My grandma bade me pay attention to coleslaw. Cabbage dressed in vinegar and oil is not coleslaw, not in her house. Cabbage is a "flavorful" vegetable, and must be dealt with accordingly. Properly salted and drained, this cruciferous queen cries out for a sauce that, as James Beard so aptly elucidates, "can hold its own with the vegetable... this vegetable is not a delicate green."

There is no haute cuisine that compares with simple food done right.

At the General's Bar-B-Que, in the Central District, coleslaw is essential in soothing and abating the afterburn of the smooth, sweet, and sneakily spicy sauce that so lovingly envelops some of the finest barbecue Seattle has to offer. The General's coleslaw also serves as a fine example of this establishment's commitment to making everything from scratch. Although coleslaw is not the restaurant's top priority, the oft-overlooked dish here is a perfect balance of creamy dressing and thick slices of green cabbage, accented by shredded carrots and red cabbage.

I had my doubts about my inexperienced barbecue palate, so I recruited the services of The Stranger's Phil Campbell, genuine citizen of the South, for my trip to the General's. Phil has overturned every review of barbecue in this city, exposing each as an example of misinformation and wrongdoing and a general corruptness of spirit, then proceeding to whine for Tennessee like a baby cries for his mama. I have seen this man with many a rib bone between his teeth and a tear in his eye. Mostly, it's about respect. Respect for the meat. ("Everybody thinks it's the SAUCE," Phil wept to me once. "It's not the sauce!") No real barbecue joint MICROWAVES its tender meat.

Phil's eagle eye surveyed the General's as we waited in the steamy dining area. No microwaves. And Mr. Campbell appeared impressed, if speechless, when presented with his mountain of ribs, the Sergeant Dinner ($10.65). The ribs passed muster: succulent, not at all toughened by mishandling, doused in perhaps a tad too much sauce (delicious, mind you), although on the lean side. I, being a Lady, ordered the Small General's Lunch ($6.95), which was like barbecue tapas--a little chicken (What can I say about chicken? It's chicken...), a little beef brisket (melted in my mouth), some ribs, a healthy portion of house-made hot links, beans, potato salad, and the requisite slice of bread.

The gentlemen of the General's will also fry up fish to order, ranging from snapper to catfish to prawns and so on ($4.95-$10.50). While the mediocre pre-cut French fries are prettily spiced, the seafood does well in its delicate dusting of corn meal and light touch in the fryer.

After much finger-licking and the deployment of over 50 napkins, Phil and I concluded that the hot links are the shining star of the General's. These hand-crafted beauties stand for everything right and good in a world where two gentlemen quietly repeat the culinary perfection that comes from understanding and love, day after day. For this, I thank them. Plus, the cayenne pepper they spice their links with really clears out the sinuses.

Traipse down the sides menu with me--the dense, smoky baked beans, the fine potato salad, and, then, that most misunderstood of sides: greens. As children, we know instinctively to stay away from anything this color, and these collards are not for kids. Imbued with body from chunks of pork, the General's greens' broth is magnificent. The collards are perfectly cooked and boldly spiced and made me understand I am no longer a child. Now, I know this is going to horrify hardcore barbecue-ists, but if you're feeling shy about all that meat poundage, one could make a very satisfying, light meal of sides--that's how good these greens are.

I know that dessert traditionally follows the main course, but, eyeing up the portions of the General's plates, I recommend staking out some of the toothsome Peach Cobbler ($2.50) before you lapse into a barbecue-meat coma. Take the cobbler home. Eat it for breakfast. Thank me later.

The General's Bar-B-Que
2325 E Union, 328-2414.
Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm; closed Sundays. $

Price Scale (per entrée)
= $10 and under; $$ = $10-$20; $$$ = $20 and up