Clays is a little place, with a couple picnic tables out front, and a number of tables and booths built for people who tend to routinely overeat. It's not fancy, and everything is nicely mismatched and vaguely, humanly, kitschy.
The menu is impressive: smoked BBQ hot wings as a starter ($8), chowder/chili/gumbo ($3.75-$4.75), salads ($3.75-$10.25), sandwiches ($7.75-$9.75), BBQ platters ($10.75-$14.75), and even veggie delights (their words, $7.75-$9.75). BBQ purists will freak: there's catfish and salmon, and that's wrong. But I'm not a purist—I don't care unless someone makes me eat it.
When I was there, they had a bunch of beers on tap:
- Bayern Doppelbock
- Widmer Hefeweizen
- Amnesia IPA
- Anchor Steam
- Jamaican Red
I ordered the brisket platter, and my companion the BBQ sparerib platter, and naturally, these are huge portions, piles of meat smothered in a sweet, not terribly hot sauce, with chunks of potatoes in ranch sauce (aka, home fries with garlic sauce), a vinegary slaw, and not-quite Texas toast.
My brisket seemed a bit lean, and the sauce bugged me, but it was nicely cooked. It just blanches before fattier, crustier briskets like Campbells or LOW. The pork ribs, however, were sweet, juicy, and moist, very tasty ribs. The slaw was sharp and complex. The potatoes—eh. Value for the meal, though, was very good.
Our service was incredible. Our server was the sort who was there when you needed him, and if he was there when you didn't, you sure didn't know. It was the sort of effortless seeming service that you should get with a very good meal, and here in Portland, frequently don't. So that was a tremendous pleasure.
I'm curious about the wings, and I've heard great things about the cold smoked seafood platter (like a lox platter, just not), and the turkey in the garden salad.
The highlight for me was the dessert. We got the apple crisp ($4.75), topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, and wow! It was just a modest crisp, nothing fancy, but so very good, a combination of soft and crunchy and creamy. Next time, I'm gonna leave more room for that!