Enjoy some meat slathered in sauce at this BBQ spot
There is a hidden gem tucked away right on Church Street, just steps away from Key Food. Its name is Carlee’s, and it is a haven of barbecued meat that is both plentiful and cheap.
Carlee’s is a self-described “quaint hole in the wall” that serves Portuguese barbecue. All of their meats are grilled over hardwood charcoal in an open kitchen.
Carlee’s website says, “The Portuguese are renowned for their wholesome style of barbecuing where we cook on a Charcoal grill. This process allows our food to cook in the natural flavors without the fat, thus creating a tasty meal that the whole family can enjoy.”
When I entered, the restaurant was empty. There were a lot of tables, but most customers who came in ordered their food to go. It is a casual set up, but the restaurant is spotless and the staff is friendly and helpful.
The smell of wood smoke and grilled meat permeated the restaurant, which immediately made me hungry. I decided to treat myself and get the “Carlee’s Special Platter,” which came with two pork ribs, two beef ribs, two pork bellies and two pork cutlets with two sides (don’t worry, I had a friend to share with). We chose rice and BBQ beans as our side dishes. The whole thing, which could have easily fed four people, only cost $26.
We were able to glance over the counter and see our food being prepared over the fire, which was entertaining. After only about 10 minutes of waiting, a giant platter of food arrived in a disposable aluminum tray. Like I said, it’s a very casual setup, but the food more than made up for it. I was surprised by the amount of meat. I thought, for $26, the platter was probably meant to be shared by 2 people, but this was not the case (unless those 2 people just ran the NYC marathon).
My friend asked me, incredulously, “How much food did you order?”
I, too, was shocked. I knew there was no way we would be able to eat all of the food, even though we have very hearty appetites. We finished a little more than half and brought the rest to a friend.
The meat was all delicious — perfectly cooked, juicy and well seasoned with their proprietary Piri Piri sauce. There was also a delicious hot sauce served on the side if you wanted to add a little more spice, which we did. The charcoal imbued the meat with smoky, delicious flavor.
The rice was really good, which sounds silly because rice is rice, but it was really good. It was yellow rice, so it was likely seasoned with a spice blend containing saffron. The BBQ beans were also tasty, but I was there for the rice. And, once again, they gave us so. Much. Rice.
We also tried a chicken empanada, because we are gluttons. The empanada was one of the best I’ve ever had. The chicken was incredibly flavorful, and the empanada wrapper was tender and flakey.
Next time I go to Carlee’s (there will definitely be a next time), I want to try the BBQ Portuguese Sausage. For $7.50, you get a half tray (still huge) and 2 sides. I might make both of my sides rice. How could you beat that?
Carlee’s is a little out of the way for most students — it’s not on Easton Avenue or George Street, but it is close to both of them. If you ever want a lot of delicious food for not a lot of money, give Carlee’s a try.