Photo Credit: TH
Where: 7500 State Road, Philadelphia, PA
Order: Brisket platter with macaroni and cheese, cheesy creamed spinach, Tennessee string beans, cornbread, ginger ale
In Northeast Philadelphia, the holy trinity of spots for good eats consists of Las Margaritas, Blue Duck Sandwich Co., and Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse. I've been to all three several times, especially since I called the section of Philly my home for the first 25 or so years of my life (even though Blue Duck got there after I moved out). In a city with a heavy Mexican population, Las Margaritas is a no-brainer. Philly is a hotbed for hipsters and college kids, so Blue Duck makes sense. But finding barbecue outside of the South can be risky. But trust me, after years and years of eating at the joint, Sweet Lucy's is the real deal. My latest meal was just another piece of evidence to its bona fides.
My standby is the brisket, and I didn't want to mess around today. While their pulled pork and chicken are pretty good, and Amanda says the ribs are solid, I just was in a mood for some tender, fatty beef today. It's served with a generous helping of the house barbecue sauce, and it is the go-to protein on the menu. Seriously, one might think of pork when it comes to barbecue, but if you go into Sweet Lucy's with a Texas state of mind, you won't be disappointed.
The sides are where it's really at though. The Tennessee string beans, not pictured above, were tender and flavorful and cooked with the house kielbasa for nice flavor. The cheesy creamed spinach, one of Amanda's favorites, gave the meal a nice bit of greenery without having to resort to getting bitter collards. But the real star of the menu is the macaroni and cheese.
This stuff is to die for. Literally, I would do some devious things to get at a portion of it. I'm a devotee of my mom's baked mac 'n cheese until the day I die, and the dry, oven-baked casserole style has a place. But Sweet Lucy's mac 'n cheese isn't exactly creamy either. I mean, it is, but the texture is thicker and more unctuous. I know this might sound gross, but the texture is almost waxy, but it works because the way it sits on the tongue leaves a stronger sensation of flavor. And the flavors are on point here. It hits the salty, creamy notes, but it also had underlying sweetness, almost like it had caramelized onions in it. It could just have been the near-burnt brown bits, but it's a tremendous complement.
Make sure you get some of the pickles from the fixins bar. They have a fresh taste and have the right bite. Also, the place has added two new features in recent times, and both have to do with beverage choices. First, the place recently got a liquor license and serves beer and wine. Philly has a vibrant craft beer scene, and Sweet Lucy's taps into it with great and diverse selections. Second, it's added the Pepsi equivalent of the Coke Freestyle machines, which if you're going to have Pepsi products, you might as well go all the way.
Sweet Lucy's proves that Northeast Philadelphia has barbecue worth going out of your way for. Brave the construction on I-95 and check it out if you haven't already. Most Philly natives know of the joint, but if you're visiting, head up and get some righteous 'cue, especially with a side of the mac 'n cheese.