Texas Comes to Portsmouth in a Pop-Up Shop

Food critic and local reporter, Emily Priest, finds several of her interests colliding at this new pop-up shop.

Hunter Gatherer, a coffee shop located on Highland Road, always has interesting pop-up shops. From Venezuelan food to Moroccan goods, there is never a shortage of culture and cuisine. Last weekend, something special caught my attention.

For the first time at HG, Carter’s Texas BBQ took over the bohemian interior from 5 pm on a Saturday. Owned by husband and wife, Carter and April, this catering company has been serving authentic Texan BBQ on the south coast for years. But this year they did their first ever pop-up shop.

Arriving at 5.30pm, it was already heaving inside. A queue ran from the kitchen at the far end of the shop to the toilets near the front. Red, white and blue bunting and American flags really gave the venue an American vibe.

A few people ordered drinks at the bar, which was offering a range of beers from local breweries including Southsea Brewing Co. and Staggeringly Good. I stuck with a cold apple juice.

I joined the queue, staring at the tables packed with people gorging on thighs and ribs. I was jealous, and slowly shuffling forwards while waiting for the queue ahead, I was also starting to drool.

The menus on either side of the kitchen came into view as the queue moved on, and I read what they had on offer. I saw brisket, pork ribs and chicken thighs for £6 and large beef ribs for £8. Sides were only £2 with coleslaw, mac and cheese, potato salad and BBQ beans. There was also a banana pudding. I decided what I would have.

I eventually got to the till and ordered the beef ribs but sadly they were sold out. I was impressed – gone in less than an hour! I ordered the brisket with some BBQ beans and the pudding, all for £10. Bargain.

I found a seat and began to tuck in. The food was served in a cardboard tray with onion, pickle, a jalapeno and a small pot of BBQ sauce. The sides were in small polystyrene pots. The portion was sizeable: thick slabs of reddish meat.

There was also an option to take out the food which seemed like a good choice with the limited space. Obviously, there was no vegetarian option.

The brisket was unbelievably tender and fell apart at a touch. It was rich in flavor and had a strong BBQ taste even without the sauce. A slice of white bread came as an accompaniment, which I thought was odd but I ate it anyway, forming a make-shift brisket and bean sandwhich.

Afterwards, I was surprisingly stuffed. There was far more food than I thought at first glance. I took a bite of my pudding: banana cream and layered sponge. It was very sweet and although I am not a fan of banana, I enjoyed it. It reminded me slightly of Angel Delight.

I sat there for some time after, letting it all go down. The prices were reasonable and the food was good quality. I loved the tender meat and flavour but wasn’t so fond of the wait.

I was surprised the pop-up was so busy, but that’s a good thing for a local business like HG, and especially for Carter’s as their first pop-up shop. I would definitely love to see them again at Hunter Gatherer or even better, at a restaurant.

I just hope that next time they bring more beef ribs. I don’t know what I’d do if I missed out again.

Photography by Emily Priest.