Although there will always be a time and a place for fine dining, the recent restaurant openings across the city suggest that Hongkongers may have fatigued of the high price tags, opting instead for simple street food with equally simple environments. 85 South is testament to this.
Taking the title of Hong Kong’s first authentic southern barbecue restaurant, 85 South is the brainchild of North Carolina boys Thomas and Daven. Using techniques and ingredients synonymous with the 400 year-old tradition of North Carolina style home cooking, they wanted to introduce this unique style of barbecuing meat to Hong Kong’s greedy and curious foodies.
The space, located on Kau U Fong, just below Gough Street, is instantly recognisable by its big neon sign (they seem to be all the rage these days – see Little Bao and La Vache) and wooden façade. Step inside to brightly painted walls and long picnic-style tables for communal dining.
Orders are placed and collected from the counter, where food is served in paper plates with plastic forks, staying true to the fuss-free feel of the place. An oversized chalkboard above the counter lists the menu, offering various combinations of either pulled pork or ribs.
Apparently, what makes a North Carolina style barbecue unique is its focus, not on the sauces or smoke, but on the meat itself. For this reason, the meat comes dry, not laced in BBQ sauce, as one may be accustomed to.
The pulled pork, which had evidently been slow-cooked in a smoker for several hours, was succulent and tender, with an ever-so-slight hint of hickory smokiness. Unfortunately the flavours weren’t quite notable enough for me, particularly given the restaurant’s prime focus.
Personally, for both dishes, I felt a little sauce was necessary to bring out the deeper flavours and, fortunately, when it comes to sauces, 85 South has got you covered. There are three bottles of homemade sauce to choose from: West (a tomato-based smoky barbecue sauce), East (a runnier, vinegar-based spicy sauce) and South (a creamy honey-mustard sauce). The West was definitely my favourite of the three.
The accompanying coleslaw is also unique, in that it is tomato-based, as opposed to dripping in mayonnaise. Its tangy flavour served as a welcome contrast against both kinds of pork.
Obviously no barbecue is complete without some serious carbs, and thankfully 85 South do theirs well. Mac ‘n’ cheese, for me, is something I can easily live without, yet when it is done well, without being too heavy and rich, I struggle to put my fork down. The chips were nice and chunky with a lovely crunch on the outside, giving way to deliciously fluffiness inside.
I recommend washing all this down with a cup (red, of course) of homemade lemonade from the vat in the corner; it’s seriously tasty without being too sweet.
Prices at 85 South are as refreshing as the lemonade; expect to pay only a little more than $100 for a lot of food and a drink. For those times when all I want is simple, fuss-free food that hits the spot, I think I can see a revisit to 85 South on the cards.
6-10 Kau U Fong
Tel: +852 2337 2078