Drop your forks, folks
That feeling continues when my partner, Brian, and I open our menus. We begin with a couple of dark ales and some buffalo wings – standard American bar fare. Wings are often cheap or free, their dryness disguised by tacky hot sauce. Not Mike’s: moist, so tender the meat practically falls off the little bones, with a fiery sauce that doesn’t scorch. The accompanying buttermilk ranch dressing is so good Brian’s dipping the garnish in it.
Mike Oxley, a Kansan native who acted on his sister’s suggestion to move to New Zealand and open the only authentic barbeque joint in the country, is soft spoken and friendly. He drops off a special treat – thin slices of beef brisket drizzled in his barbeque sauce, so homemade you can see bits of spice. Kiwis normally serve this cut of meat to their dogs and it took Oxley over three months to convince the butcher to hand it over. Rubbed with his secret blend of spices and smoked for several hours at low temperature it melts in my mouth.
For mains, we go for the usual suspects: traditional KC spare ribs for Brian and Mama’s Mondo Pork Chops for me. The chops are cut twice as thick as normal, the fat sizzling pink and delicious, the entire job slathered in barbeque sauce atop a bed of twice-fried homemade chips. The side of baked beans puts my mother’s to shame and the cole slaw is tangy and peppery and not too gloppy with mayo. Brian sets to work on his ribs, asking Mike if the locals know to use their hands. “Some of them,” he says with a laugh and admits it kills him to see the knife and fork come out. It takes a long time to nibble away all the lovely textured meat clinging to the crevices of the bones and we both end up sticky and slathered with sauce – a sure sign it’s good ‘que. Mike’s prepared with napkin dispensers on all the tables and wet naps at the ready – but, sadly, no toothpicks. Maybe we’re supposed to use the bones…
I’m eyeing the ice cream cookie sandwich or the chevre lime cheesecake until Mike mentions fresh peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. I wouldn’t have minded a few more peaches in our slice, but I was too stuffed to care. Perhaps I’ve been gone too long from home, but Uncle Mike’s Kansas City Barbeque is the best I’ve ever tasted. How lucky to discover it here in Petone. We’ll definitely be back for the Obama Burger.