When I first visited Sharkey's Bistro, a brand-new barbecue and burger joint in Burbank, I had a real problem with the interior. The radio was too loud, the artwork was too loud, even the silent big screen TV was too loud. The big smiles on the faces of the people working there softened me up a bit though. And when the food arrived, those issues became dim memories. Now I'm a believer.
Our very first encounter with Sharkey's' Southern-style food remains our favorite. Are you sitting down? Imagine a platter of the best sweet potato fries you've ever had, then smother them with pulled pork, just out of the smoker, pour on sweet, tangy homemade barbecue sauce and add a dollop of cool coleslaw. My kids and I dove into that “appetizer” ($8.99) like a pelican into the Gulf, putting on the brakes reluctantly to save room for actual lunch. We made a vow to return someday for the Carne Asada Fries with guacamole and jalapenos.
The rest of the meal was quite good too. Sharkey's' burgers are unique because of their buns (sweeter and eggier than most) and their Southern-inspired toppings. The Fire House Burger has pepper-jack cheese, cilantro aioli, avocado and a barbecue sauce similar to the house sauce but with a spicy kick in the teeth. The North Carolina Burger comes with chili and coleslaw whereas the Jazzy BBQ has onion rings and bacon (all the above burgers are $6.79).
I admit I've had a better Shrimp Po-Boy ($8.99) but I've never had better collard greens. They strike a flavorful balance of bitter, salty and sweet thanks to the generous flecks of bacon. The buttery, oven-baked macaroni and cheese is also outstanding, sharp in flavor and not runny. The excellent Southern baked beans are dark from brown sugar and spices. Every side dish is clearly made from scratch with love and complement the smoked meats in their own way. I've already sung the praises of the pulled pork. The tri-tip is also good. Sadly they were out of the chicken but the spare ribs and hot links delivered to the next table looked amazing.
For dessert, what else but homemade peach cobbler? I'm not sure who's responsible for the yummy cinnamon-y concoction, but according to manager Dujuan Sharkey, the whole family gets involved, making food and helping serve it. They did hire an experienced chef who is visible to all in the restaurant's exposed kitchen. This is no hash-slinger. He plates every dish with care.
One other thoughtful detail at laid-back, casual Sharkey's is cold, draft beer. The Ranger IPA on tap has a sweetness that goes down easy with the barbecue.
No need for Burbank residents to travel far for Southern barbecue anymore. Sharkey's Bistro is a neighborhood gem.
Where: 520 S. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank
When: Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Prices: Barbecue platters, burgers, sandwiches, breakfast $4.99 to $23.99
More info: (818) 842-5116, sharkeysbistro.com
LISA DUPUY writes dining reviews for the Los Angeles Times Community News. She can be reached at LDupuy@aol.com.