Slayton's could easily be a jazz bar, with its photos of BB King and Miles Davis lining the oak-and-brick-trimmed walls. It could be a cigar bar, if you replaced the tall and low tables with leather chairs.
But owner Randy Price, also of Sonterra Grill and Salsa Brava, has chosen instead to lend his piles of burgundy cloth napkins to carnivorous customers and messy, delicious, honest-to-God barbecue.
Call it a match made in hog heaven.
We started with a big corner of cornbread (50 cents per piece), as sweet and moist as pound cake. The seared burnt ends appetizer (choice of pork or brisket, $7), normally a treat for the grill master, made a fine follow-up. Much more appetizing than they sound, the chunks of beef were cooked to a rich char, but remained fork-tender and flavorful.
Next up, the Carolina pulled pork sandwich ($9), with crunchy coleslaw and ribbons of moist shredded pork, hit a sweet and tangy note. The side of baked beans had the same sweet barbecue sauce flavor, with bits of meat throughout. Instead of the familiar thick, orange mound of mac 'n cheese, Slayton's executes a tasty, lighter version in a creamy white sauce.
My baby back ribs ($17) arrived so tender that the meat slid away from the bones, leaving them clean. The platter of sticky goodness came with a hoity-toity warm washcloth, and a slice of lemon. More downtown class, but ambiance be damned — I stuck to finger-licking.
For lighter lunchers, Slayton's does offer a handful of loaded salads for under $10, as well as daily soups and a fish of the day.
On my next visit, I was in a bit of a rush, but it didn't seem to faze the staff. They were on the spot with our dine-in orders as well as my guest's take-out order.
Though moist, her oven-roasted chicken ($9) lacked flavor; she compensated by requesting a side of barbecue sauce. She also found the one accompanying side of mashed potatoes a little insufficient for her appetite. Slayton's does, of course, offer side dish add-ons like coleslaw, potato salad, fries, okra and corn on the cob ($1.75 to $3).
I chose the smoked prime rib ($17), a 12-ounce cut that delivered on its name with just a faint, smoky imprint. Chunky, hand-whipped mashed potatoes complemented the perfectly cooked and seasoned meat, while breaded onion strands came under the steak. I'd recommend making them a topping, since they're susceptible to getting soggy in the port wine au jus dressing. Also, the otherwise tasty creamed horseradish sauce could use a touch of thickening; ours arrived thin and milky.
For dessert, a wildberry cobbler and pecan pie (each $6) both ranked above average with nice pastry components. They also benefitted from large helpings of vanilla ice cream.
On the whole, Slayton's makes a welcome addition to the downtown scene, which has strangely lacked a serious barbecue destination until now. Though it's dressed to impress inside Fujiyama's former space, it hasn't forgotten the rustic flavors of its ramshackle roots.