The Underdog Meats & Beers – Always, and I mean always, support the Underdog!

After my slightly critical story about Annie’s Burger Shack here in Nottingham (click here for that story) , I figured I’d also write a positive story about burgers. Who knows, it might give Annie some ideas…

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to go to Sao Paulo, Brazil, with Mrs Urban Wildman, who had to go there for work. I can write a lot about Sao Paulo but will probably do so in a different post. Let me just say for now that it is huge, an eye-opener and has got some of the best food on the planet!

We were staying in the Pinheiros district of the city, famous for its bohemian character, with Vila Madalena as the culmination in urban cool. think tight trousers, craft beer, beards and loads of tattoos. Now, I like beer, have a beard and tattoos but have never felt more outclassed in all of them as in Sao Paulo!
In the area, around the corner from the hotel, we were recommended to go to a burger place. Initially we were skeptical, I mean burgers, really? But we decided to go anyway and OMG, what a place!

underdogThe place was called the Underdog Meat and Beers (address R. João Moura, 541 – Pinheiros, São Paulo – SP, 05412-001, Brazil) and the story was that the owner spent a couple of years down in Argentina, mastering the art of the “Asado”, the South American way of barbecue.

Traditionally an asado consists of an open fire with huge cuts of meat around it on sticks or poles. How far or close to the fire the meat is, determines the cooking and to stop the meat from drying out, you baste it with its own juices as you catch them dripping down. asadoYou cut pieces of these huge chunks of meat as they are cooked and dip them in chimichurri sauce, a sauce of chopped parsley, dried oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, onion, and paprika with olive oil. Nowadays, you can also create an asado a la parilla, whereby you create the fire, let it die down into embers and place a grill over the top for grilling the meats.

The Underdog is probably the smallest restaurant I have ever visited, it is tiny! Looking in, there is a bar dividing the space in two halves lengthways, from which the drinks are served. This is also where the only indoor seats are, there are about 6 bar stools for punters and you can just about squeeze past behind them to find the toilets in the back. Behind the bar is also the asado, where the magic happens. They don’t do anything fancy here, but what they do is very, very good. The beer is very nice, with a lot of US IPA’s (Shipyard Brewery’s Monkeyfist was very good) and because it is Sao Paulo, you sit outside, in tables in the street. They have about 5-6 high tables right outside the restaurant where you can sit on bar stools or, if you wait until after the business next door closes, you can find one of the 9 or so tables in the little patio there.

The guys that work there are really cool, speak amazing English and will often just come up to your table for a chat. It feels more like a youth or friend’s party than a restaurant and you are made to feel very welcome. Don’t pretend to be too polite, the guys will introduce themselves (not in the US way but just as somebody at a party or so) and if you need something, you just call them over and place your order.

underdog-2The menu is small, divided into starters, burgers and mains. Don’t expect any vegetables or vegetarian options here, it does what it says on the door: meat. By far the best starter we found was the “Choripan”; a hotdog with a barbecue-ed chorizo and chimichurri. This was recommended to us by the guys as one of the best-sellers and after we had it once, we ordered it every time we went. The sausage was juicy, smoky and spicy, the chimichurri added a nice note of freshness to it and the bread served to keep your fingers relatively clean whilst soaking up all these great juices.
The burgers are a pure beef affair, grilled to medium-rare perfection (remember to tell them if you want it done more well-done but I wouldn’t know why) and the options menu then allows you to choose your accompaniments, be it cheddar or blue cheese, jalapenos, onions, mushrooms, sour cream or bacon. This allows you to create your perfect burger without taking away from the bbq perfection of the high-quality meat (Annie, take heed!).burger underdog
The meats are, again, great quality beef allowed to speak for themselves. They are all barbecue-ed and served with chimichurri sauce, surrounded by pieces of bread to keep (most of) the juices on the wooden board (shaped like a coffin-lid). We had the skirt steak, which was juicy and had a great bite, without being chewy.

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They do other cuts too, like fillet, shoulder or sirloin or even sausages and they all come the same way; just the meat with a little bread, no vegetables.

After the meat-fest (and copious amounts of Monkeyfist) we were very glad that it was only a short walk back to the hotel, we were stuffed! But, having been there a couple of times now, even if we were on the other side of a 28 million people metropolis like Sao Paulo, any detour would be worth it. I’m even wondering if flying out on Friday night, going there for dinner on Saturday and flying back to the UK on Sunday can somehow be justified.

