As the Ardmore eatery celebrates its first anniversary, our food editor gives the corner spot two (sauce-filled) thumbs up
by Greg Salisury, Food Editor
This November, Sophie’s BBQ celebrated its first anniversary, and while being in business for one year may not seem like a big deal … This hasn’t been an ordinary year.
By opening Sophie’s in 2020, chef-owner Greg Herman gambled that this charming, cozy corner spot could thrive during the pandemic. “I saw a huge draw to barbecue during the pandemic,” Herman said. “It’s comforting food, and it was what people wanted.”
A year and countless cords of hardwood later, Herman and his staff work to the constant thrum of people walking in to pick up orders, the dings of online orders and the conversation of diners sitting down to tuck into a menu that reads like the greatest hits of barbecue styles from across the country.
Case in point: An appetizer of sweet potato hushpuppies is a smart update to the North Carolina classic, all mahogany cragginess on the outside and saffron fluffiness inside. Instead of the traditional accompanying monkey dish of whipped butter, the four enormous hushpuppies are anchored by apple-jalapeño cream cheese. The appetizer serves as a harbinger of the outsized flavors and portion sizes to come.
The smoked chicken wings – enormous three-jointed beauties redolent of fruitwood – are brined for 24 hours before being smoked and then finished on the flattop to produce a skin so crisp and greaseless that it will be a while before you order them anywhere else.
The pulled pork sandwich, larded with shoulder meat that’s been smoked between 12 to 14 hours, comes out Texas-style, packed high on potato bread and topped with coleslaw and a side of pickles. It’s the barbecue version of an old-school pastrami sandwich. Just in case this isn’t enough, all sandwiches at Sophie’s come with fistfuls of fresh-cut fries.
Meats – for individual platters or family-style – include pulled pork and brisket, half-chicken and whole chicken, and half-rack and full rack of St. Louis ribs. The Certified Black Angus brisket has been smoked until it is pink-edged and falls apart in the best way. The ribs are lacquered in a Kansas City-style sauce redolent of molasses. The sauces are amazing. Ask for the hot sauce, made with aged habañeros, that punches up every meat it comes in contact with.
Sophie’s has some truly impressive side dishes. Collard greens are braised in a stock made from smoked pork bones with plenty of garlic and black pepper. The brisket-and-bacon-studded baked beans are made in-house, as is everything else. Asparagus, tossed in an Alabama white sauce, is yet another example of Herman’s omnivorous approach to barbecue tradition. And the cornbread rises high and crumbles just right.
That same cornbread is the star of an unexpectedly addictive bread pudding – the only dessert offered at Sophie’s. Tossed with local honey, candied walnuts and cranberries, it was just as good for breakfast the next day. Think of it as a deconstructed corn muffin and a sweet, final example of how Sophie’s is making its mark on the local barbecue scene.
64 Rittenhouse Place, Ardmore, (610) 642-0100