August 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm EDT | by Jonathan Howard
Kangaroo critique

Portions are generous at Kangaroo Boxing Club. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The still-new Kangaroo Boxing Club, which opened at 3410 11th Street NW in June, is a brick-and-mortar spin-off of the PORC food truck which its owners envision as a laid-back eatery where barbecue lovers can get in a restaurant the kind of food they serve in their food trucks.

Proprietors John Saltzman, Trent Allen, Peyton Sherwood, Chris Powers and Zack Spencer have opened a spot that consists of seven indoor tables, a few seats at the bar and limited patio seating. In November, I reviewed the PORC food truck and with the new establishment I was expecting a much-elevated version of the food. Unfortunately this was not to be.

We arrived and were seated in the front window seat. The waiter piled rustic wooden clipboards with the menu attached haphazardly on the table and scurried away. When he returned for our drink order, he directed us to a barely visible chalkboard across the bar. All I could see was the beer selections that were crossed off, indicating that they were out.

While we had his attention we selected the “Meat Board” appetizer that has pulled pork, Smokey Joe — beef smothered in barbecue sauce — and pastrami. It was served with a blueberry habanero salsa and three microscopic pieces of crostini. We did order more crostini but it didn’t arrive until after our entrees. This platter was met with a lukewarm reception from the table, partly because the meats were lukewarm and partly because they lacked a key element: flavor. I believe that sauces shouldn’t provide the only flavor for food, but they should enhance it; the blueberry habanero salsa didn’t do either. It fell flat, not even delivering the heat one expects from habaneros.

Our meat-centric entrees included pulled pork sandwiches, three little pigs platter, and the pastrami sandwich. I planned on ordering the Big Bad Wolf Burger that comes with ham, bacon and pulled pork, with the Costanza Burger patty instead of the standard, because it is described as the most sensual of burgers. However the waiter never asked me which I wanted, nor did he ask how I wanted it cooked. I was barely able to request cheddar cheese on the burger before he rushed off. With most entrees you have your choice of sides including collard greens, mac and cheese, barbecue beans, Johnny Cakes and fries. We chose a variety of these sides, although most of us also added the mac and cheese.

Our entrees arrived, moments after the appetizer. The pastrami sandwich could have fed four people and the pulled pork was erupting from the bun. My burger was on a thick slice of ham, pulled pork piled high and two pieces of bacon crisscrossed over top. It was missing the cheese, but I am not sure where that would have been placed anyway.

I smashed the top bun down and struggled to fit the sandwich in my mouth. My first sloppy bite was a preview to my disappointment — the patty was overcooked, the pulled pork was bland and dry and even the bacon couldn’t save it. I splashed on some hot sauce, but I quickly gave up. My mac and cheese, also ordered with bacon because I couldn’t resist adding more meat to this meal, had too much goopy sauce on top and the noodles were undercooked. The bite of blue cheese was barely evident in the sauce. Most startling however, was that all four mac-and-cheese sides at the table were significantly different.

Not all was disappointing, though. The Johnny Cakes were perfectly prepared. The meat-soaked collard greens and pastrami sandwich showed potential.

And while several of the offerings were lackluster, the overarching problem at Kangaroo Boxing Club is service. They need to slow down and pay attention to the needs of the patron. The only focus seems to be turning tables, and that is creating rushed, poorly prepared and inconsistent meals. It feels like they’re operating a stationary food truck at the peak of lunch rush. If they slow down and concentrate on the food, then Kangaroo Boxing Club could bring excellent barbeque to Columbia Heights. If the food is extraordinary, then people will be willing to wait. Until then, this offers little you can’t get at the food truck.

  • It’s too bad you didn’t like it. I’ve been a few times and it’s always great for my friends and I! Very much looking forward to that menu all football season long. Great beer selection, too.

    Go ‘Skins! ;-)

  • I live a couple blocks from here and frequent this place, and I’ve never had anything but a great experience with both the food and the wait staff! Waiters should always ask how you want your burger cooked, but if they don’t, TELL them. How many DC food trucks have done so well that they moved into a brick and mortar restaurant (in this case, after 1 year of sales!)?? With intense competition among food trucks, how did they do this?… Because their meats are delicious.
    The cozy, rustic, bluesy atmosphere that they have created inside blends perfectly with their delicious, slow-smoked meats and sides. The turnover is faster than usual because most of the food is already prepared, and it is a SMALL space, but I have never witnessed anyone being rushed out. I find it hard to believe that anyone can say that their pulled pork is lacking in flavor, and if you think it’s dry, maybe you’re referring to the fact that it isn’t fatty and that they lean more toward the Carolina style of preparation. They don’t drown it in sauce, and the choice is yours to add some of theirs (far cries from the syrupy sauces you might find at other places) or enjoy it as it is.
    Social media sites are much more telling than this single review. Keep on doing what you’re doing, guys!!

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