's piled onto a bun with a tangy tangle of vinegar-based slaw, a pickle and a signature slather of tomato-based sweet heat (whose secret ingredient is a dash of lemon-lime soda). That said, on the occasion that we ordered barbecue for takeout, the minced pork dried out more quickly than the larger hunks of pulled chicken.
The catfish platter held up well in its genre, with four generous planks cloaked in a nubbly bronze batter, served with a mustard-infused tartar sauce. Similarly, the children's chicken fingers had the reassuring texture of hand-dipped strips of juicy white meat.
The ever-changing array of sides includes the likes of potato salad with skin-on red potatoes; mayo-free cole slaw riddled with tiny celery seeds and flecks of pink onion, laced with mustard powder and a pinch of barbecue rub; thick wedges of crumbly grilled cornbread, reminiscent of focaccia, with diced jalapenos and red peppers; and crisp thick-cut fries. On one visit, sides included a tomato-based Brunswick stew with pork and turkey, corn, limas and other beans, alongside a beanless cousin known as pork chili, which recalled the red, pork-tangled broth of Mexican posole. All that is to say that, if you were so inclined, you could order a carnivorous feast of pulled pork (or any other meat) with sides of pork stew and pork chili. That might explain the full house of men at a recent midday meal.
But before you write off Edley's as just another, shall we say, sausage fest, take a look at the Southern salad, a colorful and crisp pile-up of greens with shredded white cheese, grape tomatoes, bacon, pink onions and hard-boiled egg, topped with a choice of smoked meat. Served in a metal pie tin, the generous salad was draped with tender swatches of smoked turkey rimmed with a spice-rubbed rind of crisp bronzed skin.
While Edley's covered the bases of smoked meats and fresh vegetables, we particularly appreciated the zany, over-the-top flair of the Tuck's Special, a brisket sandwich on a shiny brioche-style bun from Charpier's bakery, topped with barbecue sauce, a fried egg and a gluttonous glob of pimento cheese — the brainchild of general manager Brett Tuck's mom. For better or worse, someone forgot to drop the dollop of cheese onto our sandwich; even so, the decadent layering of smoked beef with edges of salty sizzled fat and a silky sunny yolk — which reminded us of a Uruguayan chivito in its egg-laden excess — was a gorgeous juxtaposition.
It's that deft pairing of complements — from the indoor-outdoor environment to the meat-laden salad — that makes Edley's taut menu so broadly appealing. While men may always outweigh women in this meat lovers' haven of a latter-day roadhouse, the womenfolk will likely catch on soon. In fact, on one visit, we ran into a couple from the neighborhood dining with their family. When we asked how they liked the newest arrival on the 12South scene, the wife conceded she was extremely happy with her food, despite the fact that she went in with low expectations and a hint of resentment toward the plume of smoke rising over the district. "I wanted to hate the place, because my house smells like pig all the time now," she said. To which her husband replied, "You wanted to hate it? I wanted to marry it."
Edley's serves lunch and dinner daily. The restaurant will be closed on Tuesdays until January.