Pimanyoli’s Sidewalk Cafe Dishes up Some Succulent Summer Barbeque
by Jay D. Ducote
In a strip mall along Airline Highway, across the street from the Klienpeter Dairy, sits an unimposing barbeque restaurant that exceeded all of my expectations… and I expected it to be great! Pimanyoli’s Sidewalk Cafe & Catering serves smoked meats, incredible sides, and terrific tamales to the various crowds that come through its doors. Piman and Yolanda (nicknamed Yoli, hence the name) are a husband and wife combo that got into the restaurant business after catering as a hobby. Both of them had professional jobs but made sure to cater together part time on the side. Deciding to follow their dreams, they opened Pimanyoli’s to focus on their culinary talents and share their delicious food with more people.
However, following this dream did not prove to be easy. Pimanyoli’s opened its doors on June 23rd, 2008. Shortly after their debut in the Baton Rouge restaurant scene Hurricane Gustav hit, and their vision nearly faded away. Piman and Yolanda lost everything in their freezers as they, and most of Baton Rouge, were without power for over a week. Despite this setback, they got back to work after the storm and tried to make a name for themselves and their business. Still, Yoli describes the entire first year as a bust. “There were really rough times,” Yoli said. “But lately the word has gotten out and business has picked up.” Having just celebrated their second anniversary of serving great food, Pimanyoli’s has made it through the hard times. While they certainly struggled, things are now looking up.
I had the pleasure of dining at Pimanyoli’s recently and having a great conversation with Yoli about the business. As I entered the restaurant I wasn’t exactly sure what to think. It’s rare to find good barbeque in a strip mall, and even more rare to find a place in a strip mall that refers to itself as a sidewalk cafe. I looked around and there was no sidewalk to be seen. Something seemed odd on the outside, but after walking in, everything felt right. The ambiance of the newer restaurant welcomed me in and put me at ease. Piman and Yoli have created a casual, relaxed environment in a space where you can get a really nice lunch or dinner.
I took a seat near at the bar and began chatting with a gentleman who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying a pulled pork sandwich smothered in slaw. I asked him for his thoughts about the restaurant since he seemed like a regular customer. “Let me put it this way,” Jason Pitre said, “My wife told me to stop coming because I spend too much money here.” I hope that doesn’t come back to haunt him as his wife’s comments clearly didn’t keep him out of Pimanyoli’s for lunch that day! Perhaps this says something about the customer base that they have developed. I couldn’t wait to try some barbeque!
Piman's Meat Plate with Pulled Pork, Brisket, and Ribs
Piman brought out a plate with ribs, pulled pork, and brisket. Yoli followed with a sampling of green beans, baked beans, potato salad, and mac & cheese. I started salivating at first sight and found it difficult to wait for Eric to take the pictures before digging in. The green beans were reasonably normal aside from the huge chunks of tender ham that filled up the bowl. The recipe for Yoli’s baked beans has been used for 27 years, and I can understand why. The deliciously sweet beans had enough brown sugar and bacon to make shoe leather taste good, though at the same time I still tasted the beautifully prepared beans in every bite. The potato salad is a specialty of Piman, who also works the smoker and grill. It didn’t blow me away, but the homemade potato salad certainly did not disappoint. Finally, the mac & cheese might have stolen the show from the other sides. The creamy creation contained a blend of two cheeses, though Yoli wouldn’t tell me more than that. The recipe had been passed down from her mom and she swore it to secrecy, only adding that “it didn’t come from a blue box or a yellow box!” There is no doubt about that.
Green Beans, Baked Beans, Potato Salad, and Mac & Cheese Fill a Plate of Sides
I started the main course with all little taste of pulled pork and brisket from Piman’s meat plate. The pulled pork tasted pretty ordinary. It needed a little of Piman’s homemade barbeque sauce featuring 21 ingredients to kick it up a little. This is the only sauce at Pimanyoli’s, and for good reason. It is a delightful vinegar-based sauce that had sweet and tangy elements with a unique flavor. The recommendation is to get the pulled pork on a sandwich, topped with slaw, and smothered in sauce. The brisket at Pimanyoli’s is actually their top seller. This surprises me a bit because I found the brisket to be dry and crumbly. Perhaps this is preferable for some eaters, but I’m looking for a moist brisket that pulls apart but doesn’t crumble in your hands.
A Full Rack of St. Louis Style Ribs at Pimanyoli's
The main reason I wanted to try Pimanyoli’s was the ribs. I heard they had some of the best in town, and being an extreme lover of ribs, I thought I should go check it out for myself. Piman smokes his St. Louis style ribs (and the rest of this barbeque) with Louisiana pecan wood. I’ve always loved pecan for smoking because of its mild, sweet taste. The ribs are coated in a rub that Piman puts together himself and served with the sauce on the side, as it really should be. I wish more barbeque restaurants would figure that out. To me, when you sauce ribs for the customer it says that you are trying to hide something. Letting the customer decide the fate of the barbeque sauce says, “Here are my ribs, they are good, but eat them wet or dry as you please.” The ribs at Pimanyoli’s were salty and mildly spicy. They had just enough heat to tingle the tongue without being noticeably hot. The meat pulled off the bone with a gentle tug from the incisors. Again, this is how true ribs should be. I don’t want my rib meat to fall off just from handling it. Instead, a little pull should slide the meat clean off the bone. The ribs were deliciously moist and well seasoned and were so tender that they nearly melted in my mouth. They exceeded all of my expectations about ribs that I could find anywhere in Baton Rouge, and that is saying something!
Jay Ducote Digs Into a Succulent Rib
Yoli capped our meal off with some bread pudding and apple cobbler. The bread pudding had a light and airy consistency with raisins, nutmeg, and a homemade vanilla rum sauce. The cobbler featured fresh apples that had been cooked down into soft chunks of sweet fruit that filled every bite. Both desserts were absolutely delicious and are worthy of capping off any meal at Pimanyoli’s.
Bread Pudding with Vanilla Rum Sauce
The trip to Pimanyoli’s resurrected my feelings about Baton Rouge barbeque. There are some good places in town, but for the most part few of them are truly great. While the brisket left a little to be desire for my taste buds, the ribs absolutely blew me away and were exactly what I hoped to find in my Baton Rouge culinary journeys. Pimanyoli’s is well on its way to becoming on Baton Rouge’s “Town Favorites!”
Jay D. Ducote is the author of the blog Bite and Booze, which chronicles his culinary and indulgent cultural adventures around Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, and the world. It can be found at www.biteandbooze.com. You can also reach him by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @biteandbooze.
Thanks to Eric Ducote of BRBeerScene.com for taking all the pictures for this article.