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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Barbecue, Southern
Casual restaurant

Tue–Thu 11:00am–2:00pm
Tue–Thu 5:00pm–9:00pm
Fri–Sun 11:00am–9:00pm

Features Outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, BYO
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Southeast Portland
8701 SE Powell Blvd.
Portland, OR
(503) 777-9795
Campbell’s BBQ
The wood makes the difference—but will the future bring better still?

In an area that’s normally associated with excellent Vietnamese and some of Portland’s better Asian food, you may see a sign for “BBQ” and assume that it’s Korean. But the look of the place will remedy that right away: a cute, cozy house with a homey, familial set of tables and chairs in several rooms and an unmistakably Southern bent to it. A sign depicts an African-American couple holding ribs and smiling with soul-warming content. A plume of smoke rising from the roof gives you the impression that you could step inside to find this couple rocking back and forth in front of a crackling fire.

In fact, this smiling couple did open Campbell’s many moons ago, but sold it in 2006. Since then, there has been some debate over whether or not the food has taken a downturn. It’s not at all in doubt that it did change, as barbecue is every bit as unique to its pitmaster as a brushstroke is to its hand.

The menu here is somewhat surprising and includes organic bison and duck along with the essential brisket, pork ribs, chicken, and sausage—and, uniquely, it’s all smoked over hardwood. This fact represents a pleasant departure from the many gas-smoked barbecue joints around Portland—even if, perhaps due to the limitations of smoking indoors (as Campbell’s does) rather than outdoors, there’s not as much knee-weakening smokiness as you’d get at a barbecue shack on some roadside in the Deep South. We’ve had pieces here that had all the juiciness, the melting globules of fat, and the crackling moments of char that inspire mouths to moan—and also pieces that had none of that. To some extent, it’s the luck of the draw.

Sauces are available in a wider array than you would find along that roadside: “Smoky Brown Sugar,” hot, less hot, and wimpy. All of these are fine; we prefer the hottest version. For now, Campbell’s is still worth a detour. This being Portland, though, some perfectionist barbecue fiend will probably move here one day, open a place of his or her own, and smoke Campbell’s—and all of us—out.

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