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May 04, 2010

Alice Eats: Phuong's Kitchen

1130 North Avenue, Burlington 658-4148

045 This may look like a review of a Vietnamese restaurant. It's not. The tiny North End kitchen, which shares a building with a convenience store, is now run by William Workman, better known as Wild Bill. Still Phuong's for now, he's planning on changing the name of the spot to Wild Bill's Western BBQ.

I am a stickler about barbecue. Usually, if it's not competition-quality, I don't care. But Wild Bill's is something of a different animal. Ever wished you had a dad who was a really good home griller and could present you with ribs and picnic-style sides on demand? The paternal and seemingly not-at-all wild Bill is your guy.

The menu is simple. There are chicken, ribs, steak, pork chops and burgers, all in the $10 or less range. My plate of chicken thigh and leg, with crisp, skin-on fries and syrupy sweet baked beans was $5.95. Presented as one plate-filling piece, the bird was meltingly tender, with grill-crisped skin. The barbecue sauce, which appeared to have been slathered on only at the end of cooking was tomato based with a fruity sweetness and just a hint of spice.

The half rack of ribs was also grilled, not smoked. I'm used to seeing baby back or St. Louis pork slabs at restaurants. These monsters were country-style, meaning there was meat from the chop attached for an extra-thick, Flintstone's-like bones. The pork was tender without falling right off the bone. In places, fat along the edges became as pleasingly crisp as a well-executed pork belly.

The coleslaw was thick-cut and light, though less vinegary than I prefer. I can only rave about the macaroni and cheese — with a slight caveat. The cheesy, cheddar-heavy blend created delightful strings as it stretched from tureen to plate. That said, it was reheated in a microwave, as were the beans. What can I say? That's just how dad has to do it sometimes.

Maybe I'm cutting the five-table, mostly take-out business too much of a break. The food is not what I generally consider "restaurant quality." I don't usually like microwaving my food, even at home. I was disappointed that they had run out of all but one dessert in their little fridge. However, the enjoyment of working class home cookin' prevailed. Next time I wish I were at a good old family picnic, I will rush to see Wild Bill.

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