The choripan, the burgers, the meats, the beer, the company, the atmosphere – it really was that good.

So, for all these burger places back here in the UK, take a trip, pay the Underdog a visit and see how your business can (and should) be run. Nothing too fancy, just a wood fire, great quality meat and some beers, what more does one need.

Oil-drum Barbecue

So I thought I’d jinx the summer for everybody already and create my first post for the Urban Wildman about barbecue. I love barbecue-ing and especially grilling large cuts of meat on a slow roast. This prompted me a couple of years ago to attempt building my own barbecue. 
I had a vague idea if what I wanted, so after some research I settled on the idea of building my own oil drum barbecue, a cheap way of creating a very large barbecue that can also be used a a smoker or a slow roaster.

The first step was to source a drum. Ideally it would have to be one that hadn’t contained anything flammable as I would be cutting it with an angle grinder and the idea of this thing exploding in my face did not appeal to me. In my research, I found some old news articles, published on my birthday (!) the year before about a gentleman in Oxfordshire who this happened to with obvious consequences… 

I turned to Preloved and found one there for a tenner. It had contained urethane resin for some packaging company so after a good rinse with washing-up liquid and opening both holes to get some fresh air in it, I figured now would be as good a time as any to start cutting.

 

 

 

 

I had never used an angle grinder before in my life but I found it easy enough to use, fairly precise as long as you don’t want to go too fast and don’t force the blade too much. It is a very violent little machine so I made sure I was wearing gloves and eye-protection!
First, cut the top line of the hinges. When this is done, drill the holes and mount the hinges as it is a lot more difficult to do this and line them up properly after you have cut the whole lid. 

After this you can cut the rest of the lid out.
I went for a quarter size opening, instead of cutting the barrel in half. I figured this will allow for better heat retention and give the opportunity for smoking as well. I cut it following the lip to give it a bit of an overhang to stop rain from coming in.

I had laid the beast in an old steel table frame I had lying about and it started to look like the real deal already! Now all that needs doing to it is burn it to get rid of as much paint as possible to clean the inside of the drum and season it, mount some brackets for the grills, drill extra ventilation holes at the bottom, attach a handle and insert a thermometer in the lid, as well as adding a chain to stop it opening too far. And oh yes, try and find a frame to mount it on. And a grill, otherwise it is just a very large outdoor fireplace, and we already have one of those. And paint it somehow…But, as always, I ran out of time this weekend, so this would all have to wait until a few weeks later…

 

When I asked at work, it turned out they had a spare steel packing table from one of our distribution centres and they very kindly let me have it, as well as a few spare pallets for building materials. Went to pick everything up in the Volvo and with some very crafty disassembling of both the table as well as the car it fitted right in and we got it back home. It is very big, made to be worked on standing up and very deep, so we had to be very careful getting it through the alleyway into the back garden to preserve our knuckles.

Not being a welder, the only solution I saw was to mount the red steel table frame from the pictures above in the new frame, creating a cradle in the middle of this massive blue frame, giving the option of creating some work surfaces either side as well as underneath. A frantic weekend of angle grinding, cutting, drilling and mounting followed, with the result being a cradled oil drum sitting inside a nice blue frame. If I thought the drum was big, this frame was huge!

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNGAs you can see, I already made a start with the handle (made from a broomstick), brackets for the grilles and a retaining chain for the lid. I also drilled some holes on the side for air on both sides, mounting an old mayonnaise lid as a means to close of some of the vents.

 

That evening I lit the first fire in there to burn of residues and to get rid of as much paint on the outside as possible. SAMSUNG

 

 

 

 

The next day I sanded the whole thing back to metal and painted it with special black stove and barbecue paint. This would protect it a bit more from the elements without creating noxious fumes that would taint the cooking.
After this, we were on the home straight, time to finish it off. 

I disassembled some pallets and created some shelves left and right and below the drum. SAMSUNGI made these with the idea of using them for storage of wood/garden chairs, charcoal etc. Maybe I’ll make some doors for them later on, I don’t know yet. 

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Last, I sanded them roughly and coated them in linseed oil to give them a little bit of protection:

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The finished job (for now), not looking too bad for someone who has never done any metalwork before in his life!

So now all we have to do is wait for barbecue summers…I will post actual recipes and barbecue tips separately, for the moment I can say that it has performed beyond expectation so far!

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