As the only born-and-bred Southerner repping for Team Sassy, I was nominated to try the latest BBQ joint on the block – 85 South. Truth is, as soon as I saw an Instagram of the shop front, I was typing as fast as my fingers could fly to offer my tastebuds to test of the goods; after all, as a pregnant Georgian girl craving BBQ, I figured I would be a good judge!
The creation of two North Carolina boys, Daven and Thomas, 85 South sits on Central’s Kau U Fong (one street down the hill from Gough Street). After many a casual backyard barbeque by Thomas where his friends loved his recipes, a chance to share the goods with the general public was the next logical step! From there, the team constructed their own barbeque smoker (none could be sourced locally or shipped here), brought in meat direct from North Carolina and 85 South began!
Us Southerners are very picky about our barbeque; it’s similar to trying to name a favorite char siu place in Hong Kong – everyone has their own idea of what makes their meat the best! General barbeque consensus says that it is all about the quality of the animal; sure there are numerous rubs, sauces and sides, but the real testament of good barbeque is the tenderness and juiciness of the meat. At 85 South, the meat is gooooood… and y’all, I mean really good! It breaks apart with ease and has the best smoky taste of any pulled pork sandwich I have tried in Hong Kong.
The sandwich comes with a tomato-based slaw to further enhance the flavour, and there are three homemade sauces (representing different areas of North Carolina) that you can also add if you like. The West sauce is tomato-based and has a sweeter barbeque flavour, the East sauce is vinegar-based with a peppery quality, and the South sauce is more of a honey mustard one. 85 South recommend that you put each on your plate and dip your sandwich in to try, before going all out and smothering it with your favourite, but personally I think the sandwich is best left with no sauce added!
The ribs are prepared sans sauce meaning just a dry rub is used – and this is not just any dry rub. This is a family recipe that packs a peppery punch and will leave you reaching for your sweet tea before you can dive back in for another bite… and the fact I just mentioned sweet tea is a big deal!
As a test, I always request sweet tea at any BBQ establishment I venture into – and am typically asked what the heck it is (one waitress even thought I was calling her “sweetie!”). Not at 85 South. Not a moment after I asked, a big glass of ice-cold sweet tea was delivered to me… God bless the South! I was even more excited when I learned that the blend of tea leaves was a special concoction conjured up to taste like “home”. 85 South also do homemade lemonade; try asking for an Arnold Palmer, which is a half-half blend of sweet tea and lemonade and the perfect drink for a hot afternoon… of which there are many in Hong Kong!
For sides, we shovelled down old-school Southern church mac n’ cheese, which is baked in a pan and stands on its own, typically thanks to the addition of an egg before going in the oven (none of that creamy eat with a spoon stuff!); it had a crunchy cheddar cheese topping that added even more intense flavour. Meanwhile, the chunky slaw that tops the sandwich is also easily enjoyed alone and provides a good crunchy contrast.
One could imagine that after all of this, we would be too stuffed for dessert – but if you look at obesity rates in the South, you will soon learn that there is always room for dessert (and another glass of sweet tea)! 85 South’s freshly made carrot cupcakes with a devilishly rich, cream cheese frosting ticked all our boxes. Sweet tea, BBQ and carrot cake?! My baby was kicking like crazy in my tummy, and I was nearly jumping for joy as well!
Take it from this Southern girl that 85 South is legit! If you want some real South in yo’ mouth, then stop by, grab a pitcher of beer or tea, and settle in for some seriously good eats! Prices are reasonable given the amount of food you get – $85 for meat, slaw and fries combos, to a maximum of $150 for the “Big Boi Plate” that features a bit of everything (pssst… they even do bulk takeaways that work out even cheaper!).
Don’t forget to check out the cool local street art on 85 South’s walls, plus grab a pen and sign the wall of fame in the bathroom. If I ever go missing, just follow the neon glow of the 85 South sign drawing in displaced Southerners like moths to a flame, in search of a little piece of home cookin’ – and that’s where I’ll be!
85 South 6-10 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong
Photos by Sabrina Sikora Photography