Sweet Water 420's on draught while we surveyed our menus. Only after the waiter arrived did we realize that we had two distinctly different menus; mine was dated and no longer reflected the menu de jour. Quickly scanning Taylor's menu, we decided to start with the smoked pork nachos and follow that up with the three meat combo (baby back ribs, half chicken, and andouille sausage + sides of collared greens, jalapeño mac & cheese, and smoked gouda grits.)
Ever since visiting Germantown Commissary and seeing those plates of pork cheese nachos, I knew I had to try a plate for myself somewhere. P'Cheen's version sounded incredible. Nachos, pepper jack cheese, chipotle sour cream, fresh jalapeños, etc. all sounded incredible. The presentation was even better than I imagined, and a light addition of chives and seasoning were sprinkled over the top of our dish. I tried to slow down my pace but I had two factors working against me: Taylor was going to start eating into my share and the chips would start to get soggy. I might intern at P'Cheens just to get the full lowdown on how they make these chips. The pork had a solid smoky flavor that did not overpower the rest of the flavors. The jalapeños had a strong spicy bite but did not burn out our taste buds.
After we finished the nachos, the waiter brought the three meat combo and rang the bell over the bar to announce that we did in fact order the three meat plate. Their excitement over two men splitting a plate was dumbfounding. The food looked great. The meat on the ribs looked like it had slowly pulled back from the bones and a nice crust had developed on the meaty topside of the miniature slab. I cut a rib and got excited over how juicy and well cooked the meat was. The flavor did not disappoint either. The chicken was extremely moist and tasted great with or without any barbecue sauce (to be discussed shortly). I was happy that we were served the back half of the bird since dark meat is generally more tender than the breast section. The sausage was good but had too strong of a cajun influence to be enjoyable at a barbecue venue. I would have also preferred to have the sausage grilled or pan fried rather than smoked to better preserve the inner juiciness. While my preference from best to worst went from Ribs - Chicken - Sausage, Taylor thought the sausage was the best meat he ate -- not to be taken as an insult as Taylor loved the sausage. P'Cheens served four sauces, none of which were too impressive: traditional sweet barbecue, NC vinegar based sauce, pepper vinegar based sauce, and a sweet mustard based sauce. I preferred the sweet mustard and the pepper vinegar over the two alternatives. Sauce is typically an afterthought if the flavor of the meat can speak for itself.
To finish on the sides, the collared greens had the most flavor while the jalapeño mac & cheese lacked any substantial flavor at all. The cheese lacked a distinguishable flavor and other than the three jalapeños that were perched on top of the dish, I unsuccessfully was able to taste of find evidence that proved whether jalapeños were even cooked into the dish. The smoked gouda grits were better advertised than executed, but were still enjoyable enough to complement the barbecue and a hearty glass of Atlanta's own Sweet Water beer. Before we departed, Mike LaSage visited our table and gave us a friendly hi-five while he mistook us for another group of guys he thought had been in the restaurant the previous week. Despite the mistaken identity, he was friendly and talked about his preference for Cajun and barbecue cuisine although he was raised in Florida. There is great food in Louisiana, as long as you're south of I-10, so I can't fault him for that.
If you're looking for me next Monday, I'll most likely be back at P'Cheens trying to introduce their barbecue to different friends and my family (unless Taylor wants to join for a second round too). Hopefully Mike pursues opening his own restaurant where he not only serves barbecue daily, but also expands the menu a little further to benefit yours truly.
PS - Anyone who thinks Mike's Bone Lick BBQ's logo is better than the 3rd Degree Berns touring logo is an absolute idiot. His looks like a fetal pig ready for dissection in a 7th grade biology class.
*** Update ***
P'Cheen has posted my review on their facebook page. Thanks to Shaheen for pointing this out already.