Eat + Run: Coleslaw

Barbecue's favorite side dish takes center stage.
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Barbecue's favorite side dish takes center stage.
coleslaw

TOWNSHEND, VERMONT

THE SPOT: Sometimes the best lunch in town comes from a roadside shack -- especially when that lunch is a juicy hot dog on a top-split bun with plenty of slaw. The friendly owners of The Stuffed Bun (Route 30, 802-365-4581) open their summer-only stand in May.

THE SPECS: Charmien Dexter prepares her coleslaw in small batches, so as not to compromise the crunchiness of her cabbage. The extremely creamy slaw ($1.75) is mayo-based, with just a touch of vinegar for balance and a pinch of Creole seasoning. It's rich and refreshing, and it tastes great on a frank, or all on its own.

CHICAGO

THE SPOT: Barry Sorkin, whose passion for barbecue lured him away from a tech career, has never understood why Chicago didn't become a great barbecue town, what with the migration of Southerners to the city throughout American history. He's fixing the problem at Smoque (3800 N. Pulaski Road, 773-545-7427), inspired by the traditions of Memphis; Kansas City, Missouri; the Carolinas; and Austin, Texas.

THE SPECS: Sides aren't an afterthought here. Their acidic, mayo-free coleslaw ($1 for small) is dressed with cider vinegar and lemon juice to cut through the fat and smokiness in the meat.

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA

THE SPOT: Manana Restaurant (828 7th St. E., 651-793-8482) is a family affair, with Salvadoran comfort food dishes like pupusas -- handmade cornmeal pancakes stuffed with cheese, refried beans or shredded pork.

THE SPECS: Pupusas ($2 each) are traditionally served with curtido, a Salvadoran version of coleslaw. Shredded cabbage marinates in a spicy oregano-vinegar dressing with a little tomato sauce, giving a bright, acidic counterpoint to the mild pupusa. Regulars pile on so much that the snack is more like an entrée (inspiring comedians to remark, "Want a little pupusa with your curtido?").

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA

THE SPOT: Robin Salzer got his first smoker when he was 11 years old, and the obsession hasn't waned. All grown up, he now specializes in the classics, like smoked chicken, ribs and ham, at Robin's Woodfire BBQ and Grill (395 N. Rosemead Blvd., 626-351-8885).

THE SPECS: BBQ needs coleslaw ($2.50), but it needn't be the old standby. Here, inspiration comes from California-fresh salads. Roasted pecans and Maytag blue cheese are added to the fundamentals -- crunchy cabbage and apple cider vinegar. The restaurant sells 250 pounds of slaw in an average week, edging out ever-popular french fries.

* Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in May 2009.