Prepare for pepper: VooDoo BBQ a mix _lowres

Advocate photo by GEORGE MORRIS -- VooDoo's pulled pork plate includes two sides, in this case gris gris greens and macaroni and cheese.

When The Advocate’s intrepid restaurant reviewers venture forth, we do so incognito. Thus, we don’t get to explore the kitchens to find out the secret ingredients. We have to listen to our taste buds.

After our recent forays to VooDoo BBQ & Grill at Perkins Rowe, our taste buds kept repeating two words: black pepper.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. If south Louisiana is the cayenne center of North America, there is a reason black pepper is a condiment on every table. Because it goes well with smoke, it’s a natural with barbecue. It’s all in how you use it.

With one notable exception, we liked how VooDoo flavors its food. That exception, and another dish where cooking time seemed to be an issue, gave us an uneven experience.

First, what we liked.

The pulled pork was a delight, a smoke-and-pepper combination that is bold enough to make the diner aware of it, but not so strong as to erase the taste of everything else, whether served as a plate ($7.48, with two sides) or sandwich ($4.99). And here’s a hint for persnickety eaters: Don’t pull those blackened bits to the side. That’s the flavor and texture that makes real barbecue worth eating. Trust us on this.

On the subject of sides, the “gris gris greens” come with a dash of pepper sauce included, which is our favorite way to accent this southern specialty. But if that’s not your thing, be forewarned. The macaroni was another winner, with a homemade kind of texture and mild cheddar flavor.

And, before going on, let’s say something about sauces. There are three sauces at the table, of which our clear favorite was the “mojo” sauce, which blends the tartness of vinegar and sweetness of brown sugar with smoke. There are sweeter and peppier options, too.

Another sandwich that was a pleasant surprise was the smoked turkey breast ($4.99), which we got with a side of coleslaw. The turkey was surprisingly moist. Often smoked turkey is very dry, but this was plenty juicy and had a nice seasoning that complemented but did not overtake the turkey’s flavor. Our guest also thought the mojo sauce worked well here. As for the coleslaw, it was a little dry compared to some coleslaws, which are often swimming in mayonnaise, but it tasted fresh.

Unfortunately, the brisket (plate, $7.98) was on the dry side, as well. That is always a possibility with that cut of meat, but it’s still disappointing.

Then, we got the ribs ($9.99 half rack, $19.99 whole rack). Nothing dry about these, as the meat pulled easily from the bone. But, the pepper. Oh, the pepper.

The ribs were covered in a thick sauce that was visibly well-peppered, but we were still stunned when we took our first bite. Pepper was all we tasted, and we realized that without some alterations, pepper was all we would taste for the next several days.

So, it was time to get creative. Using the plastic knife, we scraped off the sauce, leaving ribs that still had an unmistakable (and, at that level, enjoyable) black pepper flavor, to which we applied the mojo sauce. Enjoyed every bite. Still, ribs shouldn’t require that much work on the diner’s part. We haven’t returned to find out if that was an aberration, but we can’t imagine this is how these ribs are ordinarily served. Black pepper is great as an accent. It’s bitterness is overwhelming as the main event.

Service was prompt and friendly on our visits.